Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can You Be Too Safe?

The New Home is crazy for safety.  You would think a worry-wart like me would be jumping for joy at this attitude.

I make sure everyone is buckled up before leaving the driveway. I drive the speed limit. I made the kids wear helmets when riding bicycles even before it became the law (and would tell my college-age daughter and her boyfriend to do so still if I didn’t think they would give me the “you’ve got to be kidding, right?” look).

I worry when one or two of my staff tell me they are going on a motorcycle trip. I can’t tell them not to go but I worry about them anyway.

Heck, I warn my staff “be careful, the knives are sharp” when I buy new cutlery for the kitchen. (Okay, even I know that’s a little overboard).

Robert doesn’t make safe decisions. He doesn’t always watch where he’s going and has been known to collide with another walker or wheelchair. Robert tends to let his feet get away from him if he’s walking downhill (although he does tell me he’s “holding on” – which doesn’t exactly help his feet). His inability to make safe decisions was a huge factor when considering whether or not he needed to live in a care facility.

Robert is also independent. He dresses himself (although he still thinks he can wear clothes over and over without washing them). He is able to shave (and will tell me “I didn’t cut myself shaving” even when I can see speckles of dried blood along his neck line).

The New Home is concerned when Robert goes into the bathroom to shave or brush his teeth and has to transfer from his walker to a seat near the sink. I’ve seen him and it is cringe-inducing. He sets his walker next to the tub then turns to get the shower chair (sometimes leaving one foot behind and having to grab the wall or sink for balance). If he finds the shower chair wet, he has to turn again to get a towel to wipe every last drop of water off of it (did I mention he might be a little OCD?). It’s like a game of Twister! Only after all of this does he move the chair to the sink and sit in it and begin the task of brushing his teeth or shaving.

It takes a while to get everything set up and the fact is, he actually could fall at any minute but he is doing things for himself! He likes to do these things on his own and as much as he doesn’t mind putting urine-soaked pajamas back into his dresser drawer to wear the next evening, he takes great pride in his appearance.

All of this moving around and almost tipping over at any time is too much for the New Home. I think they would almost prefer Robert use a wheelchair at all times. Robert will eventually end up in a wheelchair but I am not going to speed up that process for convenience. Robert may fall down once or twice while trying to brush his teeth but I much prefer that than him losing any of his independence. He’s lost so many of his abilities over the years already and I refuse to hasten the process any more.

Even if it means a few bumps and bruises (or even a dent in the wall every now and then).

This may seem contradictory to my cautious nature and may seem too risky to some people but I am just not willing to compromise Robert’s independence.

Not yet anyway.

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