“Let me know when you’re finished,” said the caregiver, leaving me to cogitate as I remained where she had put me, seated on the cold, rigid, plastic toilet (or, more sweetly, “commode”) seat. She closed the door to the bathroom (or, more gently, “rest room”) and headed to a place in my living room to wait for me to complete the process of solid waste disposal.
Whilst passing the time until I completed the spontaneous – or arduous – task, she had multiple option to idle away the time – however short or long: she could whistle a happy tune, look at the pictures of my family on the walls, nap in my recliner (that would require severe and lengthy straining on my part), check her text messages, walk back and forth, or generally snoop the surroundings, (or all of the above) while I tried to start, so that I could finish, and call out to her the words for which she was waiting.
I can’t complain: at least she left the bathroom (or, more gently, “rest room.”) Some of her colleagues stand over me or in the door frame of the … whatever you want to call the room; some plop down on my wheelchair (I have to wheel that into the – you name it – room.) One even leaves the apartment, and I have real privacy – like at home. That’s nice for me, but apparently leaving a resident is a “no-no.”
No matter the option she chooses to kill the time during my “going,” I reconcile myself to know that she’s out there — in the living room. I feel her presence.
Thus, I try to avoid the usual sounds associated with this bodily function (I don’t want to embarrass her), but oft time, flatulence knows no boundaries. A symphony appears out of this whatever-you-chose-to-call the room, to which I have retreated for succor, contemplation – and one of the innate and most intimate processes of living.
Dick Weinman is an AARP Oregon and an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) guru. His is one of the few voices about what it’s like from the residents’ point of view.