Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just Another Day In The Life Of Inspector Caretaker: Not the Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo Kind

It’s a good thing I examined the toilet seat before depositing my delicate derriere there at 6:00 this morning. I have gotten in the habit of standing to the side of the commode each visit and tilting my head to the left, letting the light reflect off the seat, just so, to reveal its state of cleanliness. You have to be careful when you live in a house with two males and a mother with Alzheimer’s disease.

As I tilted my head, I saw the telltale skin particles left by my mother. “Hmmmm,” I thought. “She used the bathroom this morning instead of the bedside potty.”

As I popped open the can of bleach wipes, wiped down the toilet seat and the front of the toilet bowl, dried it with toilet paper, and sat down to do my morning business, I wondered if she got there on her own volition or if my father helped her. She needs help with mobility. I help her to lift herself into a standing position. I make sure she positions her body inside her walker, instead of pushing it like a shopping cart. But every once in a while, she believes she is mobile and in those moments of fantasy, she is.

Just yesterday, when I went out in the back yard to water the garden, we had one of those occurrences of fantastical mobility. Apparently, as soon as I closed the back door, my father fell asleep on the couch. My mother, who had been talking about cookies for the past two nights, was possessed by an insane cookie craving. This was not a good thing. My mother is diabetic. In the throes of cookie madness, she pushed herself up and out of her green velour rocker. Leaving her walker as an afterthought, she tottered out to the kitchen and found my father’s chocolate chip cookies. She unzipped the one gallon bag, took two cookies and moved out of sight to the far side of the kitchen to eat one. Then, forgetting to be sneaky, she staggered the length of the kitchen and back into the living room. My father sensed someone was in the room, woke up and saw her moving towards her chair with that tightrope walk of hers, clutching a cookie in her garden gloved hand.

I wondered about the trail of cookie crumbs throughout the kitchen, until my father confessed her indiscretion. “I couldn’t take it from her,” he told me. “She worked so hard for it.”

Anyway, I digress.

As I sat there, perched on the commode, I surveyed the scene of usage, taking stock of what I needed to clean with another bleach wipe. I spotted more skin cells and smudges on the shower seat. I finished my business and pulled out another bleach wipe. I wiped the sink counter, the faucets, light switches and doorknob. I turned to the shower seat and sanitized the smudged area. I hung a fresh towel on the hook next to the sink.

Now, call me Monk, but this is absolutely necessary. My poor diabetic mother is susceptible to the nastiest of yeast infections. She is required to take antibiotics for at least a year. Ladies, you all know what antibiotics do to your flora and fauna. Add diabetes to the formula and it’s a recipe for disaster. When you factor in the Alzheimer’s you have a woman in a full blown yeast trauma, who forgets that she has it, so she scratches it when it itches. Yeast itches all the time, so the end result is not just red skin, it’s a blood bath.

I considered the restraints available to discourage her from harming herself. I thought about those little collars designed to keep dogs from disturbing their ears to put on her hands, but I knew she would obsess on them and the questions would go on forever.

“What are these?”

“They’re dog collars.”

“Why are they on my wrists?”

“To keep you from scratching.”

“Why am I scratching?”

“You have a yeast infection.”

“How did I get that?”

I opted for cotton garden gloves. They breathe, they’re comfortable and they soften the result of scratching.

Again, I digress.

I finished wiping down the surfaces in the bathroom and bent down to pull my T-shirt, undies and towel from under the shower seat, where I stored them the night before, after my shower. I noticed a pair of wet, disposable underwear stuffed into the towel. I deposited them into the bathroom trash, pulled up the rug in front of the toilet and grabbed another bleach wipe. I scrubbed the floor in front of the toilet and under the shower seat. I picked up all the soiled clothing and walked it out to the hamper in the laundry room. Then I washed thoroughly in the kitchen sink as I talked with my father.

“Did Mom go to the bathroom this morning?”

“Yeah, she wanted to go to the bathroom instead of the bedside potty. She’s wearing underwear.”

“Her underwear?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “She started pulling open drawers when I got her back to her room. I asked her what she was looking for and she said ‘underwear’. I asked her if she wanted a diaper or underwear and she said, ‘underwear.’”

“Oh. Okay. I’ve got to get her out of those. They’re bad for a yeast infection.”

My mother takes the bulk of her medication at 6:00 in the morning. This gives it time to get into her system before she gets up at 9:00. I grabbed her insulin from the refrigerator, her blood sugar kit from the medicine cart and emptied her 20 plus pills into a cup.

I went into her room and got her up to put her disposable underwear on. While sitting on the side of the bed, I gave her the cup with morning pills and another with juice. She took them in four swallows, asking me if I’d collected the medicine from all our neighbors. She lay down and I took her blood sugar. It was 120. Not bad, considering the cookie madness of the day before. I gave her an insulin shot, told her to go back to sleep and started out the bedroom door to put the cup, the kit, the insulin, and the underwear in their respective places.

She stopped me with her question, ““Why am I wearing gloves?”

“To keep you from scratching.”

“Why am I scratching?”

“You have a yeast infection.”

“How did I get that?”

“Diabetes and antibiotics, Mom. They’re a bad combination.”

It’s the beginning of just another day, except this morning, after a little sleuthing, it took a bit longer to get through the routine.

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