Give a Caregiver a Bath

take a bath“November is National Caregivers Month. It is a time to acknowledge the important role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled friends and relations.” From the Department of Health – Administration on Aging

It is also a time to support the men and women who are currently caring for a loved one at home. You may have offered to help many times only to be thanked politely for the thought and never taken up on your offer. Some of you may have started to wonder if she really wants help. Maybe she prefers to play the martyr and do it all herself and whine about how hard it is in order to make you feel guilty.

“Why should I keep offering if that’s the way it’s going to be?” you may have asked yourself.

The answer is, “Because she needs help. She wants help. If she doesn’t get help she is going to break under the pressure.” Often she doesn’t know what to ask for.

When my husband and I first announced we were bringing his ill father to live with us, many well meaning people assured us they would be there to help when needed, and they meant it. I remember saying, “We are going to need some time off once in a while so we can go on vacation or out to dinner. It will be great if I can call on you then.”

“Of course,” was the answer, and they meant it.
I didn’t know then that going out to dinner or taking a vacation would not be what I would come to need most. As my father-in-law’s illnesses progressed what I longed for was an hour to take a long hot shower or to soak in tub of water up to my chin until my fingers and toes turned pruney. I’d have done just about anything to stop listening for signs he was in distress or that he somehow knew I wasn’t paying attention and had decided to go down the stairs unattended, risking a fall. Even an uninterrupted ten minutes on the toilet would have been a gift on some days.

I remember one morning in particular. He’d had his breakfast and I had helped him wash and dress. I’d seen to it he had his medications and the TV was tuned to his favorite show. He should have been good for at least thirty minutes. I was about to start a load of laundry when my I felt the sudden urge to pee. I had just settled on the toilet when I heard him calling.
“Bobbi! Bobbi! Come quick, I need you!”

He sounded so frantic I was afraid of what I would discover when I got to him. I jumped up in mid stream, pulled my pants up, and ran up the stairs.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, ignoring the warmth running down my leg.
“The TV’s gone berserk. I can’t get any channels.”

I bit my tongue, fixed the TV, and went to my room for a quick wash up and change of clothes. Clearly it was going to be one of those days.
If anyone had asked what I needed that day the answer would have been quick and easy.

“I need a bath.”

November is National Caregivers Month. The gift of time is precious for those for whom every moment counts. When wondering what you can do to help, consider stopping by a caregiver’s home someday. Maybe she’s wishing for a bath too.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014