I know nothing about running hurdles. But it seems like once you’ve hit your stride momentum kicks in and carries you over the next one and the one after that til you reach the finish line. If I could visualize Grandma’s rehab as a series of manageable milestones rather than one colossal marathon, perhaps I could just pull it off.
Or maybe I needed to think of it as a relay, since it was already a team effort. First Eileen carried the baton. Then I took over for the grocery phase of the race. Now it was time to get Grandma out of her clothes and into the shower, and Tam was ready for the hand-off.
Getting a stubborn 88-year-old woman in the shower when she doesn’t want to go is no small feat. First, the bathroom had to be hot enough to boil water. Three layers of clothes had to be peeled away. Grandma insisted on her entire head being waterproofed. And the disposable underwear she calls her “soaker pants” had to come off.
Tam patiently warmed up the bathroom and did her best to assist with disrobing. Once Grandma was finally in the shower, we both realized it was the perfect opportunity to start clearing the clutter that’s one of the hallmarks of Grandma’s disorder. Without saying a word, Tam closed the door and waved me on for the anchor leg of the race.
I’ve never moved so fast in my life. I bolted upstairs for trashbags and practically wiped out running back down. Grandma’s living space is L-shaped, with the top just outside the bathroom door. She’s hard of hearing, but I still had to work quietly. Hell hath no fury like Grandma robbed of her rubbish.
There was no time to sort out recyclables. Everything from plastic bottles to paper towel wrappers got stuffed inside. I practically gagged when I discovered some toilet paper rolls that had obviously been fished from the toilet. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought, using as few fingers as possible to pick up the wrinkled, moldy roll of paper.
Meanwhile, back in the bathroom, Tam was having her own holy cow moment. Helping Grandma dry off after her shower, Tam got a good look at her talon-like toenails, a perfect example of the extreme self-neglect that goes hand in hand with Diogenes Syndrome. The nails had grown sideways to the point they were digging into other toes. Grandma never took her socks off around us, so we didn’t know how bad her nails were. But we did now.
Before Grandma came out of the bathroom I dashed off with two big bags full of trash. The job wasn’t done, but we’d cleared some big hurdles. We had new knowledge to guide our next steps. And nobody fell flat on their face. In my book, that’s a win.
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