The 50ish lady with tights on


By Anna Nogueira Nicolau

So after so much pondering there was no question about it. I signed on to becoming a dementia carer for at least a year. Now the question wasn’t of whether I would stay on the job, but it was of how I would survive it.

Me and Dorothy just kept clashing! How I would get her to do what I wanted was just an enigma to me. She did not seem to know she had dementia, that she was in need of any help or guidance and that I was her carer, so how was I even going to phrase or act out a request for her to take a bath without sounding incredibly and unbelievably rude?!

Trying to encourage her to get ready in the mornings was just failing miserably! She would either put on ridiculous clothes, or just not want to put on enough clothes.

One of my first attempts to re-dress Dorothy after a miserable attempt by herself ended up in disaster. Sat in my bedroom, working out that week’s expenses I see Dorothy, looking content and ready to go about her day. ‘Brilliant!’ – was it not for the fact that all she had on was her underwear, a top and some tights. So I stopped what I was doing and approached her:

Me: Hi Dorothy.

Dorothy: Oh hi.

Me: Are you still getting changed?

Dorothy: No, I’m ready.

Me: Hmm… (how do I delicately tell her: ‘Eh…I don’t think so!’ ?) Aren’t you going to wear something over your tights?

Dorothy: (looks down at herself) Nah. I’m fine. Why would I?

Me: Well, because you’re only wearing tights.

Dorothy: I am not.

Me: Pardon? I mean, what’s this you’re wearing on your legs?

Dorothy? (looks at me and laughs like I am just stupid) Well, my tights of course!

Me: Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say. You don’t mean to go out only wearing tights do you? I think you have a nice skirt here that will go with it (I make my way into her bedroom, towards her wardrobe.)

Dorothy: Excuse me! I already have my tights on, I don’t need anymore tights. No, no, no, that skirt is too big. This is what I’m wearing!

About twenty torturous minutes later, things that her niece Rebecca had told me kept going round and round in my head. She had told me how important it was that Dorothy always looked respectable, so people could not single her out in the streets and so she would not catch  a reflection of herself in the street in a lucid moment and be shocked at the sight of herself. Well she was an elderly lady walking around in nothing on her legs by very see-through tights – she looked both silly and indecent, and she had plans to go out. If I were to go out with her like that she would look like an utter basket case and I would look like the most negligent carer in the world!

I began to panic. No matter how much I tried to reason with her she did not make any sense out of what I was saying. Finally she snapped:

Dorothy: Go away now! I am going to finish getting ready and I do not want you in here anymore! (she walks towards her shoes)

Me: No, don’t put your shoes on Dorothy, I’m very sorry but you just need to take those tights off and put one of your leggings on instead.

Dorothy violently took her shoes and in a very ridiculous manner, with her elderly shaky hands tried her hardest to put them on as quickly as possible before I could stop her. It reminded me of the cheekiest cat I had ever had who once he was spotted doing something wrong like eating from the bin would keep doing it as fast as he could until we got as close as possible and would dash  away for his life! But this was a human being, and not even a baby or a child. Yet she was confusingly behaving like one.

I just about had enough and I tried everything I could think of without having to treat her like a child.I asked if I could quickly look at those shoes and locked them away in a cupboard behind me whilst endlessly apologising and saying I just had to do this, it was for her own good and ‘please please just trust me that I didn’t want to have to do this.’

Dorothy was furious! I could see the blood rising to her face and her eyes were the biggest eyes I had seen in such a fragile wrinkled face. My heart sank. This was not me! I could not be this cruel! But I couldn’t stand seeing her walk around like she had no-one there to take care of her. She sat down with anger bursting from her pores, clenching and digging her hands into the bed and said:

Dorothy:  Who do you think you are?! How old are you anyway? Are you like…15?? I’ll have you know I AM…………

Silence

Dorothy: I am….much older than you and will not be told what to do like this! You’re just a child and I am……50ish! Yeah, I’m 50ish!

I just felt awful. I wanted to hug her, to touch her arm, have her cry on my shoulder while I apologised. I had always had so much respect for the elderly, and I felt scorn towards anyone who treated an elderly in a patronizing or cruel manner.

I told her she had to take the tights off too and please not argue with me. She reluctantly did it and from that day those tights have been hidden!

That day I had the bedroom door slammed on my face and evil looks thrown at me for several minutes after yet another incident.

I went downstairs and began to fear coming across her again after she got changed. A few minutes later I looked out the kitchen door and Dorothy was coming down the stairs looking glamorous and gorgeous in some nice pair of leggings. She looked at me, smiled sweetly and said: “oh! hello. Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

———————

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Many thanks.  Anna

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8 thoughts on “The 50ish lady with tights on

  1. Pingback: Anna Iris’ Story – an alzheimers’ anecdote | MyCareOptions.ie

  2. Conversando com a Edra sobre seu o blog ,que ela adora e le todas as semanas,eu comentei que vc aborda o assunto dementia de forma leve, mas com sabedoria e inteligencia e ela comentou : ( ipsilitris 🙂
    ‘…ela fez mais que isto para mim. ela me fez perceber que mesmo a memória aquela que sobra, não pode ser desprezada. ela é parte daquela pessoa.
    parei de sentir dó de quem tem o all…fiquei pensando que as vezes é mais fácil viver assim….’

    Anna, vc aborda a demencia de forma leve , mas sem menosprezar a dificuldade e o lado tragico dessa doenca que afeta tantos velhos na nossa sociedade e que ,na maioria da vezes, passa desapercebida e mal interpretada como sendo caduquice ou estupidez. Isso tudo me magoa muito e me faz apreciar o seu trabalho cada dia mais. Na minha infancia, pessoas diagnosticadas com alzheirmer eram chamadas de birutas, caducas e automaticamente a familia as escondia do convivio social ,ou os internava em asilos ou casas de saude onde os velhos eram drogados ate o final de seus dias.
    Hoje as coisas sao diferentes e a atitude de muitos mudaram em relacao ao conhecimento da doenca e entendimento, mas o preconceito ainda existe, em muitos casos , infelizmente. Eu colei pra vc abaoxo um conto que li na internet dias atras, O Cavalheiro do Amor . E muito lindo, leia e vc entendera o link;) entre o texto e seu blog.

    ‘A demência terá sempre um aspecto profundamente trágico, tanto para os
    portadores quanto para aqueles que são próximos. Existe, porém uma enorme
    diferença entre uma tragédia na qual as pessoas estão ativamente envolvidas e
    moralmente comprometidas, e a submissão cega e sem esperança ao destino.’ Dr Tom Kitwood, 1997

    O cavaleiro do amor
    Um dia, numa praça, um jovem exibia seu coração, o mais bonito daquela cidade. Uma grande multidão se aproximou e admirou aquele coração, pois era perfeito. Não havia nele uma única marca que lhe prejudicasse a beleza. Todos reconheceram que realmente era o coração mais bonito que já haviam visto. O jovem estava vaidoso e o ostentava com crescente orgulho.

    De repente um homem velho, montado num cavalo, surgiu no meio da multidão, desmontou e bradou:

    – Seu coração nem de longe é tão bonito quanto o meu!

    O jovem e a multidão olharam para o coração do velho homem. Batia fortemente, mas estava cheio de cicatrizes. Havia lugares onde faltavam pedaços e também partes com enxertos que não se encaixavam bem, que tinham as beiradas salientes. A multidão se espantou.

    – Como pode ele dizer que seu coração é mais bonito?

    O jovem olhou para o coração do velho homem e disse, rindo:

    – O senhor deve estar brincando! Compare seu coração com o meu e veja. O meu é perfeito e o seu é uma confusão de cicatrizes e remendos .

    – Sim – disse o velho homem. – O seu tem a aparência perfeita, mas eu nunca trocaria o meu por ele. As marcas representam pessoas a quem dei o meu amor. Eu arranquei pedaços do meu coração e dei-os a elas e, muitas vezes, elas me deram pedaços de seus corações para colocar nos espaços deixados; como esses pedaços não eram do tamanho exato, hoje parecem enxertos feios e grosseiros, mas eu os conservo como lembranças do amor que dividimos. Algumas vezes eu dei pedaços do meu coração e as pessoas que os receberam não me deram em retorno pedaços de seus corações . Esses são os buracos que você vê. Dar amor é arriscar. Embora esses buracos doam, eles permanecem abertos lembrando-me do amor que tenho por aquelas pessoas, e eu tenho esperança de que um dia elas me dêem retorno e preencham os espaços que ficaram vazios. Agora você consegue ver o que é beleza de verdade?

    O jovem ficou em silêncio, com lágrimas rolando por suas faces. Caminhou em direção ao velho homem, olhou para o próprio coração e arrancou um pedaço, oferecendo-o com as mãos trêmulas. O homem pegou aquele pedaço, colocou no coração e tirando um outro pedaço do seu, colocou-o no espaço deixado no coração do jovem. Coube, mas não perfeitamente, já que as beiradas eram irregulares. O jovem olhou para o seu coração, antes tão perfeito, mas agora muito mais bonito do que sempre fôra, já que o amor do velho homem entrara nele.

    Diante da multidão que os observava em respeitoso silêncio, eles se abraçaram e saíram andando lado a lado, seguidos pelo cavalo, cujas patas batendo no solo emitiam o som de corações pulsando …

    • Nossa obrigada. O rpoblema e que as pessoas nao percebem que quando a memoricmeca a deteriorar nao afeta somente aspectos mundanos da vida como esquecer aonde colocou os oculos, o nome de tal, oque comeu no cafe da manha. Uma pessoas nao e mais nada do que uma colecao de memorias. Mas e como a Edra disse: oq sobra da memoria deve ser utilizado muito bem e nao menosprezado. A memoria para eventos recentes e a que vai primeiro mas nao e o fim: muitas pessoas com alzheimer ebtao comrcam a viver no oassado, acreditando estar no passado. Agora quando a Dorothy pergunta cono vao meus bebes ao invez de corrigir e perguntar de que diabos ela eata falando eu entendo q ela acha q eu sou a irma dela a mais de 40 anos atras e digo que estao bem, obrigada. Se a pessoa eativer sendo bem cuidada nao tem mesmo pra que ter do pq se Deus quiser ela esta revivendo momentoa felizes da vida que nunca conseguiria reviver com tanta intensidade nao fosse essa doenca.

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