Don’t Make Me Take Away Dr. Phil!

Contributor Post by Madison Hill

As a kid, I was never particularly fond of showering, but I was forced to do it (usually against my little, stubborn will). My mom possessed the perfect mix of power and patience—coercing me into bathing without too many tears or casualties. Despite my rough, early relationship with cleanliness, by the time I was in middle school I had embraced showering with open arms (after all, I had boys to impress, and I wanted to put my freshest foot forward), and in an ironic turn of events, my parents usually had to kick me out of the bathroom before I used all of the hot water.
Flash forward a few decades, and my how the tables have turned. I battled my children with bathing (naturally—it’s the circle of life) but I never thought I’d encounter the same struggle with my own mom. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s that is gradually swallowing her memories, my mother has developed an aversion (fear? loathing? resistance?) to showering or bathing. Most of the time, she just adamantly refuses my “shower time” suggestions, and instead insists that she has already showered. Or that she doesn’t need to shower. Or that she will shower later (in this case, later=never).

You…can’t…make…me!You can't make me dog in bath (Image Credit)
For the sake of maintaining the peace, I tried every trick that had worked for my kids. I gave her the option of bathing now, or in five minutes. She chose neither. I felt weird threatening her with taking away her treasured time with “Dr. Phil,” but I tried it anyway. Not only did it not work, but the resulting meltdown that occurred was not worth a million showers. I (briefly, but almost seriously) thought about putting some sort of a toy or something in there that she would enjoy (this worked well for one of my daughters) but eventually dismissed the idea. Instead, I put a chair in the tub, so that she would feel as comfortable as possible. And still—no cooperation. Not even a drop. I can’t tell you how many times I cried, yelled, and doubted my sanity—over bath time!

unahppy wet puppy(Image Credit)
I think this pretty much sums it up…

One morning, I started the shower with the intent to let the water warm before I got in. Per the usual, I got distracted by a piece that the Today show was doing about in-home caregivers (coincidence? I felt not). I’ve often thought that maybe I should hire a professional to help me care for mom—I’m clearly not an expert (the shower ordeal is only one of many) and I’m so far from perfect that I often wonder if I’m even being effective. I grabbed my laptop and began doing research on the right questions to ask potential caregivers when I heard mom ask me why the shower was running. My response was absentminded at best (and perhaps a bit sarcastic)—“I started it because you told me that you wanted to shower, so I got it warmed up like you asked.”
Mom looked at me and simply said “Oh, yes—that’s right.” I’ll never know why I said that, but I do know that what happened next made me wonder if I had finally, completely, lost my mind. I watched my mom walk calmly towards the bathroom, shut the door, and eventually get in the shower. I’m pretty sure I dropped my computer and tiptoed (I guess I was afraid to disturb the miracle) over to the shower. I cracked the door, peeked in, and sure enough—my mom was showering! I almost squealed and cried at the same time—finally—a solution that would forever end our mother-daughter Civil War!
More often than not, I feel like I’m doing all of this wrong—and maybe I am. But small victories (like a war-zone free bath time) give me hope that maybe, sometimes, I’m doing something right.

Madison Hill (2)

Madison Hill is a freelance writer with a croquet obsession. When she’s not making homemade kreplach with her mother, you can find her playing the piano and scrapbooking.

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