Bathing Assistance: Our First Encounter with a Home Health Aide

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My husband Charlie had his first visit with a home health care worker today.

He has been balking ever since I told him that someone would be coming in twice a week to help him shower. Believe it or not, it had been six weeks since his last shower. His excuses for not showering were legendary; he was too tired, he'd do it tomorrow, his shoulder hurt and so on.When I tried to force the issue, he would get belligerent, and I would back down.

The last time he had a shower was when his daughter was staying with him while I took a much-needed respite trip to Florida to visit family. She told him he had to get shined up before I came home and he finally agreed.

I didn't warn him that the health care worker was coming today. He had just finished his breakfast when she arrived, so the timing was perfect. Had I told him ahead of time, he probably wouldn't have even gotten out of bed for us.

At first he dug in his heels and said he didn't need help. But with some cajoling from the two of us, he reluctantly agreed to be led into the bathroom. The woman was very good with him; she had him bathed and his hair washed in no time. She also helped him dress. He said he didn't need help with that, either. He actually can do it himself—if one doesn't mind waiting the 30 minutes it takes him to accomplish that chore.

She got him settled in a chair while she changed his bedding. I have a woman who comes in once a week to do some housework, but Charlie never wants to get out of bed in time to get the linens changed. That chore, therefore, falls to me when he finally decides to get up.

After she changed the bed, she helped him back to bed so he could "rest his back." I know it exhausts him to go through the showering ritual, so I have no problem with that. He will probably be there until three o'clock or so, resting up from his ordeal.

The health aide noticed that Charlie got confused when he stepped into the shower. He was not sure how to begin the process, and she sensed that he was afraid he would fall. She assured him that that was the reason she was there, changed the water flow to a slower, more comfortable pressure and directed him through the process.

She commented to me later that high water-pressure might tear fragile old skin, something that had not occurred to me. We non-professionals just don't realize how frightening something we take for granted can be for someone with dementia.

Charlie seemed very self-satisfied once the process was finished. I think it wasn't nearly as humiliating as he had expected it to be, nor was it as tiring with someone to help him through it. He may actually learn to enjoy the pampering.

I haven't told him yet that, from now on, this will be a twice-weekly ritual. I may get flak over that, but we will deal with it as it comes.

In the meantime, he got a kiss from me when it was over. I told him it was a pleasure to kiss his fresh, shiny face. That produced a "humph," and a grin. Ah—it's the little things in life that count.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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16 Comments

Oh Marlis - I am sooooo happie for you and for Charlie !!! I bet he did indeed like the pampering.......most of 'us people' like to be pampered. I was hoping Charlie would like it. We have had home health care several times over the past 15 years or so for my husband John. I tell you, he loves it when they come.......he is usually a quiet person, but when they come he talks so much it is amazing. And get this - the people that come just LOVE him !!! Ha ha ha..............
Marlis, thank you for walking us through the time frame when using a home health aide to help your hubby with showering. I am amazed at how these women are able to get people to take a bath or shower, more power to them. I bet you were so glad it was a success :)
As always you are an inspiration Marlis with your mature insights and inspiration