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 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 Aged Care, Dementia

Dementia Diagnosis for Aunty Win

A Letter to my Fam

Winnie – younger days
(always had great hair!)

I received this email from my cousin Rochelle recently.

Thought I’d share it here (because I can), and also to emphasise how shitty and random Dementia is. Not to mention the despair and frustration for families who are left heart-broken as they watch on hopelessly; it is totally NOT FAIR.

Aunt Winnie taught me that girls don’t have to aspire to be receptionists or “office note-takers” or run around after others… “unless you want to, then that’s fine, too.”

Instead, if you’ve got the gumption (her favourite word) – you can make a great career doing something you love, settle down and hopefully find a nice boy “wearing not-too-tight slacks” to make a good enough life together.

It has eventuated that I have done both.

Aunt ‘Winnie-the-Poo‘ – – –  YOU ROCK!

(We miss you so much).

Happy family, beachy days
(and the discovery of ginger beer!!)

To my dear family,

I’ve been back from overseas for almost 2 weeks and there have been a few changes with Mum (our Winnie), so thought I’d send a group email update so you all know where that’s at.

Unfortunately, and as predicted by most of us, her mental health has declined significantly.  

I took her to her GP and she completed a MoCA test (half hour competency testing), where the results were not flash:  ie: 10 out of 30 is bad.

Poor mum scored 2…(TWO!)  Is that even a number???

Thank the Lord she defiantly remembered where she was from, although truthfully, I think she must have fluked the second point by just sheer good luck!

We also discussed her anxiety levels and turns out, they’ve put Mum on a little ‘upper’ to assist with her mood.  Arthur is great with mum and loves her to bits which I could cry with relief about cos he’s such a caring wonderful man.  

Obviously, as a retired school teacher, he revels in the role of directing and correcting!  (Plus, the Citalopram will be doing it’s job – keeping Mum calm and ticking along, happy to stay back after class with another special Arthur ‘detention’ !!!)

In the meantime, the Geriatricians will without doubt, assess Mum for ‘Care-Home’ level care, and I assume officially diagnose her with Dementia. This should happen soon.  Hopefully, while I am still in the country – although I may be called up any day now so not sure what we do then… 

Thankfully, in this zippity-do-dah-modern-day (haha another one of her ‘funnies’) most stuff can be sorted online and organised via email etc.  And legally, I don’t need to go to the lawyers- which is just perfect.

The best thing is that the staff at the Respite home where Mum is now are all on the same page as I am.  And they have been concerned with her deterioration for a while – the head nurses have an amazing rapport with her, plus they’ve kept me fully up to speed on things. 

I am just SO impressed with the set-up there!

Win gets to stay in her current apartment WITH Arthur – and the Care Team actually comes to her! This includes 3 showers a week, getting dressed daily and undressed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, dispensing medications, clothes washing, housekeeping etc.

At the moment, Mum is just having shower and dressing assistance (extra $100 a week).  Once the new level of care comes through, we will apply for a subsidy as their combined total assets is less than $119k.

This new level of care will be paid from Dad’s deceased estate account (ie: $23k – and then the good old government takes over…PHEW).

I did have Mum come stay with me by herself last week (and my girls too, much to their horror), for a night recently. She spent the WHOLE TIME thinking Arthur would be coming to pick her up at any second – watching out the window, pacing up and down etc. 

I could tell she really would have preferred to go back ‘home’ to Arthur; we had to phone him a few times during the night when the panic set in. 

You should have seen it the next day, though, when they re-united.  I just about died… they had the biggest SNOG I’ve seen in ages….in front of all the staff…everyone…THEY DIDN’T CARE!!!

(I think I was actually JEALOUS!)

Arthur & Winnie’s ‘golf’ wedding cake
FOURRRRR!

Mum’s just fine where she is and like I said, Arthur loves her to bits. So as weird as all this is, Winnie’s definitely safe and cared for. She actually does realise her memory is bad (kind of), but quickly seems to forget she had that flash of realisation and so we just move on.

She happily accepts shower assistance, and for her own dignity and personal presentation, I’m terribly thankful for that.  Physically, Win looks and IS well.

Don’t know what else to say but I really hope this email doesn’t cause any concern for you guys.  I really feel she is in the right place and I think we should all feel blessed that she married Arthur last year – as crazy as that seemed at the time…. WHO IS THIS MAN WITH THE GIANT MOUSTACH WHO IS IN LOVE WITH MY MOTHER? 

Because it certainly takes the load off me – not that I’m complaining…

It’s just hard, you know?

Anyway, I hope all is well with you guys – sorry if I’ve rambled on but I wanted to put you in the picture seeing as you are her family,,, the people who love her the most. 

God, does she even remember?  

You know what…I really don’t know any more.  Today for example, she called me Geraldine.  As in Aunty Gerry, her twin, who died when they were in their 20’s.  And I can tell when she looks at me that she’s not ‘Mum’ anymore.  I hate that the most about this awful disease.

Anyway, I’m waiting for confirmation of my next placement abroad – not sure when or where that might be but I’m loving my Oncology nursing and the fabulous people involved in the industry so that makes it all worthwhile (as well as being the best distraction from the Win & Arthur show!)

Will keep you all updated as the rest of the saga of our gorgeous mum/sister/aunty’s life unfolds. 

Love you guys,

Rochelle

PS: please, don’t worry about mum.  She is fine, really.

PPS: we must all get together in the SAME room one day.  Life’s too short. – I could end up losing my mind, just like Mum.  ARRRGGGHHHH!

Winnie (and Gerry)
liddle widdle! 

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Working with Elderly

RADIO: Helping the Elderly ‘Stay Tuned’ since 1947

“Oh, why won’t my wayward wireless stop whistling?”

But it’s making a funny noise, Dollie

Really, it’s of little surprise that most of the older adults I visit in their homes, enjoy listening to their radios. 

More specifically, those with deteriorating vision or being that they might be frail or unwell (with mobility often compromised), they can find themselves in their late Golden Years, no longer able to indulge in traditional media entertainment pleasures the rest of us hipsters take for granted.  

Vices such as watching television, reading a good book or wallowing for half a day with toast & coffee over the Sunday paper is simply no longer an option.  

Popping on the ‘wireless’ therefore makes perfect sense!

Not that they are missing much, surely? It seems telly these days is unrelenting with it’s bombardment of rubbish ‘reality’ shows targeted solely towards the younger more impressionable audience, thereby leaving bewildered seniors unable to relate and feeling overwhelmed at such bad taste and a definite absence of depth. 

(Big Brother, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Love Island and that heinous ‘House Wives’ series spring to mind here)

Instead, having a nice string of yesteryear tunes crooning away on the radiogram in the front room, works beautifully to lift sullen moods and put some zing into a lonely or sometimes socially isolated pensioner’s day.  Memories of happy, more sprightly-er times are jogged by meaningful classics, as well as offering the much needed ‘company’ my clients might now be lacking.

“Hearing Vera Lynn always reminds me of my Edith and the times we used to sit in the back of the truck on our way to the dance at the town hall. Drinking home-made cider we’d nicked from my dad’s basement… we felt sooo naughty”

“…but that’s naughty in a good way, Dollie!”

Dame Vera Lynn 2019
Still a star… and still sporting a nice bit of red lippy
.

Talkback radio too, is ideal for supporting a forlorn or neglected senior through long periods of solitude and that despairing, yet understandable need for human interaction. They get to stay fully up to speed with the latest news and current affairs of the nation (usually in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep) plus share opinions and views with like-minded people of the same ilk.

“And, it’s great fun arguing the next day with Mavis and Lettie about the previous night’s topics.  Really gets the blood churning on a good day!”

Similarly, for some of my older gents who adore (and can’t live without) their daily infusion of Sport.  Sadly though, thanks to ‘old people’ medical conditions and the sheer exhaustion of it all, many have had to give up attending actual LIVE football games or cricket matches.  

To quote dear old 97-year old Bert with his ‘gammy leg and both me dicky knees’:

“The logistics alone would just about kill me, Dollie!”

Instead, he attaches himself to his little black transistor (circa 1972) via a pair of well-used nicotine-stained earplugs and lies back in his armchair to bellow at “that frigging umpire” until he nods off with the excitement of it all.

I have to say now (in a big loud voice), earplugs or headphones are a superbly handy device for a lot of the hearing-impaired elders I come across.  Needless to say, they’re also a godsend for the spouse (or the poor battered budgerigar) who otherwise gets stuck tolerating the din!

“Jeee-zuz, Ref…my wife’s gotten pregnant from less contact than that!”

If I turn that dial THIS way… then twist this knob THAT way….
Do you copy
?

OVER.

However… as marvellous and New-Age as all that is, I have other dear clients whom I help in their home, who can’t manage their broadcast transmissions to save themselves! 

And it doesn’t matter how ludicrously large the knobs on their radios are, or how basic the design or how seemingly straightforward the technology is to operate… THEY WILL STILL FIND A WAY TO STUFF UP THE SETTINGS!

Today for example, I arrived at 87-year old Bill Whistley’s home and as I walked up the path, I was hit with that adorable Guns & Roses melody ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ booming off the richter scale and making the crockery in Bill’s glass cabinet rattle.

“Blimmen ‘eck, I’ve tried fiddling with it, Dollie… but since I started my new pills, I’ve lost the feeling in my hands a bit. Can’t seem to land it on anything except THAT goddam racket.”

And in all the fluster, poor ol’ Bill decided to deal with the ear-splitting screams of Axel Rose the only way he knew how – by shutting all the doors and stowing himself away in his spare room.  It never occurred to him to just switch his radio off at the wall!  

“Oh, thank Heavens… you’ve ended the wickedness, Dollie!”

Yet Bill is not alone with his terror of the airwaves!  I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve walked into my client’s homes (I give up knocking as there’s literally NO CHANCE they can hear me) to find a brilliant selection of Hard Rock or Heavy Metal booming from within.  

Dollie to the rescue – check out some of these rippers!

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

“My house is so quiet during the daytime… it’s just nice to have something break the silence.  Mind you, be good if it were something I could whistle to”

(You mean you CAN’T whistle to Spiderbaits’ toe-tapping version of ‘Black Betty’?)

Oh the damn thing has a mind of its own. I set it on a nice bit of Sinatra but the next day it’s somehow flicked itself over and I’m left with that lot screeching at me!”

(Alice Cooper, anyone?)

Oh is it, Dollie? I hadn’t noticed… I thought I was listening to Roger Whittaker!”

(‘Eye of the Tiger’… good for what ails ya)

My son will be here later, I thought I’d leave it for him to sort out. Didn’t want to meddle in case I broke something. Plus it means I get to see him more often”

(Led Zeppelin at brekky time for a ‘Whole Lotta Love’)

“To be honest, Dollie… I’m deaf as a post so ANY noise is good”

(Just static was ‘playing’ in this lovely lady’s living room – LOUDLY)

What’s FM then? I thought it said ‘AM’ and ‘PM’. So I’ve been switching the dial once I’ve had my lunch, over to the ‘PM’ for the afternoon session. Wondered why the tunes suddenly got a bit rowdy!”

(Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually end up “Burning Down the House’)

It’s been begging for a fight all morning… I’d turn the dam contraption off if I knew how!”

(Yes, ‘Sexual Healing’ – always good for a bit of rough’n’tumble)

Bloody things been making that racket since I dropped it down the back of the bed/in the sink/onto the cat…”

(who DIDN’T get their kids to sleep with that lovely ‘Smoke on the Water’ lullaby?)

Death Metal, anyone?
(yes, that is a thing)

Let’s face it, as some smarty-pants from somewhere once said:  

“RADIO:  It’s like TV, only the pictures are better”.

Which is all very well and good – but it doesn’t really explain why I seem to be forever adjusting my clients’ knobs (ya godda love ’em!)


HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Aged Care, Respect

The Wooden Bowl

Just a nice story about Compassion & Respect

“I guarantee you will remember this tale of The Wooden Bowl, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now…

A big bad BOWL

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. Every night, the family ate together at the table.

Unfortunately, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped his glass, he always spilled milk on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about my father,” said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

The husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather would eat alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the big table. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. If the dropped the bowl, it would clatter with a loud noise, but at least it would not break.

This went on for some time. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little wooden bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. 

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. They looked at each other, and felt a cold sensation wash over them. Though no words were spoken, both knew they had acted poorly and needed to take action. 

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

<Author Unknown>

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

“On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:  a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’.

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldnt go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can – happiness will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decisions.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I dont have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch; holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

Pesky, trouble-making peas…

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

Lovely Lips for Lois

Love amongst the Lipsticks?

I witnessed the most perfect display of selfless and unconditional love today.  An unexpected, yet beautifully-presented scene that just randomly played out before me – in a rotten old Target store, of all places.

And while I’m pleased that I happened upon such a thought-provoking little interlude, I’m also doubly chuffed that I managed to snap a very nice photo of it as well. Working in the aged-care industry, I’ve long since realised the value of capturing the special moments as they come along – no matter how inconsequential they might seem at the time.

A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say?  

I hope you’ll find this heart-warming piccy, which I’ve saved ’til the end of my story (hee hee because I can), worthy of being talked about.

In the meantime, a picture of some cheeky looking Galahs to tide you over:

Who’s a pretty boy then?

Let me set the scene:

Firstly, and you may not know this, but shopping centres during the week days, transform into what can only be described as the perfect pensioners paradise!

Yes, indeedy. For while the rest of us are off being dutifully occupied at work or school (or ‘other’), teams of opportunistic Retirees get to roam freely in herd-like fashion throughout the malls.  Albeit a silver-haired, slowwww moving herd – but a herd all the same.

Hey, they’ve got the time – why shouldn’t they make a day of it?

Chatting leisurely with other like-minded Golden-Agers, casually pushing trolleys or towing low-maintenance free-wheeled trolley devices… they get their errands run unhindered, unflustered and un-rushed. Enjoying the shopping experience safely at their own pace and without judgement or pressure from any of us raucous unruly lot, thank you very much.

Not to mention packing out cafes and teashops to the brim when it’s half-time and they’re primed for the proverbial nice hot cuppa.  (Cream cake too, if blood sugar meds allow it).

Fear not though, for by the time we self-appointed important people all barrel into the shops and the supermarkets to hunt and gather for the family din-dins, these older folk are long gone.  Back at home, unpacked and un-shoed…they’ve completed their quests and are now poised in recliners awaiting the next thrilling instalment of Family Feud.

Yet, here I found myself today, thanks to a late cancellation, breaking all of society’s sacred unwritten rules… I decided to make an impromptu visit to my local shopping centre.

And as I stood in the Toiletries aisle languishing in such mid-morn freedom, deliberating on whether to go the strawberry or the vanilla flavoured lip balm (it’s a tough life), I could hear a softly-spoken male voice at the cosmetics section behind me.  Upon changing my angle, I saw it was an older gent with white hair standing alongside what was evidently his matching elderly wife in a wheelchair. 

With stiff stooped shoulders and her wasted hands lay motionless in her lap, she clearly had serious health problems (I speculated she may’ve had a stroke or maybe MS, but hard to really know).  However, that wasn’t an issue for this pair who, oblivious to me and my life-threatening lip balm dilemma, were focused on choosing lipsticks.

And even more fortunately for her, I thought – her husband was doing it spectacularly!

“Honey Beige, Melting Melon, Glazed Caramel… what the heck?  Some of these colours, Lois… sounds more like food to me.  That reminds me, we’ll do the groceries after this”.

Lovely-sounding-hubby was now donning his reading specs in order to decipher the ridiculously teeny tiny writing found on most lippys.  A man on a mission and with no shop assistant in sight, he clearly felt at ease in what was typically a woman’s domain.  Regardless of her health state, his wife was still a lady and therefore there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t maintain the beauty regimes that allowed her to feel feminine and ‘normal’.   

“Pink Opal… Berry Beauty… Flushed Fuchsia.  But they’re ALL pink!  There’s just such a lot to pick from, Lois.  And I was thinking ‘pink’ was just PINK!”

In my head I had to agree…. STUPID SAME-COLOURED LIPSTICKS!

Pink, Pink – YOU STINK!

“Nude Mauve!”

“Erotic Blush!”

“Ravishing Rose!”

“Good gracious me, darling… a bit naughty-sounding some of them, might be a bit much?”

I laughed out loud at this comment, nearly blowing my cover but managed to change position while edging closer to the action.

“Here, let’s try this one, Lois.  Forever Precious it’s called… that’s definitely you my darling.  And it’s such a pretty pink.”

As Lois sat motionless, in her purely supervisory capacity, her adoring spouse crouched down before her to apply yet another shade of pink to the back of his wife’s lifeless hand.  They’d obviously been at it for a while because they seemed to have the routine down pat.  He would mark her skin for testing, pause to stand back and admire, then discuss yes? Or no? (with himself) before a gentle wipe with the tissue in preparation for the next one. 

So, yes by now I was melting on the inside – it was just gorgeous to watch!

“This Smokey Pearl one here… that’ll match your new pink blouse, Lois. The one we bought for Bryce’s graduation.  But let’s get the Charming Coral one as well.  Just in case, yes?”

Apparently, Lois could speak but it must’ve been only just, as he had to lean his ear right into her face to hear her.

“Ha ha yes!  ‘Charming’ – just like me!  Ha ha ha… good one, darling”

Brilliant! Lois was being silly too!

“Here’s one…Spiced Coffee.  Oh, for goodness sake, Lois!  How about we have a think about it all and go get some ‘spiced coffee’ of our own at that nice café over there; they might have some ‘glazed caramel’ we can chew on too.  What fun!”

As they wheeled off out of the shop, I couldn’t see Lois’s face, but I felt sure she would be smiling and thoroughly enjoying herself.  Having such a kind and genuinely loving man by her side, helping her choose lipsticks no less.

WHAT MAN DOES THAT?!

And how he spoke to her…. the way he interacted with her!  Such patience and grace, the undeniable care and commitment he showed for his dear disabled wife; it was truly truly admirable. 

In fact, I had no doubt that Lois, in her sad wheely-bound existence, thanks to this sweet and devoted man – got to smile every single day of her life .

Now, as promised——- the photo to end all photos!  

ENJOY.

A Thousand Words.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

The Lighter Side of Working in Aged Care

“It’s all fun and games… until someone loses their bladder!”

Laughing and Leaking
– both easier to do the older we get

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of jobs advertised in the Aged-Care sector are now listing ‘sense of humour’ as one of the more desirable personal characteristics required from potential applicants.

Right up there alongside the usual skill-set buzzwords: compassion, empathy… yadda yadda… time-management, communication, etc etc etc it seems that a lot of Care providers are now recognising the merit to be gained in employing Support Workers who are capable of seeing the lighter side of their roles.

Not that we ‘funny-bunnies’ don’t consider our work with older adults as meaningful or important. Ahhh no, quite the opposite.  In fact, more is the case where those who CAN have a laugh (and don’t feel they have to take everything so seriously all the time), end up with far greater job satisfaction as a consequence of receiving such fabulous positive feedback from their much-amused clients!  

Because there’s little doubt how beneficial humour can be when meeting an elderly client – especially for that harrowing first time.  Not meaning you need to perform party tricks or stand on your head and act the clown. More just in understanding your client; seizing those unexpected instances as they occur and utilising them to develop a good happy, healthy relationship.

You know… tell them the silly story about your wheelbarrow at home with the dicky wheel or how your new kitten got into your knitting bag and found itself tangled in a ball of red yarn under the sofa – and then let them share similar humorous anecdotes with you.

We all know that there’s nothing like a good ol’ laugh to improve overall wellbeing, to strengthen friendships or just to promote a jolly good mood.

Are we having fun yet?

So, as a care-worker in your client’s home, merely being observant and discovering what interests your client has, understanding what makes them tick… can make it a heck of a lot easier for you to change tactics if required, and direct your game plan accordingly.

As a coping strategy, too, an intuitive carer should also understand the benefits of how a funny story, or a witty one-liner can be tactfully used to distract an ageing adult who is clearly agitated that you have arrived at their home in the first place. They’ve decided in advance that they won’t like you and therefore will be totally resistant to your charms. No matter what!

“I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP, MISSY!”

In my experience, discretely changing the subject, injecting a fresh but genuine perspective into the conversation can diffuse most potential challenging behaviour before it gets a chance to gather momentum.

Just by sharing a refreshingly waggish viewpoint in a senior’s often mundane existence can be enough to crack even the hardest of old nuts (yes, a lukewarm smile still counts).  Achieve this and you’ll gain trust and win them over before they’ve had a chance to realise how much they actually DO like you after all.

The awkwardness of nudity at shower time is always a good test of a carer’s inter-personal communication skills. But be brave, just chat away and show how you thoroughly enjoy the company of your new NAKED client, ever so much!

In fact, I’m often surprised, how even the most insignificant occurrence or absurdity, can turn a stilted situation into a side-splitting laugh feast in an instant!

Take my new client from yesterday morning: a frail and reluctant 91-year old Gladys Liverspot. Obviously already annoyed and feeling quite indignant that “my-regular-girl-Angie” was not available to help her shower – she’d been informed by the office that she was stuck with me instead.

Oh, I’d attempted to initialise conversation for sure. I was bubbly… yet professional. I showed genuine interest in the brand new kitchen cupboards she’d just had installed. Plus, I’d admired the heck out of her grandson’s never-ending pile of wedding photos.

But as we progressed through her showering routine I got nothing back from Gladys.  Instead, she seemed damned determined to remain cool and aloof.

That is, until it came time to wash her ‘lady bits’ and, as I do, I asked Gladys if she wanted help with that.

“Oh, you mean my Fanny-by-Gaslight!” 

Well, that was it!  Such a random unexpected thing to hear a little old lady say – I cracked up big time.

And blow me down… Gladys clearly LOVED me for it!  In fact, she joined in too!

Seemingly, my hysterical response to her quirky turn of phrase was just the reaction Gladys needed to accept me into her world.  It showed her that I understood her; that I was on her wave-length. I was someone who could appreciate her inanely dated comment and therefore I was worthy to be part of her day.

Before I left (and still giggling like schoolgirls), I was rewarded with a nice cuppa and the ginger crunch slice that Gladys usually reserved for her special visitors.

So there! Take that, “My-regular-girl-Angie”...!!!

Sometimes I laugh so hard
– the tears run down my leg !!!

Ironically too, there are days where laughing at yourself can be all that keeps you sane.  Nothing like putting your foot in it with a slip of the ol’ verbal faux-pas; those unintentional moments when you haven’t thunk before you’ve opened your gob. 

Here’s a couple of my finest:

Offering left-arm amputee Sheila Greensleeves to help wipe down her bench top… “Can I give you a hand with that?”

Or saying “Gee that IS a big one!” …  the exact same moment Terry Wang drops his tweeds at shower time (I was actually referring to the giant mutant cactus plant towering outside his bathroom window, truly I was)

And just out of habit, to my new and totally bald-headed client, Jim Wiggington… Are we washing your hair today, Sir?”

As soon as I pop these humdingers out – I kick myself.  But at the same time, it shows I’m only human and, as unbelievable as it may seem, I make mistakes too.  Thankfully, all my clients (thus far) have forgiven me whenever I’ve let slip and more often than not, we end up having a bit of a cackle about it as well.

It’s all in the way you handle the situation and anyway, they know it was not intended.  I’m just happy that my dear clients can relax enough and feel at ease around me to have a laugh in the first place.

“Oh Dollie, you are a ONE”, they say.

And I guess I am.

Reciprocally, I love those unexpected humorous one-offs that my clients can spring on me, too!

Incidental quips they throw in along the way like an off-the-wall remark that takes you by surprise and makes you realise that being old, doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less witty than the rest of the wacky world.

And you are most certainly not laughing AT your clients; you are laughing either with them or it’s just the situation at the time when something comical has occurred.

Like the time I was applying skin lotion to the legs of a very fragile and diminutive, Mr Eddie Shuffleboard.

Sitting patiently on the edge of his bed one morning, I squatted in front of Eddie, fiddling about with the pair of most unyielding compression stockings versus his clammy freshly-moisturised skin (the bloody things never want to play nice).  After several minutes battling away, huffing and puffing all the way, I finally managed to wrench the stockings into position on Eddie’s legs.

VICTORY SHALL BE MINE !!

From the sheer exhaustion of it all, I then went to plonk myself on the bed beside him. As I landed on what had to be the world’s most ultra-springiest single mattress, like a stunt gone wrong out of Cirque du Soleil… up poor old Eddie went BOINGGGG!  Catapulted straight into the air he ended up falling squarely onto my knee in a position similar to a toddler sitting on his mother’s lap.

Then, without missing a beat, Eddie announces with the cheekiest smile on his face:

We really have to stop meeting like this, Dollie!” 

Surely one of the most hilarious (and perfectly timed) moments I’ve experienced on the job and after chuckling our way through the rest of the shift, it was locked in that Eddie and I were to be bestest of buddies from then on.

So, don’t feel guilty about enjoying the funny side of your client’s antics or worry that you’re being disrespectful or insensitive to their needs…OH MY GOD, YOU DON’T CARRRRRE!

Because of course you do.

Will we laugh about it later?

And don’t forget, encouraging laughter during a tense or delicate moment can actually offer relief to a fraught pensioner who may find solace in seeing you appear so calm and unflappable.

Embarrassing little interludes too, can have the edge sliced off them with a nifty bit of light relief.

Like the time I went to assist the delightful 94-year old Reggie Windbottom out of his armchair, just as he let rip an extremely loud FART that startled us both and made his trusty Border Collie leap up onto the couch.

“Outside, Wally!” Reg and I both bellowed at the same time. (If in doubt, blame the dog).

Oh my, how we laughed!

But most of all, and because it reminds me a lot of my own grandfather and the funny stories he used to tell us growing up… I love it how some of my elderly gents (hardly ever the ladies it seems) have a wide-ranging repertoire of good old-fashioned punchlines that they love to rattle off whenever you visit.

For example, here’s a couple of pearlers from 92-year old Dermot O’Farrell, one of my favourite yarn-spinners.  Of course, his Irish accent makes them that much funnier – even better when he has his teeth in!

Did you hear about Bruce who lost his whole left side? He’s all RIGHT now.

What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.

What time did Bob go to the dentist? Tooth hurt-y.

A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender tells him to get out.  The mushroom says, “But why… I’m a fun-guy?!”

A blind man walks into a bar….and a table… and a chair… and a door… and and and…

To conclude folks, laughter may not be the best (and only) medicine your elderly client has to take, but if you can lift spirits by slipping a bit of jocularity into their day, it’s a grand way to start.

As the irrepressible Dermot so eloquently likes to put it: “If you can’t have a good laugh at yourself – then you’re just a miserable old sod!”

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie
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

Cranky Old Man – a poem

Reflections…

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’

Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.

A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME

(Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith)

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie

Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

Elderly Constipation – the In’s & Outs

“Its’ a Real Pain in the Butt!”

Waiting…. waiting…

Being constipated STINKS.

Certainly, nobody likes talking about constipation out loud, let alone having to endure the often excruciating pain associated from suffering with it.  In fact truth be told, and much like being constipated… I’m finding it hard work bearing-down to squeeeeeze out my thoughts and write about it.

Let’s face it, as distasteful (and smelly) as the subject of constipation is… and as much as we might poo-poo it, the fact remains that as human beings sooner or later, we all have to ‘go’. 

The problem is of course when you CAN’T go.

And although we are each so physiologically different (and what’s normal for one isn’t necessarily normal for another) most doctors generally consider that five days or more of NOT being able to evacuate your bowels, means you pretty much to some degree, have become constipated.

Unsurprising to me, is how merely mentioning the word constipation in the presence of many of my elderly clients, can result instantly in a frowny screwed-up-nose face or clenched teeth.  Which is a worry because if there’s one thing bunged-up ageing people don’t need – is MORE clenching!

Sadly, and unfair as it may be however (and for a whole toilet-load of reasons), it is becoming typical that chronic constipation is more prevalent the older we get.

Oh, the joy!

OUT, damn plop?

10 Poopy reasons why Seniors are prone to Constipation:

  • Some medications (eg: pain meds) have constipation as a pesky side-effect
  • An ageing colon, as per the rest of an elderly peep’s body, may just not be as peppy as it once was
  • Dehydration from diuretics can cause people to wee more, resulting in an increase in fluid-loss causing stools to solidify
  • Retirement for some elders can mean a more sedentary lifestyle (ie: slow down your life = slow down your bowels)
  • Dietary changes (eg: during travel) or a loss of appetite mean a lack of proper nutrition involving ample quantities of fruit n veg.  You can never have too much fibre, Fibre, FIBRE!
  • Drinking less fluids allows for more chance of the dreaded Dehydration
  • Frequent digestive tract issues or the development of diseases can mean the likelihood of constipation is also increased
  • Various medical conditions associated with ageing are symptomatically linked to constipation – eg: MS, Diabetes, Parkinson’s
  • Being sick and/or bedridden for long periods encourages a lower metabolism rate.  You can’t remove it – if you don’t move it!
  • Depression, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep can all contribute to a sluggish bowel due to upset bodily functions and a hormonal balance that’s thrown everything out of whack
  • Blockage in or around the bowel/colon regions can physically prevent the elimination process from occurring…  an indication that something medically sinister may be afoot (a-bottom?) 

Mind you, it’s not just poo-less pensioners who battle with the anguish of infrequent faecal evacuation.  Most of us at some stage in our lives, have been ‘privy’ to the gassy, smelly delights associated with constipation.  And we know only too well, how much it can disrupt our quality of life by zapping our energy levels and leaving us feeling uncomfortable, bloated and… well, just SHIT really.

Sadly, it’s the older generation who seem to get struck more frequently with ongoing bouts of chronic constipation – and often it’s a symptom (or a stinky side-effect) of an underlying age-related health condition.

CONSTIPATION STORY TIME!

I’ll never forget the time I arrived at the home of one of my loveliest clients for the very first time.  A charming and gentle lady, Annie Turdsworth was the most-kindly person you could ever wish to meet (her Cream Cheese Banana Nut loaf is pretty fabulous too!)

Mmmm creamy, bananery, nutty goodness

On this particular day, I found her pouring over a pile of paperwork at her kitchen bench. 

It turns out, Annie has put up with a lifetime of suffering from various ongoing gastrointestinal complaints and long story short, since the day she turned 65, has been diagnosed with the crappiest lot of bowel disorders imaginable.  Ranging from IBS to diverticulitis and now most recently at age 87, they have decided she may have colon cancer.

And being that the specialist needed to know what her bowels were dishing out, Annie was instructed to keep a Poo diary of every time she ‘went’ to the toilet; how her stool looked, its colour, texture and shape etc. 

Oh lordy, you can imagine… the demure and deeply private Mrs Turdsworth was appalled!

Luckily, her doctor had a copy of the Bristol Stool Form scale (BSF) to wave in front of her and put her mortified mind at ease.

As a simple user-friendly picture rating system, the BSF enables people like Annie (who would rather DIE than discuss their bathroom habits) to utilise the handy-dandy illustrations to match up the appearance against their own stools.

So rather than having to say horrific words like “runny” or “hard pebbles”,  Annie could instead work discretely off her BSF guide and record the corresponding number of the day into her diary (once she got over the terror of looking into the toilet bowl, that is!)

I’m actually flattered that Annie feels brave enough to confide in me about something as personal as bowel movements (or lack thereof)…although it took a while for her to gain confidence.

“I think today Dollie, I’m more of a 2 than a 3” 

Now when I visit, we fill in her ‘log’ book together, along with the food she’s consumed in the last 24 hours all nice and neatly, for the doctor to peruse later.  Annie then pops the diary into an empty chocolate box, twists a large rubber band around it and then tucks the whole sordid package away out of sight in a drawer beside her bed. 

If we can’t see it, then does it actually exist?

What kind of STOOL am I?

At the other end of the Constipational spectrum, I should definitely make mention of another of my cherished clients, Maggie Cementballs.  Not only does the brazen 94 year old Maggie NOT require a picture chart to categorise her faecal formations, but because she is deaf (and refuses to wear her “posh” hearing aids in case she loses one) – we get to discuss it LOUDLY. 

“JUST SO YOU KNOW, DOLLIE… I HAVEN’T BEEN TO THE TOILET SINCE 1973!”

And we have a good laugh.

All kidding aside though, it would be fair to say dear old Mags suffers with what must surely be some the most crippling waste elimination woes in the entire universe.

Throw in a blossoming set of haemorrhoids, ongoing colon surgery and a couple of rectal prolapses – there’s not much poor Maggie hasn’t experienced when it comes to digestive complications and the torturous impaction her bowel insists on putting her through. 

And she is more than happy to give me the full detailed account on her constipation problem-o-the-week.  I recall last week’s pooping particulars went something like this (note: this is in SHOUT format)- – –

WELL, I DON’T LET IT GO ON AND ON, OR I END UP IN AGONY – ONE CAN ONLY PUSH FOR SO LONG!  

AND FOR ONCE, THE PROBLEM IS NOT WITH THE ACTUAL GOING… IT’S THE FINISHING OFF BIT THAT’S ALL TOO HARD AT THE MOMENT.

…BUT I HAVE TO GET IT OUT, DOLLIE!  

I CAN’T WALK ROUND WITH THE THING HALF HANGING OUT OF ME, CAN I?” 

“CRIKEY NO, MAGGIE, YOU JUST CAN’T!”  I bellow back, with my super-concerned face on.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that I or anyone else can do for the long-suffering Maggie.  Due to her advanced years, doctors have advised that further surgery just isn’t viable ie: it would most likely kill her.

And therefore, all they can do is pump her full of pills, top up her pain-killers and assist her to manage the condition at home as best she can. Not much fun when you’re a frail old girl in your nineties and much like every other poor soul having a crappy time in the bathroom – all she ever really wants from life is a happy ending. Literally.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie