I am not my mom's favorite person these days.
Not to say that I ever was. But I think it's safe to say that she liked me pretty well in the past :)
One of the things that we knew would become an issue with this disease is hygiene. This was one of mom's strong points in the earlier stages. In fact, even when mom failed her tests at UCLA, the nurse found the positive for us by saying,
"At least she still takes good care of herself and doesn't need help in the area of hygiene."
At the time, I couldn't even imagine mom needing assistance with her grooming because of her rigid routine (which included showering and toileting-at very specific times) and her obsession with her appearance. Sadly, mom has been losing these abilities little by little over the past several months. I've written a few posts about her diminishing hair and make up skills and the irregular showering. Unfortunately, over the matter of a few months, it has gotten to the point where mom will go all week without showering, until she is forced to get in. Her resistance usually accompanies complaints that she doesn't have enough make-up or a blow dryer (despite the fact that she has both). She doesn't want to mess it all up since she feels she doesn't have what she needs to make herself presentable after the shower.
My dad never complains and rarely asks for help with anything other than supervising mom. He leaves the tougher jobs, like grooming, for himself. After a hard day at a labor intensive job, I know the last thing he wants to deal with is having to forcefully get my mom into the shower. Not to mention that by showering her at night often disorients her into thinking it's morning time (which means dad gets little sleep at night!) He is out the door early in the morning, oftentimes before mom is even awake, so showering her in the morning is tough as well. I decided to make it part of my job and (hopefully) take some of the weight off of dad's back.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've implemented a new showering routine for mom. Every other day, mom gets her shower, whether she likes it or not (I would say not). Of course it isn't as easy as simply telling her to get in the shower. It was tricky at first, but I've pretty much got it down now. Sad to say, but we actually have to remove her clothing from her (she won't do it herself), much like with a little child, to cue her that it's shower time. Some days she will plop her body down on the bed and I have to pull her pants off while lifting her body (that's a good work out!) Other times I can get her into the bathroom first and remove her clothes there. Once I manage to get her clothing off, she usually protests and sits herself firmly down on the toilet, waiting for me to go away. I pretend to leave and crack the door shut; she stands back up, poking her head out the bathroom door to see if I'm gone, and that is when I take my opportunity to guide her into the shower, disallowing her to sit down again (sometimes that results in a naked bear hug as I move her into the shower!) The other day, no sooner did I start taking off mom's shirt than she lamented,
"I don't want you here, I wish you weren't here!"
Later that day, while visiting her sister, she mumbled complaints to Ellen about how I shouldn't "see her naked or plain Jane." I know I am not her favorite person these days but that's okay. It doesn't hurt my feelings. I know that the "real" mom, lost deep inside her somewhere, appreciates all that we do as a family to care for her and keep her as comfortable as possible in her own home.
I'm not writing this post for sympathy or for praise. As much as I hate what this disease has done, I am happy to help my mom. I do not resent that [help] in the least. Neither am I doing anything that millions of other unpaid, family caregivers do day in and day out. Unfortunately, this is a part of life (I would've been happier to deal with it much later in life!) and there are many other families who suffer far worse with their loved ones. Lucky for us, mom doesn't have many of the aggression and behavior issues that many people with dementia suffer from. I don't know if it will come later on, but I'll be happy if we skip that part! The only thing I do regret is making mom feel uncomfortable. While I know that it's become necessary to assist with her bathing, I know she doesn't like me seeing her in the nude. I feel bad about it and try to look away when I can but there's really no way around it. So it goes with dementia.