A portentous Activity of Daily Living (ADL) which I couldn’t accomplish myself and for which I needed – and still need – Assistance, was toileting.
Formerly, the caregivers mantra was “Just pull the cord when you’re done,” when she closed the bathroom door behind her and left my room.
“I’ll be right back,” she said as I sat obediently, hoping that when I pulled the cord, she’d “be right back.”
It was hit and miss: sometimes right back, sometimes not so right back, sometimes, me getting off the toilet, leaving my room, and shouting down the hall.
But no more. There’s no caregiver leaving my room (in the language of the ALF – home), or, no towel-draped me wheeling my way into the hallway and shouting.
BTW “The cord” refers to the string in the bathroom which is attached to the side of the wall. “Done” refers to the completion of the elimination function for which I had pulled the cord in the first place.
Now she no longer leaves my apartment, abandoning me to sit on the gluteus maximus- bruising hard plastic toilet seat. Now she waits in the living room.
The new mantra is “Holler when you’re done.”
I think: how boring it must be just to wait – watch grass grow or paint dry. I better hurry. But how can an eighty-five year old man hurry to urinate – we pee in morse code. And why am I sitting to pee? My gender is male. I should urinate by standing at a urinal or by standing over the toilet – seat up, of course.
Well, how can I stand over the toilet when I can’t stand? Besides there’s not enough strength in my hand to unbutton a button, unzip a zipper, and extricate my uh…uh…uh penis . (What in my socio-cultural inculcation makes me hesitate to say it like it is rather than wimply substitute “thing,” or “business,” or whatever?)
And what about a bowel movement? Better accelerate and hemorrhoids be damned.
So, with an aching stomach and a gas flow traveling up , down, and around my cavernous GI system, I yell, “I’m done,” and in she comes and cleans me up.
Now isn’t that better than it used to be: the caregiver is here rather than somewhere.
But on the flip side, I’m not really done, when I shout I am. And that’s uncomfortable.
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.