Apr 15, 2011

A Dotty Believe it or Not

Maybe I should call the people from Ripley's Believe It Or Not...
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Hey, I am going
to take a shower
Maybe its the time of year? Who knows? Last year around this time Dotty was in the Dimebon clinical trial, and she was doing things that were hard to believe. Like writing on this blog.

Well here she goes again.

Just recently we had two articles -- How to Get An Alzheimer's Patient to Bathe, and Alzheimer's, Bathing, and Dotty.

On Wednesday and Thursday, not only did Dotty take a shower, she did it on her own without any help or suggestion from me. This is the first time that happened in a long time.

On Wednesday, I was yakking on the phone and I couldn't see or hear Dotty. I go up to her bedroom and there she is standing in a top and her panties looking for something to put on. I look at her and she says, I took a shower. Well, there was no doubt about it, but just in case I checked. The wash cloth in the shower was wet, and the water was off, but not all the way off. No doubt. Dotty's hair was wet also.

Thursday, at the same exact time, Dotty says I am going to take a shower. So I let her go. This time I peek in and sure enough, the water is on and she is working away with the wash cloth. I put her cloths out on the bed, and let it go at that. She put on the shorts, but actually picked out a different top. The one she had on the day before.

Now my good buddy Pamela suggested the other day that maybe I am on meds, after I suggested it might be a good idea to do the shower/bath thing every day. Personally, I think it is easier this way. You are probably wondering why?

Well, I learned that the best way to establish a pattern is to do the same thing over and over. So in the case of the shower, same time every day.

Now let me ask you a simple question. Don't you take your bath or shower around the same time on most days? I think I am safe in assuming most people do this.

Furthermore, I can tell you that Dotty took a shower every day I was around her for the last 30 years.

So why should I assume that Dotty doesn't want to take a shower just because she says NO? In fact, I assume she does want to take a shower no matter what she says. I base this on her own behavior before her mind became clouded by Alzheimer's disease.

Yes, this does fall under the category, living life the way you always did.

Now don't get me wrong. I know how difficult it can be to get someone with Alzheimer's to take a shower or bath. For years, I had the same exact experience that many of you are having now. It did drive me crazy and stressed me out.

It stressed me out so much that I decided I had to find a solution to the problem in order to maintain my own mental well being.

Instead of trying to shame, cajole or coerce Dotty into taking a shower in the morning, I switched gears. I worked it into our daily pattern. With some hooks.

We usually go out around 4:30 in the afternoon. This is bright light and socialization time. So an hour or more before we go, I say to Dotty WE need to take our showers. She always asks why? I then tell her because we are going out. She then asks, where? I explain as I am leading her to the shower.

I should interject here. For a few years, Dotty fought me when I said we were going to go out. Said, things like NO. Wondered why the hell she had to go out; or, why she had to go out just because I was going out? Then of course she would accuse me of something sinister. Like I was up to something and that is why I wanted her out of the house.

Back to the shower. Usually, I get the water ready, the soap on the wash cloth, help her get in, give her a few gentle reminders to put her head under the water, and to make sure she cleans all the narly spots. She is still pretty good on the narly parts, not so good on her lower legs and feet. Fortunately, some of the soap slides down and helps.

Of course, I give Dotty the super duper shower, shave, and hair wash once a week.

My point here is simple, in order to be very effective you should try and establish a distinct pattern to every day. The same thing day in and day. The shower should come at the same time, the action leading up to the shower should be the same every day, and the action after the shower should be the same. You can try some ice cream to get the ball rolling then tweak the pattern as you go.

This might sound like rocket science to some of you, so let me ask you this.

Don't you have a pattern to your own day? Don't you take your shower and eat around the same time on most weekdays?

Are you surprised to learn that most human beings have patterns of behavior?

Did you ever say something like this? It is too early to call she won't be home from work. Or, its too late to call she is already in bed.

How did you know this? Patterns of behavior?

Here is how I look at it. My life is a lot better now than it was way back when, much better. Dotty's life is also much better.

Yes, it was hard establishing patterns with Dotty. Some took years. On the other hand, we are still here years later and enjoying the benefits.

Try this. Try thinking of trying to get someone to take a shower or bath as fun. A real challenge, but the kind of thing that is going to bring with it a feeling of great accomplishment.

By the way, I am not the only one accomplishing this. If I can do it so can you. Smile, relax, and let the force be with you.

Always remember, there is more there than you think. Now, go find it.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,560 articles with more than 412,100 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diag­no­sis and Treat­ment for Mem­ory Prob­lems
The 36-Hour Day A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room