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…………
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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