Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dry by Morning

I’m warning you right now. Read no further if you don’t like discussions of bodily fluids or messy diapers. Hey, sometimes people needing assisted living or extra care (the elderly, the disabled) have bathroom problems and while it may not be glamorous it is a part of their (and us caregivers’) existence. If you have a weak stomach, recently ate or just don’t have a desire to read about urine (or worse), then please stop reading and come back another day. You’ve been warned.

Lots of people use “protective underwear” (aka, diapers for adults). Incontinence is a huge problem for many people whether it is an ongoing disability, a temporary health problem, age-related or something else. Anyone who has shopped in a drugstore knows there is a large amount of space dedicated to “protective underwear.”

In Robert’s case, he is 44 years old, has uncontrollable epilepsy, has had a couple of brain surgeries and is on several anti-seizure medications. Because of the surgeries and medication and seizures, Robert’s intellectual capacity has diminished over the years. He was able to attend a two year college after high school, which took him several years to get through but he did attend and we were very proud of him for doing so. Now he is considered “mentally disabled.” Robert can have conversations (you have to wait patiently for his responses, though), he understands what is expected of him, he plays a great card game but there are certain limitations to what he comprehends. Within the past year, he has become incontinent on a regular basis. Robert wears “protective underwear” day and night. Extra large; extra absorbent.

What the makers of these disposable garments do not tell you is that there is not a 100% leak proof product (if there is, I’d love to know about it). Rob still has accidents. Usually at night, but sometimes during the day.

Robert sometimes wets himself enough to spill out of his “protective underwear” and leak onto his jeans or his pajamas. Usually, this is because he can’t make it in time to the bathroom or he was concentrating too hard on a bingo game or he was sound asleep. Rob knows he needs to change when this happens. However, no matter how many times I tell him to put these wet jeans or pajamas in the hamper, he folds them up and sets them out to wear the next day. I finally was so frustrated with him when I found a wet pair of jeans neatly folded onto a chair while he was putting on his pajamas that I asked him why he did that. The hamper is just as close as the chair! Why are you putting wet (let’s be blunt: not just wet – urine soaked) clothes on the chair as if you will wear them tomorrow? Why??

“They’ll be dry by morning.”


So, again, we have the conversation about putting clothes in the hamper everyday. If you wore it, put it in the hamper. Dry or wet. Don’t put pajama bottoms back in the drawer (a few times refolding pajama shorts only to realize they were soaking wet taught me to smell before touching). Don’t set out the shirt you wore today (and have a bit of breakfast, lunch and dinner on), for tomorrow. I have provided enough clothes for Rob so he is able to wear clean clothes everyday between laundry days (and have several changes of clothes in a day if necessary). I am still working on convincing Rob that “dry by morning” is not the same as actually dry. I think it’s a losing battle.

I realize Rob will probably not ever fully grasp the idea of wearing a clean set of clothes everyday. His Care Facility and I will have to find a workable and hygienically sound solution. However, I do realize that smelling before touching will be standard operating procedure for me from now on. This is a fact of life – not pretty, not glamorous but it is part of this journey.

1 comment:

Robert's brother said...

I have to admit I've recyled a few clothes myself. Usually it is just some dirt, mud, or grass stains. Haven't done it yet with urine soaked clothes, but in another 20 or 30 years, who knows? Perhaps by then the protective underwear technology will have improved.