“Which shoes,” the caregiver asks?

We have come to the final step in getting me dressed.

I’ve engaged in this morning ritual for twelve years with many diverse caregivers.

Before I became disabled in 2005, and compelled to live the ALF life, (Assisted Living Facililty) I’ve had many decades of putting on and tying my own shoes.  I’ve also had over fifty years of putting on and tying the tiny shoes of twelve children.

So, I had pre-conceived notions of what to expect. I was wrong!

Some caregivers believe in the “step-down-hard-enough-and-your-foot-will-eventually-fit-in” method of putting on shoes. That’s OK if you can stand and swing your hips. (My always-in-a-hurry teenagers pushed their feet into pre-tied and ready-to-go shoes.) But I’m dressed by a caregiver while I sit on the edge of the mattress. I don’t have the leg/foot power to press down hard enough to squeeze my foot into a shoe, whether it be Nike, Adidas, or just plain Keds.

So, I wind up using my butt to push down on the edge of the mattress, and squeeze and wiggle my foot into the shoe.

Assaulting the shoe isn’t necessary if the shoe laces and upper collar are spread wide apart. It’s an easy glide in. But when the caregiver allows me only a tiny crevasse in which to insert my foot, I’m forced to attack. I struggle to exert force downward, while pleading, “loosen the laces and pull the lips apart.”

OK! My feet are in. Time to tie.

I once thought you wrapped one lace around the other and pulled. Wrong! You create a bunny ear to go around the tree and through the hole, as one caregiver sang.  And if one ear doesn’t produce a tight enough fit to withstand an hour of walking and working out, then you create two bunny ears, crisscross them, and pull hard.

To the less poetically inclined caregivers, a bunny ear is a knot, belonging to the slip family, which can be used by itself or helped by its sibling – that means double knotted for the prose types.

So, my shoes are on, duly laced – the act of dressing done. That night, when it’s undressing time, and the ears are gradually separated and the shoes slipped off – or bunny’s ears remain in place and the shoes roughly and painfully pulled off, I can gracefully slide into my lace free slippers.

Editor’s note:

Redux is a French word meaning “redone” or “revived” or restored.” In his next several blogs, Dick Weinman, who has been lifting the curtain on living life in an Assisted Living Facility or ALF since 2013, revisits the events of his ALF life since he first shared them on AARP.com. Hurrah! Life in Long Term Care, or LTC, of which an ALF is one component, is changing for the better, moving closer to the goal of “person-centered” care for the final years of a person’s life.

Dick Weinman is our Assisted Living Facility (ALF) Guru and an AARP Oregon volunteer.