I do 24-hour care several nights a week for an elderly couple. The wife is 88, and a darling little gentle lady. The man is 90, delightful, stubborn, and every bit the Colonel he once was. He has had cancer for 15 years, and had a stroke the first week of October. Here's the deal. Night routines are driving me MAD, not to mention causing major lack of sleep for all of the caregivers. Last night was the comedy of rising to go potty and spending 20 minutes doing exaggerated leg exercises in the bathroom, ritualistic nose blowing, and short, as if he was blowing out one candle, bursts of air. "whOO" "whOO"

I "enjoy" this routine from two to four times a night: First he calls me to take the wife to the potty, and every single time he says "Once you get her back into bed, I'll want to get up." She's up, and then back in bed, within 6 minutes or so. Then he thinks about it. He will lie in bed and think for five or more minutes, and then ask me to get him in a sitting position. Once there, he exercises his ankles and watches his feet rotate. "whOO whOO". Large groan, tapping bed, straighten out wife's comforter. He may blow his nose once or twice. He has to fold the tissue the opposite direction of the fold it came out of the box with prior to blowing loudly. If I haven't provided a trash can, he looks at me and then drops the used tissue on the floor. He checks his watch, and looks out the window. Then the sudden "WELL, let's do this" as he has me assist him to stand. "Stay close". Right. Duh!

In the bathroom, I assist him with every detail, including a complete clothing change if necessary. After all is secure, I am required to flush the toilet twice, regardless of contents. Then he hobbles off to the sink, where he washes his hands, combs his hair (yes, even at 2, 3, and 6am) and observes himself in the mirror. Then he begins what we caregivers call the
"speed skater" routine of hanging onto the sink and walker and lifting one foot, then the other, behind him. Then marching in place. "whOO" (candle blowing force) Meanwhile I'm required to just stand there. Silently. Patiently. Biting my lip. Dang, I'm tired by then. Finally he shuffles off to bed, after checking the thermostat, making sure the sliding door is opened just the right amount, and looking over his wife.
He sits on the edge of his bed, after the bathroom routine, and contemplates the world. "How's David?" Oh gosh. Seriously? It's 3:30 in the morning. Got to resist the urge to say "SLEEPING. Dang it. Wish I was, too!!!!!" He folds the tissue the opposite way of the fold it comes out of the box with, while it is lying on his knee. He does this two to three times after each bathroom break. Then he slowly takes the lid off one of the bottles of water I leave on the night stand, and drinks it thoughtfully. Checks the watch again. More blowing. "whOO" "whOO". He touches each thing on the night stand, and checks his watch again, remarking at the time. Then, as if I've been out feeding the chickens or something, he says, impatiently "Well? Get me into this bed!" He is so weak now that I have to lift his legs into the bed for him. Often, after all of this, he asks if I'm sleeping well. Ehhhh... well...... Define "well".
So - is this a question or a rant??? Ha. I love this man dearly. As he is FINALLY secure in bed, little pillow between bony knees, and down comforter pulled up under his chin just right, he reaches out for a hug and tells me how much he appreciates me. No matter how many times this tedious routine is repeated during the night, in the morning (which comes all too soon sometimes) he says "Well, we certainly had a good night!" Oh my. Anyone else out there relate?

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Thank you for the recent comments. My dear Colonel didn't live a whole lot longer... He died in February 2011. I was there. It was a precious time. He really declined rapidly. I'm sure a lot of his nightly routines were a sort of grieving process he was going through....

Yeah, Ruth, I can relate, although Hubby's rituals are not quite as extensive. Somehow the performance is much more entertaining when it doesn't happen at 2:30 am!

I take it during your 24 shifts you are expecting to get some sleep too, right? Should the family set up 8 hour or 12 hours shifts where the caregiver is not expecting to sleep? Sounds like the colonel needs an alert helper during the night.

Your patience is inspiring. I hope that your clients know how lucky they are!

I see this type of scenario all the time which revolves around seniors' refusal to use incontinence products. Yes, I understand that some of these folks may not be incontinent and so we as caregivers simply accept this endless bathroom drama and when there is an accident(s), we accept the clean up as "part of our jobs." I am not a professional caregiver, but here is my recommendation: you or the primary family member needs to broach the subject about using "protective underwear" or "absorbent panties." DO NOT us the term diapers or any form thereof. Explain that they will get a full night's sleep and be well rested. One family member even commented after the introduction of disposable underwear, What took you so long to come up with this solution?" So take charge and help them and yourself with this stress relieving solution.

Well God Bless you. You have so much patience. You are obviously doing right by this man and his wife. You're a good caregiver.

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