Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Working with Elderly

An Alzheimer’s Poem

Leaving our Loved Ones “Sad and Sick…and Lost”

Every time I visit 82-year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem. 

She has it up on a wall of her home near the toaster, just above the kitchen bench.  I know it by heart now because it’s so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) – while I’m waiting for her crumpets to pop!  

It’s a short, but popular verse and most of us carers have encountered it on our travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always feel annoyed whenever I read it because as far as describing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer’s disease – it’s pretty spot on.

It is also completely sad.

We all know this one, right? 

The story goes that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot had etched herself out and prospered, in an outstanding career as a principal in some posh private school for boys (at the time the youngest female to obtain such a role).  She never married, didn’t have children and had no real family to speak of.  Therefore, she had bucket-loads of money tucked away ready to spend totally on herself, whenever she might need it. 

That day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Being such an insightful person however, she decided early on that she would set herself up for when the time came, when she could no longer work or take care of herself.  

Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Ms Ruth Cuddlepot! 

Instead, she arranged her affairs and teed-up the lawyers so she could be completely looked after and cared for IN HER OWN HOME. No matter what.  She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble, and she would eventually “lose my marbles completely!”  

Apparently, that’s how Ruth used to say it, although I didn’t know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all the background reading. 

Needless to say, she was a very clever lady. Although, by the time I had the pleasure of caring for Ruth Cuddlepot she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was. 

Ruth had, instead, evolved into ‘Ruthie’.  

And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzheimer’s, Ruthie had become a frail, yet openly happy and affectionate elderly woman…. WHO LOVED TO HUG! 

Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift.  I looked forward to it in fact!  

There she would be, sitting at her favourite spot on a chair in the sun at her enormous loungeroom windows… the spot where she had the wonderful view of her garden and a watchful eye on the next visitor she could throw her arms around and give a great big squeeeeze to!  

Really if it wasn’t so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.

Ruthie in her window…
 – waiting for the next hug-ee!

Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy.  

Which is fine by me because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I’m also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients). Let’s face it, remembering each carer’s name, rank and serial number is understandably not high on the priority list for some seniors – especially when they no longer know their OWN name!

I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day – the hugs stopped.  

And another cruel stage of the Alzheimer’s curse set in… Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.

Without much warning her moods became erratic and it eventuated that Ruthie couldn’t STAND to be touched.  Not even a handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder.  You just wouldn’t dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the air (or anything else within proximity) in what appeared to be the ultimate frustration within Ruthie’s muddled-up brain. 

This most heartless and indiscriminate disease had finally taken hold of her … it has been just awful to watch.

Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carer’s, we were told there was a serious incident last week where she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.  

Quite honestly, it became apparent to us all, that they didnt know WHAT to do with her!

After all Ruth’s organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to in her own home by an army of paid care-working bees, it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.  

I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this gloom-ridden stage of her illness?

Perhaps she’d anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn’t know where she lived, and 2) she wouldn’t care?

I hoped so for her sake.

The poem was right, and the best of Ruth had gone. 

And yes, we had failed in standing beside her.  Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so!  Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well.  And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after an elderly person in their home, then the people in charge needed to move to an ulterior arrangement.  

I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated ‘indefinitely’ into a High Care facility.  

Just like the poem had foretold she was now sad and sick and lost.  Her beautiful forward-thinking mind now full-to-capacity on sensory-depriving medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for her own protection, we were told).

I have deliberated greatly about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? Without sounding totally selfish – I don’t think I could bear it.  

The worst part is finding out she doesn’t even have a window.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie

Posted in Aged Care, Exercise, Mobility

ACTIVE AGEING: Helping our Elders, Help Themselves

Let Lettie Fetch Her OWN Newspaper!

Please come back, Grandma!

Every day, our delightful neighbour Lettie-from-across-the-way, walks outside her front door, down the steps and across the driveway to collect her newspaper from off her front lawn.  It’s usually in the same spot every morning, give or take, depending if the delivery boy gets his projectile right and doesn’t instead end up riding his bike into the bushes (you’d think he’d have this sorted by now).

On her way back towards the house, her mission accomplished and with paper stuffed purposefully under the wing of her arm, Lettie then likes to pause and glance over the neighbourhood.  She pretends to pick a bit of dead something off the rose bush at the bottom of her steps, then ambles cautiously back inside to (most likely) put her feet up from a job well done.

And it’s painstaking to see!

Nearing 94-years old, living alone and with seriously swollen ankles from kidney disease, ‘a bit of diabetes’ and being almost totally blind thanks to advanced macular degeneration, Lettie has slowed down significantly in the last couple of years.

We know this because we have quite literally witnessed the progressive decline in Lettie’s mobility thanks to our lounge room windows facing directly opposite hers.

Needless to say, you can pretty much set your clocks to Lettie’s ‘daily-newspaper-pick-up’ ritual.  Unfolding before us almost like a big-screen movie, we get to watch all Lettie’s comings and goings – as she does ours. Which is actually kinda nice being that it offers a warm fuzzy familiar feeling to let you know all is right with the world.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch!

“Once I’ve had my weeties and taken all my tablets, it’s time to do the morning dash!”

Less of a DASH… more of an action replay stuck in serious slow-motion?  Thankfully, Lettie enjoys joking with us that it takes her sooooo long and that tomorrow morning she’s thinking about packing a picnic lunch and making a day of it.

“I’ve got all day – may’s well take a cream bun and enjoy myself at the half-way mark!”

You want it?
COME GET IT!

Awkwardly steering her wheelie-walker to the top of the steps, our hearts are in our mouths as her front wheels teeter close to the porch edge. Applying the brakes, just in the nick of time, Lettie then grapples her way down the steps in lunging fashion, by means of the metal railing installed by her family a few years back.

She then shuffles… barely lifting her puffy slippered feet… across the driveway to the edge of the lawn where she then stops, statue-still with hands on hips, to peer at the grass expanse before her.

Eventually, depending on the angle of the sun and the landing position of the newspaper on that particular day, Lettie is usually able to decipher enough colour contrast to make approximate visual contact with her printed prize.

Ah yes! There’s actual science involved, don’t you know?

However… if the paper has made touch-down on the driveway instead of the lawn, poor legally-blind Lettie has NO CHANCE of finding the dam thing!  

As I guilefully explain to my pre-teen son, the grey-ness of the concrete doesn’t make the off-white coloured newspaper ‘pop’ like the bright green-ness of the grass does.

Lettie then ambles her way across the lawn and upon reaching her quest, snap-bends in half to scoop up the cellophane-sealed roll in a one-motion move. Turning stiffly, she then pauses to gaze at the street around her (more to have a rest than to actually ‘look’ at anything), before tottering her way back onto the driveway, then slowwwwwwly on towards the front steps.

It can be a good 20 minutes by the time Lettie has hauled herself up the steps to the security of her wheelie-walker at the front door, during which time I have hung out a load of washing, ironed the school uniforms, yelled at the kids and fed the cat!

My enthralled son can stand watching this senior’s snail-paced performance NO LONGER.

“Man! Can’t we just get it for her, Mum?” 

“Oh no, absolutely NOT, my child!” 

Then, chuffed that I get to impart my Aged-Carer’s industry knowledge on somebody (anybody?) I then proceed to explain that as long as Lettie is able to collect her newspaper for herself – then let her WE MUST.

And that regardless of Lettie’s diminished eyesight and her age-related health issues, it was important for Lettie, if she wanted to remain living independently in her own house, that she be able to do boring household chores such as this.  

For herself.

I also knew, from conversations with her daughter Sue, that Lettie had very little other physical activity going on in her day.  Sue therefore felt it crucial that her mother be encouraged to continue this one daily routine, this one small piece of healthy exertion, in order to keep blood flowing, muscles moving, her mind stimulated and hopefully result in a much better quality of life for Lettie all round.

For the meantime, Lettie could exist alone at home feeling good about herself and know that she was maintaining independence, her self-respect and the satisfaction that she still (mostly) had control over her own future.

And that’s a really super important thing when you’re an elderly person, as I explained to my son (who oddly, has always been quite fascinated with Lettie’s newspaper antics).

“But what does she want a paper for anyway?  I thought she was BLIND?”

I remember at the time staring blankly at Junior aware that with this last line of inquiry, he had stated the ‘blindingly’ obvious.  And as the wave of realisation washed over me… I thought it might be a good idea to give Sue a call for a bit of a chat.

“Nobody likes a smarty-pants, darling.  Go let the cat out!”

Move it – OR LOSE IT!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Communication, Respect, Society

When Young People talk to Old People, BADLY

Getting our Kids Skilled-Up in the Art of Conversation

You talkin’ to me?

It must be wonderful knowing that your teenage son or daughter is mature enough to hold an ACTUAL conversation with your adult friends. Seeing them chat away freely when introduced; radiating confidence galore when asked if they are enjoying their new high school, all the time maintaining solid eye contact and without a dot of embarrassment or discomfort.

Whilst you stand alongside, glowing with pride and marvelling at what clearly must be some pretty bloody fabulous parenting skills, thank you very much!

Today I discovered that my 13-year old son did not possess such ability.

Not even close, in fact.

As a mum who thought she’d had it all covered: good manners, gracious conduct, appropriate behaviour and the biggie ‘Respect for others’… it came as a rude slap in the chops, as I watched Junior’s social skills crumble and turn totally to mush.

Our visit this morning was to a medical centre, thanks to my son’s recent sporting injury (long story, don’t ask), was for follow-up x-rays and to be given the all clear to have the annoying brace on his arm removed.

An ideal location to meet and engage in friendly banter with seniors, it’s common knowledge in aged-care circles, that a doctor’s waiting room is ‘top of the pops’ to test even the most experienced of gasbags! 

A sea of silver-haired ‘chattables’

It was as we sat bored waiting to be called, when an older smartly-dressed man with walking stick and twinkly eyes, leaned over to my son and asked in a fairly loud tone (hearing issues, obviously), what had he done to himself?

I continued reading my mag, confident that Chatterbox Charlie (as he is known at home and at school), would be equally as open and friendly. The two of them would yak away in ‘blokey’ fashion and by the time we left they’d be the bestest of buddies, possibly even a firm handshake farewell and promises to meet for tea and cake one day soon.

But what was this? 

Instead, no!  Junior was beside himself! Turning sharply to look at me, his face strained in terror… he was actually pleading me with his eyes, as if to say, “Oh god, please Mum, SAVE ME!”

Mortified, with the realisation that my dear beloved child was indeed a complete social flop after all, I attempted to verbally prompt him so he could explain to the nice inquiring man how he had sprained his arm in a game of football.

The old guy continued on, jokingly encouraging my son to join in.

“I thought you’re sposed to use your leg to kick the footy – not you’re arm!”

As Junior turned bright red and awkwardly squeaked out some sort of inaudible response (all the time staring down at the floor, clearly wishing the tiles would open up and pull him down into the deep, dark depths of the earth where no scary old dudes could ever find him)… it dawned on me that some people might actually find conversation with an elderly person intimidating. 

Especially those they hadn’t met before. And I get that.

Hearing Aids
– they’re great when they work!

Growing up as a shy young teen, I remember myself, the feeling of horror when an adult would talk to me – especially one I didn’t know well. The worry of not knowing what to say, or sounding silly if I did say something, or being judged and thought an idiot. It was cause for real anxiety!

In lieu of that thought, I decided my son needed a lesson in the art of conversation, STAT! Time for me to earn that Mother of the Year title and get him properly prepped and trained up on some good old-fashioned Communication Skills 101.

Yes, I would be doing this for me (and my shattered ego), but more significantly, I was doing it for my soppy, socially inept son. It was imperative that in today’s frantic and fiercely competitive world, that he be an efficient communicator; to gain the advantage over his peers by being able to competently talk and earn respect from older adults.

To impress the pants off his teachers, his footy coach or even his own grandparents by engaging them in some light, but thoughtful bit of chit-chat for goodness sake!

And at the same time, emphasise to my son that it didn’t matter what age a person was. That all it took was a little friendliness and a smidge of empathy to show kindness towards another human being and to make them feel good. That many older adults spend days, sometimes weeks sitting alone in their homes, desperate for company and to feel part of the community.

Could he imagine what that must be like?

Only the lonely

So, while the elderly chap and I laughed and chatted about the weather, his dreadful arthritis and the price of petrol, I felt Junior watching on taking it all in. I wasn’t completely daft though; I knew in reality my son’s interest would be only fleeting and that soon enough he’d tune out, switch on his iPod and go back to mindlessly picking at the tag on his arm brace.

But blow me down, before you could ask ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ my amazing little man surprised us all as he turned to the lovely white-haired lady sitting next to him.

Then, without missing a beat, smiling and looking her straight in the eye, in a big clear voice said, “Hello, are you having a nice day today?”

My faith restored, I nearly leapt out of my chair with the excitement of it all! My son was a lovely thoughtful person after all!

Unfortunately, I don’t think the poor little mite will dare go anywhere in public with his raving, lunatic mother again.  Not sure if it was the cheering out loud or the ‘high five-ing’ with the receptionist that sent him scurrying horrified out of the room!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Technology, Working with Elderly

HELP! The Computer Swallowed Grandma

You wanna do WHAT with my Cookies?

I bet Grandma would like to give HIM a finger…

Before we go scoffing and rolling our eyes too loudly when it comes to mustering the patience for showing an aging parent how to “logger” themselves onto a recently erected PC, iPad or tablet device, consider this:

—–> Your mother taught you how to hold a spoon, wipe your bot-bot and count to ten.

Did she poke fun at you then?

Or, when a grandparent who is desperately trying to master the art of “this emailer caper” just so she can stay in touch with her grandkids (yes, your children)… because nobody writes letters anymore and rather than being left behind and feeling cut-off from her family, she is at least making the effort to come to grips with all this “technical gadgetry” even though it is completely foreign, she finds it intimidating and it just feels so damned impersonal to her.

And isn’t it just gorgeous (we try not to patronise) when she announces how mod and trendy she is when she FINALLY manages to “pop off an email” to her darling 10 year old grandson, Max. It’s only taken her most of a day but she persevered and got there in the end.

Although, whether or not little Maxi actually received the email is a different story!

“Umm, did I push SEND…

Or was that the SAVE button…

Is there a way of getting it to come back???”

And then now that she’s so proficient and computer savvy, she even remembers to sign off with “LOL from Grandma” just for effect… because that’s Lots of Love, isn’t it?

You have to admire her for being so plucky and at least giving it a go, don’t you?

“Oh, Maxi will be SO impressed to see how his grandmother knows “dot com and stuff!”

More and more it seems I’m getting begged by my elderly clients, when I arrive at their homes, if I could please have a look at their jammed-up, unresponsive computers or merely to explain what “that funny noise” means and how it only started making it after that dreadful storm last week.

Do you think perhaps some water got into the wiring, Dollie?”

That the “inter-web must be broken” because the screen hasn’t lit up… or that “I think I’ve broken the internet” after accidentally deleting her own shortcut icon. Or asking if one needed to locate an ‘App’ just to bring up the local bus timetable. Or wondering why “my internet is so slow and it won’t let me start typing anything in”… only to discover she’d inadvertantly opened close to 30 windows and had 14 tool bars running!!

“Would it be easier if I hopped on to ‘The Google’ instead, Dollie?”

In my experience (and being that it would be totally inhumane and nasty), there is no merit gained from sniggering into the face of an earnest older adult who is already feeling inadequate.  They understand and accept that all this new whizz-bang technology is completely over their head and that of course they know how ridiculous they must look to us younger smarty-pant types.

Instead, I sit down, and LISTEN to what they are trying to achieve and if it sounds like something basic (such as the ever-popular ‘not being turned on at the wall’), then I tactfully suggest we try giving the switch a flick and see how that goes.  

“Oh, it happens all the time, Mrs Terrabyte, no need to feel embarrassed.  In fact, I sometimes do the same thing myself!”

And then we laugh. Until she reveals for the life of her she can’t remember what her wretched password is… and could she use mine instead?

So here’s a cute little poem I found “on the line” that suits the occasion and ends very nicely too.


See what I mean – CUTE!  

Of course in real life, we would never wish to lose dear ol’ Grannie into the deep dark depths of the cyberspace abyss (or have her gobbled up by a worm) in a million years. 

Who else is gonna tell us what cupboard she hides the ‘cookies’ in… tee hee!!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Scamming the Elderly

A Letter to a Scammer

Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs

  • Too hard to prove!
  • Too sleazy to catch!
  • Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!
We are NOT amused.

Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man (or whoever you are this week)

Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.

Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews her own fruit (from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Although suffering a smidge of arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), she is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for an old girl.

Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?

In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her area.

Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!

How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window? 

And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind like the week before – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom?  Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:

REALLY, THIS?

And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.

Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot, the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!

And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could literally be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday. Why, it was pittance, really.

As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you! And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.

Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.

IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!

To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen. 

Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs due to the inevitable health issues associated with ageing.

And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.

Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these. 

As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!  

Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door. 

And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.

Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?

It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they TRUST people. 

Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?

Nothing dodgy about this van.
No! Not a thing…

And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom. 

As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment needed to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.

SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!

Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.

Isn’t that sweet?

Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that the it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!

Strange, huh?

Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relys on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.

It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?

Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local Golden-Agers club. 

Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone.  And just sit. 

Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself. 

Just… heart-breaking.

Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done.  I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.

So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…

Would you mind if some devious little sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!

Yours in disgust, 

(On behalf of beautiful, broken Maria)

Dollie Dogood

And she’s very, very cross!


Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

The Hard, Dry & Flaky Facts of Ageing Skin

It seems the SKIN… that I’m IN… is terribly, terribly… THIN!”

Laugh Lines

Ever wondered why you never see a loofah brush, exfoliating mitt, nor any other type of abrasive body-scrubbing device in an elderly person’s bathroom? That’s not counting the mandatory piece of dried-up pumice stone once used to file corns and callouses from busy hard-working purposeful feet of a lifetime ago.

Well, there’s good reason for it apparently.  Summed up perfectly by 89 year old Lizzy Waterduck as I chatted to her during her shower last week:  

“At my age? Crikey, I’d end up skinned alive like a Chinese dog if I used one of those now!”

Understandably, for most of the older adults I visit in their homes, their skin is a fairly pertinent issue.  They know only too well that if something new or unusual appears on their outer – there’s a darn good chance that something more threatening may be happening on their inner.

Physiological changes such as connective tissue breakdown, the lessening of elastin and collagen production, a limited ability to retain moisture, plus an increasingly slower metabolism in general – all contribute to the breakdown of our skin’s integrity as we age.  

And as a consequence of this dermal deterioration, we then get to watch in despair as the inevitable creases, folds and ridges creep leisurely onto our skin’s surface to create that familiar ‘old person’ look…

Come on, sing it with me now:  WRINKLES!

Throw in the exhaustion of the juicy subcutaneous fat layer beneath, too, means the natural oils which once protected us from damage and gave skin it’s firm, voluptuous appearance – are depleted.  Leaving elders with a moisture-less, thinned barrier that’s vulnerable to anything untoward.

Oh yes, defences by this stage, are most definitely down!  

Understandably, with skin that’s as delicate and translucent as Lizzy Waterduck’s, the last thing she’d ever consider doing as part of her shower routine, even if she might have done regularly in her decadent middle-aged years… is to slough off yet another (possibly the last) layer from her precious epidermal.

Of course, other contributing factors such as lifestyle, genetics and diet can also throw a pensioner’s skin balance out of whack.  Interestingly, one of the major roles of our outer dermis is to maintain the body’s natural thermostat.  Which explains why so many seniors seem to spend most of their days grumbling how cold they are, even in the height of a summer heatwave.

“Brrrr… shut the dam door, girlie!”

Progressing into our ‘twilight’ years, means we might also get to grow the odd unsightly skin tags, unflattering strangely-shaped moles and, prevalent on the backs of hands, balding heads, ears, arm, noses and necks… are the browny-coloured ‘liver’ or sun spots we immediately associate with ‘being old’. 

These annoying tell-tale blemishes are a result of spending entire lives being hat-less and factor-less for long periods exposed to the outside elements.  And declaring “but we didn’t know any better”, does nothing to fix the skin damage already caused.  

Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much sunscreen grandad coats himself in now, it’s a case of too-little too-late for these old timers.

Ahhh good times…
Good skin-destroying times!

And there are other less than delightful skin conditions we become more predisposed to as we age.   Dermatitis, eczema and pruritis are afflictions which are all identifiable with dry, ageing skin and will continue to drive itchy, older folk to reach for the tried-and-true camomile lotion by the gallon.

But flaky, scaly skin is a bad thing when you’re an older peep because when skin has become so dry that it’s now irritated and cracking open, there is opportunity galore for serious infection to enter and thrive it’s head off.

With immunity already compromised in sick or frail seniors or those suffering with pre-existing health complaints, the skin, whose job as the built-in protection layer stopping the big bad germ-laden world from entering our bodies and making us unwell, becomes weakened and unable to hold ground when it’s really needed most.

A seemingly small injury to a mature-ager’s cutaneal areas (even the slightest scratch), if not treated appropriately, can easily lead to serious complications and a much longer recovery time leaving an elder either in hospital… or in a very, very bad mood!

Indeed, depending on the state of it – our skin can quite literally mean the difference between life and death!  

More significantly for an anxious pensioner, it can also mean the difference between remaining at home or being despatched to live in an aged-care facility… ie: the dreaded nursing home.

Yes, fresh flaps – most important!

I get to observe a lot of elderly skin when I visit my clients at this stage of their lives. Assisting them to shower and maintain regular hygiene habits is integral to self-esteem, dignity and indicative to the rest of the world (ie: suspicious adult children) that they’re still capable of living independently.

And although not medically trained, an experienced carer can become quite astute in recognising symptoms of potential health issues, merely by observing the condition or noting even slight changes in a naked senior’s skin – especially at shower time.

Bruises, for example, can be discovered during Personal Care shifts and might be the result of a fall, walking into the coffee table – or possibly from something more sinister? A quick mention here regarding Elder Abuse and that ALL suspicions of such should be reported immediately and without hesitation.

Haematoma (bruising) can look dreadful on pale older skin and thanks to sluggish metabolisms, may take months to totally heal and fade. Not helped by certain medications used to control inflammatory conditions so common in old age (stiff joints, arthritis, COPD, diabetes etc) which, as a pesky side-effect, can leave seniors exceptionally prone to bruising.  

Such as one of my clients, 79 year old Hilary Greentree who relies on steroidal drugs to control symptoms of her advancing emphysema.  These powerful meds offer a fabulous quality of life and are literally life-saving for someone like Hilary.  

More importantly (she informs me), they allow her to be top of her game on the golf course!  

BUT… it was discovered recently, that Hilary’s skin had in fact become so thinned and susceptible to even the slightest touch that something as silly as the seam on her new golf slacks is enough to cause extensive black and blue marks down both her shins.  

I mean, did you EVER?

Bruises on your SHIN
And you won’t want to GRIN

For obvious reasons, assisting a senior to wash their outer body involves common sense, a good bit of empathy and patience… plus a WHOLE LOTTA care and attention.  Jagged fingernails or solid objects such as jewellery, rings etc can inflict catastrophic damage to paper-thin skin – and often with very minimal force applied.

Cringe-worthy is the story about a carer once who, worrying about getting to her next job on time, ripped an enormous gash in her client’s calf while attempting to yank up his support hose (commonly used to control circulation probs in the lower limbs). In her haste, she hadn’t realised the tag on the garment had accidentally embedded itself into the poor old gent’s skin which then sliced deeply all the way up his leg as she pulled.

Ohhhh, THE HUMANITY!

Which explains why some of my more delicate ladies fear using a standard flannel or wash cloth that the rest of us ruffians take for granted.  Instead, they prefer to wash with a tiny square of baby muslin or light-weight sponge, both of which seem so floaty and flimsy – you wonder if it’s worth bothering! 

There’s certainly no RUBBING or SCRUBBING involved.  Just a lot of gentle circles and tender dabbing to ensure their sensitive aged skin is left suitably cleansed, and more importantly – unbroken.

Thankfully, it turns out that the older you get, the less cleansing your skin actually requires.  With retirement marking an inevitable slump in physical activity, there are now far less occasions to get a big ‘sweat-up’ like we once might have.  Common thought now is that it’s more than adequate for a senior to instead shower every other day (or less), thereby allowing natural oils in the skin a chance to replenish and build resistance against all the nasties.

“And so I can get my GLOW on!” 

As one of my lovelies, Gladys Gigglestick, proudly preaches.

Funnily enough, Gladys swears by sweet almond oil as her choice of showertime lather – and NEVER soap. 

“Because soap is just too harsh and leaves me dry, rashy and itchier than an old man’s tweed vest”. 

Which is fair enough when you’re 95 and you’ve been in this bathing game long enough to know! Admittedly, the almond oil (which smells devinely like Christmas pudding) does leave Gladys’ skin noticeably well-nourished and ever so moisty.  

Although, when she holds my arm stepping out of the shower, I have to make sure I plant my feet firmly to keep us both steady… blimmen ‘eck, she’s as shiny and slippery as an eel!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie



Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

To Bidet, or Not to Bidet?

That, is the Toileting Question!

I came across this advertisement while perusing a magazine on a plane recently. It caught my eye for two reasons:

1.   I’d only just written an article about the ‘Worst Xmas Gifts Ever’, and…

2.   Why was this cheery, yet smug-looking woman in beige slacks STANDING ON A TOILET???

The Best Xmas Gift Ever!!

“Usually for Christmas, my children buy me towels or pillows or once even a
basket for the cat. Last year, after a wonderful lunch in the park with my family,
we came home and I found that for a Christmas gift my son had organised
the replacement of my old toilet seat with an electronic Bidet toilet seat. 
I had seen them advertised on TV and thought what a great idea.”
After two weeks of having my new Bidet, I wondered how I had ever survived
previously without it.
All I have to do is sit down on my nice warm seat and go to the loo. Once I am
finished I simply press a button and I get a warm water rush and a stream
of warm air dry.
Now almost a year later, it has changed my life. I have saved a fortune 
in toilet paper and, I see going to the toilet as a time of luxury. 
It is the best Christmas gift I have ever received!”
– Sylvia Ross –

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Upon reading the ad, I discover that the extremely chuffed ‘Sylvia’, is actually the proud owner (and driver) of a shiny new Bidet-style toilet seat attachment, secretly installed by her son as a surprise for Christmas.

Indeed, not an advert for your traditional (and kinda terrifying) stand-alone bidet, ahh no. 

Instead, Sylvia introduces us to the wondrous Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat. A magical two-in-one appliance that means upon completing her regular toileting ablutions, Sylvia gets to be luxuriously “warm water washed” and “air-dried”. 

And without having to budge – ahhh BLISS!

I later showed the mag clipping to my own mother just out of interest. Similar in vintage to Sylvia, it was interesting to hear Mum’s views on the whole BIDET topic. From the perspective of someone who, much like most of us who find those ‘odd-shaped water fountain thingies’ totally intimidating, she admitted that if she had to use a bidet – she really wouldn’t know where to start.

“It’s more of an upper-class European thing, isn’t it… or is it something the prostitutes in Amsterdam use?”

“My friend from bowls has a bidet – but she washes her Chihuahua in it.”

“I’d be scared it might explode… crikey, I could end up being given some sort of a nasty enema!”

What a bidet is NOT for!

All silliness aside, I did start thinking that perhaps Sylvia was ON to something (literally haha). And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed there were massive advantages to be had by a sensitive senior considering enhancing their current loo to include a shiny new automatic built-in bidet. 

Interestingly, (but a bit odd too, I thought) I discovered after a bit of research, that the word Bidet comes from the French meaning ‘small horse’.

Oh, so you strap yourself on and ride it like a pony?”

Yep, thanks Mum.

And that apparently, it was the Japanese who first invented the modern integrated ‘toilet-bidet’ as a nifty space-saving device. Without need of a plumber, it is supposedly simple to install and something an older adult (or obliging family member) could manage without too much fuss.  

Merely replacing the current tatty old dunny seat with a fabulous whizz-bang electric one. Easy peasy… botty-squeezy! 

Being suitably impressed by this snazzy new bathroom gadget (and without sounding like I have shares in the company), I have since started singing the praises of these electronic bidet toilet seats (EBTS) to some of my elderly clients. 

Especially for those suffering from never-ending incontinence or constipation episodes; or pesky mobility issues due to frail, weakened bones and stiff arthritic joints. I reckon it would be hard not to appreciate the enormous potential health benefits an all-in-one EBTS might provide.   Not to mention for those in their twilight years being more financially set to ‘splash out’ (ahem) and spoil themselves on a nice bit of luxury during their retirement.

*******************************************

8 Ripper reasons to get an Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat (EBTS) for your elderly parent:

1.   They can do their ‘business’, then clean-up, dry-up all in one hit… in one SIT? 

2.   The EBTS means seniors stay safe.  Not having to go ‘up down’ twice from a toilet to a separate bidet means less chance of a skate on slippery tiles.

3.   Personal hygiene is improved and more effective due to not having to awkwardly reach around to wipe. Tender, sore and ‘ouchy’ bottoms can stay cleaner – and heal faster.

4.   No hands required. Mission complete – without having to touch your bits!

5.   Issues such as constipation can be eased (or ‘eased out’) by caressing streams of warm water – in all the right places.

6.   Seniors can feel ‘shower fresh’ using an EBTS without having to fully strip off and endure the physical ordeal of an actual shower.

7.   The EBTS assists elders to depend less on their caregivers – which means preserving self-confidence (and their dignity).

8.   The warm-air dryer of the EBTS means older adults with ‘greenie’ tendencies can feel most satisfied that they’re saving “shit-loads” on toilet paper – HOORAY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!

****************************************************

To summarise: Wouldn’t it be nice to offer the beloved in your life a tiny bit of toileting opulence in their golden years? 

(Not to mention a toasty warm bum in winter).

It’s time to let dear old Mum know just how much you appreciate her and that because she is so special (much like Smug Sylvia) she absolutely deserves to have… THE BEST BIDET-TOILET SEAT IN THE HOUSE!

At least he’s using it correctly…. WOOF?

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie

Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

When Old People Help Young People

Can I Return Your Trolley For you, Dear?

As a rule, there’s not much in the way of kindness on offer in busy shopping centre carparks – especially from strangers undergoing the same tiresome routine as you.

Well today turned out to be my lucky-ducky-day!

Having pushed a full trolley out to my car after doing battle in the supermarket (hate hate hate) for the weekly family food shop, I was puffing a bit and probably looked as hot and bothered as I felt.

Dollie with a trollie!

As I unloaded the grocery bags into the boot, I remembered a couple of essentials I’d forgotten to buy (why didn’t I make a goddam list?) so my head was miles away when an older man with lush white beard and dainty gold spectacles appeared beside me asking if he could perhaps give me a hand?

Gesturing towards my now empty cart he smiled and said in a most gentlemanly voice, “Can I return that for you, dear?”

My initial reaction was to decline politely this neatly-dressed chap’s offer.  For heaven’s sake, I was the carer who looked after elderly people – it should be ME offering to help HIM!

And he was certainly no spring chicken.  Although still quite sprightly, his light-weight frame and obvious hip issue made him look far too frail to be flinging other people’s trolleys about.

Not only that, but I had to go back into the shopping centre anyway, which meant walking directly past the Trolley Return bay.  How easy-peasy was it for me to whip my own cart (with it’s annoying dicky wheel) into the loading bay as I dashed by?

However, something in this earnest Senior’s eyes made me zip my lip and realise that this was, in fact, not about me.

Shopping Besties
– Dollie & Ray

Turns out that Ray (yes, we got chatting) was having his 90th birthday next week and he was really looking forward to the afternoon High Tea his family and friends (“the ones that haven’t dropped off, yet!”) were throwing in his honour.  He told me how he had never felt so good – perhaps he might even have a sherry or two on the BIG DAY!

“Gee whiz, I’m excited to be alive, Dollie!”

Ray then went on to explain how having something to look forward to and feel special about, had made such a difference to his life.  Especially after losing his wife Anne last year ‘to the Cancer’ had left him feeling lonely, depressed and quite lost.

Indeed, I recognised there was far more significance in allowing lovely, high-spirited Ray assist with my silly old supermarket trolley than there was in me trying to save time and supposed unnecessary fuss.

And it wasn’t because he just happened to be passing; nor because he thought I actually really needed the help.

It was because he could.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RAY!!!

Cheers,
Dollie
Supermarket Sillies