Caregiver’s Corner Technique: Dry


June 9, 2010 by David Gillaspie

If you are involved with your family, you may become a caregiver.  That’s not a statement as much as it is a warning.  If you don’t want to be a caregiver, go find a cave to live in where no one can find you.  If you can be found by family members, they will come calling.

This isn’t to say beware of caregiving, but it could be.  It’s more to say that along with becoming a caregiver, you may need one yourself one day.  Now ask yourself what kind of care recipient you would be?

The best way of knowing what kind of care you may need down the road is knowing what kind of care you can provide.  If you can’t provide care in any fashion, you probably won’t get any when you need it.

If you provide substandard care, what makes you think you’ll deserve any better?

The joke, and caregiving is not a joke, is that you’ll probably get less care than you bargain for regardless of what you do now.  But if you believe in karma….

The break down on caregiving, according to those who’ve never done it, is the bathroom business, also called ‘Necessities of Daily Living.’

A friend’s mother went through a bad spell and needed someone.  His buddy said he’d look after his mom.  The friend said he didn’t think he’d be comfortable knowing his buddy was wiping him mom’s hind end.  That sounds short-sighted because it is short-sighted.  It’s many other things, too.

Parkinson’s Disease does so many miserable things to the body, one of which is a condition called ‘spastic bladder’ which makes the Parkinson’s person feel like they need to go to the bathroom often.

That’s what the Parkinson’s experts said when I brought my father in law home.  It was seconded by the care consultants who came by.  Their advice was to let him sit through the urges in his chair. 

My reaction was, “Huh?”

After much thought, about ten seconds, I decided I’d work with the spastic bladder.  If the old man thought he had to hit the can every hour, then we’d get up and move around.  It was as good an excuse as any to get him out of his chair without ordering him to stand-up.

Besides, once you’re on your feet you might as well stay there a while.  So we’d hit the first stop, take a few laps, then aim for the chair until he felt like he had to get up again.

I mention this not to cut the care consultant, but to share a technique.

Once a man with Parkinson’s and dementia and cancer goes incontinent you’re adding another problem to the stack.  Now you have to worry about skin breakdown, and do it in a cloud of urine odor.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one wants either of those, a pressure sore, or the smell of a county fair outhouse on the last day of the event.

Pull-ups, or adult diapers, are one way to go, but you end up changing them all the time.  A combination of pull-ups and Poise pads solves both problems. 

Slip the pull-ups on then take two Poise pads and make a V in the crotch of the pull-ups.  On top of the V lay another Poise pad.  This does three things: If it’s not very wet when you make the spastic bladder bathroom run, just change the top pad.  If it’s real wet the side pads will absorb.  This helps avoid changing the pull-ups, or diaper. 

Once you get a handle on keeping your loved one dry, the odor issue evaporates.  With all the extra gear in his pull-ups my father in law looked like he was wearing a jumbo-sized codpiece, which added an element of humor that he caught.

Who wears a codpiece?  Sword fighters, or course.  And since the codpiece was there, I used the appearance to include elements of sword fighting to the regular schedule of physical therapy.  I would sit in front of him in his chair and raise my arm as if holding a sword.  He did the same thing. 

Then we fenced.  A score happened when one of us touched the back of the other’s hand.  It’s similar to the hand slapping game where one person positions their hands above the palms of another and yanks them away before the bottom hands can turn and slap.  Except the sword/hand is done sideways.

Medical research into chronic disease seems to progress in fits and spurts until you might feel like ignoring it.  That’s not a bad idea when the treatment being researched goes against the stated goal of keeping a loved one comfortable. 

Besides, I’ve yet to meet the doctor or nurse or caregiver who could deliver as much joy as a Keith Jackson narrated sword fight between Captain Blood and Zorro.

En Garde, scoundrel!


2 thoughts on “Caregiver’s Corner Technique: Dry

  1. David Gillaspie says:

    Sometimes courage isn’t about what you don’t do, but admitting you can’t do it. The big lesson I love to repeat is ‘it’s better to regret what you’ve done, not what you didn’t do.’

    I failed to make a stand for my own father in his time of need and he died in less than ideal conditions. That one burned me a long time and I made a deal with myself that I’d do better.

    Once I decided to look after my father in law, the care routine felt a lot like wrestling practice, so that’s the approach I took. Doing the right thing in caring for a loved one matters most to the recipient, at least that’s the common interpretation.

    Making it matter as much for the caregiver is the creative approach. Keeping a loved one engaged in solving common problems takes them away from their illness. The family caregiver in a home setting has an additional weapon: they can tell their loved one they aren’t as sick as it seems, otherwise they’d be in a hospital. It’s not true, of course, but it sheds a different light on the relationship.

    To answer your question of ‘where were you when my father was dying?’ The same place I was when my father was dying, which is on the sidelines. But we learn, right?

    Your mother’s got a lot to look forward to, Janette.



  2. Janette says:

    Where were you when my father was dying? Thank you for caring for your father in law. I wish I had been at a good stage to help my dad more- but really it is more about courage…and I had little.
    I have promised myself that I will help my mother. My father would have been easier—lol.

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