When you’re acting as a caretaker, it’s common to get so preoccupied with all the things that must be done that you forget to give the patient a little bit of breathing room. It may seem counterintuitive to think about personal space when you’re helping an aging relative go to the bathroom or take a shower, but it’s actually more critical than ever.
As we get older, it’s easy to feel like our life is slipping out of our control. This is compounded by chronic medical conditions that worsen with time. One of the cruelest things that can happen is for the mind to go before the body, which is what happens with conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It’s common for frustration to boil over when someone sees an object or person that should be familiar, yet they can’t remember the name of either the object or person. No matter how you look at it, that’s a terrible thing to deal with. So there are ways to help a relative while also giving them a little freedom.
Take bathing, for instance. If you’re caring for your loved one in a house with a typical tub and shower, they likely need help getting in and out of the bath tub. They may be awkward for both of you, but it’s part of caretaking. Feel free to crack a joke if you think it would ease the tension. If you have to stay and help them clean themselves, so be it, but you may not have to do that.
If they’re capable of taking care of that part, tell them you’re going to give them some privacy, and you’ll be right outside the door when they’re done. Assuming they aren’t a danger to themselves, doing this is a great way to show them that you know they’re still a person, even if their body or mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be.
If you’re looking for another option to helping your relative get in and out of the tub, consider American Standard Walk-in Tubs. The outward opening door and handheld shower wand are designed for those with mobility issues. It’s a great way to help a relative reclaim some bodily autonomy when they bathe. You can still hang out near the bathroom door in case they call for help, but that closed door can mean a lot to people who are already grappling with a loss of independence.
In fact, staying nearby without getting too close is a pretty good philosophy as long as you can manage it. That includes situations you’ll have to manage outside of the home.
Chances are, your relative hasn’t been able to drive a car for a while. That makes the roads safer, but it probably makes your relative feel pretty lousy. You’ll still need to drive them to doctor’s appointments and other errands, but if your relative is capable of checking themselves in at the dentist’s office, let them.
You can always step in if they act confused or uncertain. And if you’re at the grocery store, maybe your relative can go to the next aisle and pick up their favorite brand of coffee.
Even while you’re trying to give them personal space, it’s important to be very aware of constantly-changing conditions. With diseases like dementia, someone can seem competent and capable one day and completely lost the next day. Start by giving them a little more freedom at home, and if that goes well, you can do it when you’re out in public. Your first priority must always be your relative’s safety and well-being.