Pop Pop can’t shower on his own anymore. It’s a recent development, and one he’s not at all excited about. As a WWII vet and a business owner and, hell, as a human being, he believes in independence, self-sufficiency. Men should bathe themselves, so he should bathe himself.
Except he can’t. He’s too weak.
Only two people are allowed to help him in the shower: my aunt and Michele, who comes in about three times a week. (No matter how old I get, I am still a baby to PO9. He’d never ever let me do it.) They help him out of his pajamas and into a robe, then they follow him as he inches his walker to the bathroom. They steady him over the lip of the shower, and they wash his feet and other spots out of his reach. After toweling off, they follow him as he inches back to his bedroom, and then they dress him for the day. The process — and geez is it ever a process — takes about an hour, start to finish.
It was Michele’s turn to help Pop Pop shower yesterday. She woke him up, talked him through it (“Okay now, Bernie. Really lift those feet!”), and kept him laughing the whole time. For someone so anti-help, you’d never know it. After she left, he turned to me and shook his head. “Isn’t she something?”
Thank goodness for caregivers.
This month here in Pennsylvania, I’ve been watching my aunt and Michele and the other people who care for Pop Pop, and wow. What a team. They are so good with him. They know exactly how to encourage him and how to be firm without talking down to him. “You’ll be so much more comfortable after a shower,” they’ll say, if he resists at first. Soon he’s on board.
And what a job. I’ve been helping out as much as I can — preparing meals, cleaning up, reminding about pills, helping him in and out of chairs/cars/bed — and, even though there are other people like my aunt and Michele around, it is a LOT of work! How do full-time caregivers do this every single day, alone?
When I’m home in New York, I consider myself a type of caregiver from afar. I still do, but after this month, I know I’ll have a whole new understanding and appreciation for caregiving. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you to the people who do this day in and day out. You sure are something.