All of us who are caregivers have been out in public, at the grocery store, in a restaurant, at boxing, when our loved one with Parkinson’s (“LOWP”) has declared a need for a restroom. For most people out with a spouse, a parent, a friend, this is no big deal. They say ok, the person leaves for the restroom, and very shortly thereafter, returns. At most, a three-minute exchange and delay.
But…, for those of us who have a LOWP, when we hear the words, “I need to use the restroom,” we are filled with dread. Is there one close? Will it be large enough for a wheelchair/walker/cane? What if they have an accident? Will their fingers work to unfasten and refasten the button on their pants? How long will this take? [Eyes rolling here for dramatic effect.] We have all learned, from only too real, life experiences, that this is no easy process. Is there a saint for bathroom prayers? St. John perhaps?
One of my personal favorites is when I have written down and repeated 3-4 times that we need to leave the house at a specific time, say 10 a.m. Inevitably my LOWP/Dad then appears and announces, at precisely 10 a.m., as I stand in front of the open door with my purse, the walker, his coat, his glasses, his hat, his newspaper and his supplies, he’d better use the bathroom one last time before we leave. Then he promptly turns around and leaves me standing there.
So how can caregivers cope and/or prepare. For me, I keep a crossword puzzle close to the door at home and I have several solitaire and sudoku apps on my phone. Because, after skulking outside men’s bathrooms enough to garner nasty looks, I’ve decided to find a place to sit down (I know it will be 10-15-20 minutes) and wait. The puzzles allow me to engage in a mindless task instead of having smoke billow out of my eyebrows from frustration while I wait. Or I can catch up on my phone calls, order all of my grandkids’ Christmas presents on Amazon, read a short book, etc. A win-win for everyone. I’m assuming all of us have already learned to bring emergency supplies for our LOWP as well as insist they carry a phone into the bathroom with them. Therefore, I’m focusing on supplies for the caregivers here. Another technique I’ve tried, with little actual success, is to give my LOWP a “fake” time to leave. Instead of 10 a.m., I say we have to leave at 9:45 a.m. For some inexplicable reason, this rarely works. We still end up leaving around 10:15.
It seems the best motto is to sit down, relax and come to grips with the fact the world will just have to wait if you both are a little late. And quit clenching your teeth (maybe that is just me!).
One last thing, November is National Caregiver’s Month! Hip-hip-hurrah! Do something nice just for you. We all deserve that. I know not everyone turns to religion, but at the risk of offending anyone, I think this Prayer for Caregivers is apropos:
Dear Lord-Enable me to do the work I’ve been given and leave the rest in your hands.
Have a great Thanksgiving and beginning to the holiday season!