An odd request from Amazon

Wouldn’t it be great to have a shower again? That was the simple thought which started it all off. I can’t have a shower or bath at home, so my carers must give me a bed bath every day. The idea of a shower kept growing on me, water running down my hair, the little I have left. The luxury of water flowing over my body. The more I thought about it the more the desire to make it happen grew.

We had booked our first respite of 2019 in a convalescent hotel in Dawlish. We’ve been there before, and it works well. They have two rooms that have profiling beds, wet rooms and are on the ground floor. All rooms have call bells and a nurse/manager is on 24/7 call. Mary must do all my personal care, which isn’t a break for her, but all food is made, which is.

I decided that a wheeled shower chair with lifting arms could be used to enable me to have the occasional shower, while we were there. So, I ordered a folding one from Amazon to be delivered there. The plan being to bring it back on the train. The assistance people on the trains are brilliant.

Day one, we arrived, and the shower chair was waiting. I was desperate to try it out, so that evening I did. I need to explain something about those of us who are limited in mobility. We are at high risk of pressure sores. Our skin is more delicate than someone who is mobile. Then you need to know that this particular shower chair was badly designed. It had a hard-plastic seat and four holes in a triangle shape about 10” wide by 2” deep. The holes were a little bigger than a 5p piece.

I had a lovely shower, not thinking anything of this hard seat. Not knowing the information which the manufacturer later told me that I should have put a soft cover on it. Would be helpful to include instructions if that is a necessary thing to do. Information is so helpful, especially if given when needed rather than after.

Lying on the bed after the shower, being dried by Mary, she gave a cry of surprise. Two red circles had appeared on my bottom, exactly were the outer two holes had been. The inner two lined up with that part of my bottom which didn’t make contact with the seat. My skin had been sucked into the holes and bruised by the experience. Mary called the nurse and she recommended I stay off my bottom. The upshot being the next three days I spent most of the day in bed on my side.

I contacted Amazon and they wanted photos of the chair and my bottom showing the injury, an odd request but I sent them anyway. Two days later I was speaking to a very nice lady who had studied all the photos in detail. It was an absurd situation, here I was chatting to a complete stranger, not even a medic, about my bottom.

She said, “I studied the photos and I see exactly what you mean.”

What did she mean? The mind boggled. In what other situation would that happen? I don’t know how I kept a straight face. I am just hoping I don’t see my bottom on a lightening deal or illustrating a review for this shower chair.

This is a photo of the seat of the shower chair showing the four small holes. They are a little bigger than a 5p piece.

Care, a unique relationship

Care is a very strange thing. It’s a relationship that is very intimate. Only in medicine do we have equally intimate, yet non sexual things done to us by other people. More intimate in many ways than a husband and wife and yet obviously less so because it’s a one-sided intimacy. Think about it, who is the last person who wiped your bottom? Who is the last person who washed you or got you dressed? Your parents presumably. It’s a relationship where strong bonds of friendship can sometimes form and yet there is a professional distance. There is seriousness and fun, work and play, sadness and joy. In a way many of life’s experiences are lived out through the relationship between a carer and client.

Every situation will be different, not every client is fully aware, alert, able to process where they are or what is happening. Not all clients receive care graciously, some will be difficult and awkward. Not every carer will connect with every client. But, when it works, when everything comes together, when people connect well. Then care can go beyond being just a job.

For me I have had many carers where things have come together just right. I started out by finding being cared for the most embarrassing, awkward and difficult of experiences. Over time I have learnt to accept it and find the laughter in the embarrassment, the fun in the awkwardness and the joy in the difficulties. Not taking myself too seriously has been a great way forward. Most of us struggle with pride and a sense of self-importance that makes it hard to accept help and embarrassing to be cared for.

The one word of advice I would offer to anyone facing being newly cared for is to have a laugh. Don’t be heavy, try and look at the silly side of it all and don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, it is embarrassing and awkward to think about. But, carers are so professional and well trained that when you get to the situation where they are washing, dressing or helping you on the toilet, you will find it is far less embarrassing than you ever imagined.

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Shall we get in the bath?

“OK, shall we get in the bath now.” This was said by one of the two young ladies who were preparing my bath at a nursing home.

“Is there room for all three of us?” I asked innocently.

I had noticed over the previous few days that “we” was used by carers a lot. I guess it was to be encouraging or they just hadn’t thought of it. But once I zoned in on it I realised that carers were asking to join me in the bath, in the shower and even in bed “shall we get into bed now?”. They were wanting to eat my food, wear my clothes, get into the sling before me and even sit in my wheelchair! “Shall we get into the wheelchair?” I suggested they might be heavy on my knee.

When I got home from the nursing home, I was so focused on it I noticed my carers at home similarly wanted to eat my lunch “shall we eat now?” and wear my clothes “what shall we wear?”. Of course, once I pointed it out, they started to catch themselves saying it. 

The one that inspired the name of my site is, “shall we get dressed now?” This is probably the most common and one I have to bite my tongue not to respond to the most. Having pointed it out, one of my regular carers has become so aware of this that she will occasionally joke “We! Are going to get dressed now.” Waiting for my eyebrows to raise and then we both have a good laugh.

Then again it can be two way. I’ve become much more aware of saying to Mary on her return, “We’ve tidied up.” Taking credit for the carers work. 

Language is such a funny thing; we say things without meaning to and of course it’s so easy to distort meaning. But it’s also important to be aware of what we are saying and why.

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This is the type of Bath I am talking about

Hello world!

“Hello world!” I was sitting naked on a commode with a carer either side of me. The bathroom was so tiny, and the ladies were not small, so they left the door open, as was the hall door into what was acting as my bedroom but was actually our front room. Our bungalow had been cleverly designed to line up the bathroom door, hall door, front hall door and front outer door. A brilliantly designed tunnel effect from bathroom to outside. Mary, my wife opened the front door and inner hall door as she came in, they were close to each other.

Picture the scene, a clear line of view from bathroom to outside street. If anyone had been passing, which fortunately they weren’t, I could have waved. I could probably have had a chat. Hence my exclamation “Hello world!” The two carers slowly looked at each other and me in shock. They were new and had not yet met my wife. Assuming she was a stranger they looked slightly confused at each other for a moment. Then they looked again at Mary. Eventually they covered my embarrassment just in time for Mary to introduce herself. By this time, I had requested Mary close at least one of the numerous doors leading to outside. Oh, the joys of being cared for. Oh, the joys of being unable to get up and do things yourself.

I used to joke that I had the best-known bottom in Somerset, because I saw so many carers. On that my posterior had the potential to become even better know.

This happened back in 2012 when I was still able to stand for a transfer and sit on a commode for washing, these days I must be washed lying down in bed and have to be hoisted from the bed to a chair or wheelchair. We have a high backed, reclining commode/shower chair, but no wet room that I can access. Our current situation saves a repeat of that embarrassing situation but has its own limitations.

My current lounge/bedroom has a patio door to our enclosed garden, that I always saw as private until recently. I never asked my carers to draw the curtains as our garden has high walls and a locked gate. Then a few days on the trot the gate was accidentally left unlocked and two different delivery men decided our back garden was the obvious way to deliver a parcel.

One of the occasions I was lying in bed having just been undressed awaiting a new lot of clothes, when a face appeared at the window trying to peer in and knocking on the glass. The other time I was just lying in bed watching TV when I saw a delivery guy wondering around our garden. You won’t be surprised I now follow the advice of one of my carers who had always suggested I have the curtains closed. Having told her there was no need, I now sheepishly admitted she was right.

While on the topic of embarrassment. I’ve been in one nursing home where they were taking me down the corridor to a shower in a wheely commode. Think about what a commode has on its seat, a big hole where your bottom is. So your bottom hangs through it. I was naked ready for a shower, but covered on top for decency. As we wheeled along the corridor I thought ‘This is very draughty around my rear.’ Once I realised why, I was quite glad we didn’t pass crowds of people.

I want to finish by saying carers try very hard to respect my dignity and privacy. They do cover me up and make sure doors are shut. I’ve had carers for years and there are bound to be the odd slip ups. I only mentioned these incidents because they are funny, and I can look back on them and laugh.

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Our bungalow (2014) in Creech showing ramp to front door. Window on left had my bed behind it. Bathroom in line with front door.
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