Q&A: #111

By Carol Abaya, M.A.

Question:† I get up two hours earlier than I normally would have so I can go over to my parentsí house and get my mother up, bathed and dressed before I go to work.† She had a stroke and can no longer bathe herself.† She refuses to cooperate and gives me a hart time each day.† By the time I get to work I am frustrated and angry.† This impacts on my work.

Answer:†† You may be overlooking some simple and very obvious elements that are creating this tension and stress.

First, before your motherís stroke what time did she normally get up?† Was she an early or late riser?

Second, what time did she normally take a bath?† In the morning or evening?

If she was a late riser and took her bath at night, why is it so necessary for her now to do it to your schedule?† Forcing her to get up early only upsets her.† She then lashes out at your, which angers you.† This stress is not good for either of you and certainly doesnít help your relationship.† Face it -- would you want someone to make you get out of bed early and take a bath when you normally would not have done so?

Step back and take an objective look at the situation.† Does she really need help getting up, brushing her teeth and washing her face, and then getting dressed?† Is there someone else there -- your father, for example, -- who can help her?

If you help her bathe at night, you will not be in such a hurry to leave to get to work on time and will not be pushing her to hurry up -- something she may have difficulty doing because of the stroke.† If you are both more relaxed, your relationship will take on a more positive tone.

If itís difficult for you to be there at night, consider hiring a health aide to come in several times a week to give your mother a bath at her convenience.

You should respect and accept her wishes and timing.† After all, it is her life!

Question:† My mother has Alzheimerís and lost a lot of weight during a recent illness.† I bought her new clothes, but she fights me every day when I help her get dressed.† I cannot understand why she wonít wear these new very nice clothes.

Answer:†† You objective to help her look nice is commendable.† However, whose taste and values were used in selecting the clothes -- yours or hers?† Did you take her with you and let her choose?† Or did you make the decisions?

A social worker at a nursing home told me this story, about a woman who verbally abused all the help and sometimes refused to even get dressed.† By carefully observing what was happening the days she was combative and the days she wasnít, they discovered that she was calm and quiet when she wore her red dress.† All of the other clothes her daughter had bought were somber colors.†

Even though Alzheimerís robs people of their personality and memory, they still know what they like and donít like.† In this case, the woman liked bright colors and was happy when she was wearing red.

The solution was easy.† The daughter bought more bright colored clothes.

Question: †With spring here, my mother, 86, wants to go to the mall to get summer clothes.† She uses a walker and is very slow.† Iíve told her Iíd buy some clothes.† She can try them on at home and Iíll return what she doesnít want.† She insists she wants to† go.† It takes four times longer that way.† Advice please.

Answer: †Take your mother even if it takes a long time.† Your mother wants to control bits of her life -- and rightly so.† She wants to select what sheíll try on -- even if she takes the clothes home to try on.† Itís very important for an elderís self-esteem to make the choices.

I always added at least another hour to any trip as my mother also had trouble getting around quickly.† Once in the store, I let her wander around to her heartís content.† She always enjoyed these trips and finding bargains.

Even if a person is in a wheelchair, a trip outside the house and to a mall where there are a lot of other people can be a morale booster.† There is also the alternative of ordering clothes through catalogues.† I personally donít like shopping.† So I do order through the mail and have my favorite manufacturers.† My mother, on the other hand, liked to go out and see and feel the merchandise.† Either way, let your mother make the choices.

Question:† A new health club opened near us, and my mother, 78, wants to join so she can swim and do some exercises.† How can I convince her sheís too old to wear a bathing suit?

Answer:You need convincing.† Sheís only as old as she ďthinksĒ she is!

Exercise helps maintain good health, and swimming is one of the most stress free forms of exercise.† Also, it will give your mother the opportunity to get out and meet and talk with new people.

My mother, at 86, joined such a club and enjoyed it for several years.† My father did 2 to 3 miles a day on a stationary bike until he was 92.

If your mother goes alone and has any particular health problems, do alert the staff and make sure they have your motherís doctorís name and telephone number as well as yours.

Question:† I took my father, 74, shopping and all he wanted was red print or bright green shirts.† Heís too old for such colors.† How can I get him to understand this?

Answer:†† No one is ever too old to wear bright colors.† Bright colors (1) cheer up a person, and (2) make him/her feel good about self.

My father liked red shirts and did so until his death at 94.† He also liked checkered jackets and plaid slacks.† And he usually mixed the different prints with a bow tie that was of still another print.† What was important was that these were what HE liked and wearing them made HIM feel GOOD.† Our objective as adult children must be to help our aging parents continue to feel good about self.† And after all, he, not you, is wearing the clothes.† As long as they are clean and pressed, what difference does it really make?

Question:† My grandmother is in a nursing home.† She is able to walk around, but is often very confused.† Her needs are little, so we donít know what to get her for Xmas.† Any advice would be welcome.

Answer:† This is a common dilemma, whether the older person is in a nursing home or at home.† Whatever the gift, the objective should be to show that person that she or he is still loved, part of the family and an important person.†

Room accessories:† a pretty picture, a family picture, a decorative pillow, an afghan or comforter.

Photographs:† old ones that have past meaning can be reframed, and new ones can help elders keep in touch with family far away.

A radio or tape recorder helps a person maintain contact with the rest of the world and family, especially if bedridden.† Periodic taped messages, especially from friends and family who live far away help an elder retain a sense of importance.

Costume jewelry:† very inexpensive jewelry, helps a woman feel good about herself, and it doesnít matter if it gets broken or lost.† A watch for either sex helps a person maintain contact with time of day and world.

Skin cream; a light scented perfume or dusting power or after-shave lotion help a person feel good about self, provided the person isnít allergic.

Food: a favorite homemade dish or small jar or portion of a favorite food helps relieve the sameness of facility food.

Clothing: machine washable may be welcome. But ask the primary caregiver first.† Sock slipper with leather soles keep a person warm, yet wonít slide off like shoes or regular slippers do.† A light sweater may be good in an air-conditioned facility because older people get colder faster than the young.

Plants or flowers, even silk flowers, help liven up a room and are pretty to look at.† Even if a person has poor eyesight, flowers with a nice fragrance can be enjoyed.

Question:† My father, 78, has been complaining of persistent back pain, and his doctor says itís ďall in his head.Ē† X-rays donít show anything.† Is my father fooling us and trying to get more attention:

Answer:Persistent back pain is real!† And yes, often X-rays do not identify the cause.† Even the regular CT scans or MRIís can miss the cause.† Deeper three-dimensional CTs might be helpful.

However, pain is often ďReferred.Ē† This means the pain is in a location other than the real problem.

In my motherís case, the pain was on her left side, but the problem was that her right hip had deteriorated.† It took seven months of tests and going to various doctors to identify this.† After right hip replacement surgery at 86, she was back driving and selling real estate.

Pain can also mean bone density is low and bone collapse might occur.

Also, back pain can be indicative of ďorgan problems - gall stones, kidney disease, for example.

So, keep looking for the reason for the pain.

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