Out of the most humiliating things you can tell a grown woman she should or needs to do, to brush her teeth has to be at the top of the list. It clearly implies two things:
1. Your breath stinks; you have got no sense of hygiene: i.e. you are dirty.
2. You should be treated like a child.
To validate my 2nd point I’d like you to think back to the last time you were asked or told to brush your teeth. If you belong to the general adult population this will probably bring you back to your childhood, but if you are a person who is utterly ignorant of their terrible breath and lacks minimum personal hygiene then you validate my 1st point and will have some fairly recent memories of the last time you were told to, asked to or hinted you should brush your teeth.
My point being: It must be humiliating to be told you should go brush your teeth.
If you’re a lady with dementia it is humiliating and invasive, but if you are a lady with dementia who is not aware of her condition and the need to be reminded to do things it is even more degrading.
Thinking in those terms makes it easier to understand why Dorothy makes such a fuss when I try to get her to brush her teeth. But understanding why sometimes she point blank refuses, argues with me, and simply goes a little crazy when I try to get her into the bathroom for a date with her lonely toothbrush does not take away from the frustration of it all.
I must admit, I’ve been on the job a few months now and have not gone through great lengths to ensure Dorothy brushes her teeth every day. I’d say 1/3 of the time she remembers and does it herself, 1/4 of the time I throw a hint and she does it, 1/4 of the time I hint/attempt to persuade/order her to do it and she does, and whatever other fraction amount left (I wouldn’t say Maths is my strong point) I turn a blind eye to it and she goes without brushing her teeth.
But I had to question the morality of it all. I’m her carer, this is my job, it is simply unacceptable that under my care Dorothy goes even one day without brushing her teeth. But is it acceptable that I should put Dorothy under the level of stress that trying to convince her or make her to brush her teeth everyday puts her under? Is Dorothy brushing her teeth absolutely everyday worth the
- Raised blood pressure?
- The very sudden, unexpected and acute outbursts of anger?
- The stress?
- The feelings of humiliation of being treated like a child?
If Dorothy knew she is a forgetful old lady whose carer is there to make sure she brushes her teeth everyday she might be more sympathetic to my requests, but unfortunately she is oblivious to what she has, what I do and who I am.
If only there was a way to ensure she brushes her teeth without major arguments. If only there was a toothpaste like the ‘no tears’ promises of children’s shampoos.
- Explaining all the reasons Dorothy should brush her teeth does not work.
Using reasons such as “It’s dentists orders”, “you might get gum disease again”, “You haven’t done it today”, “I’m just reminding you” only result in angry responses such as:
What do you care?
Tell the dentist she can come and talk to me directly!
- Trying to trick her into doing it doesn’t work either:
‘Lies’ such as: “You should clean your teeth now before I go in to clean the bathroom” get responses like:
It’s OK you go. I’ll use the sink downstairs.
- Hinting things like: “I got some new toothpaste if you wanna use it to brush your teeth now” also doesn’t work as Dorothy just says:
I know where everything is, I’ll use it when I want to.
So…I need a reason, easy to understand, compelling enough, which has nothing to do with her being forgetful, from an irrefutable, authority figure she respects and listens to. It also needs to be tangible so it’s not just my word.
FAKE DENTIST LETTER IT IS!
And after finding out that such letters telling off non-compliance patients actually exist this won’t be a complete fabrication! And it’s for a good reason.
So watch this space and wish me good luck!
IF YOU ENJOYED READING THIS…Please consider
Commenting on it
Subscribing for e-mail alerts
All the support and feedback I can get (good or bad) means a LOT
Many thanks. Anna