As a Registered Nurse for more than forty years, I spent lot of time in hospitals and nursing homes bathing old people — more women than men because — -well, women live longer and usually men have wives who take care of them at home.
I remember the old lady with no face from cancer.
Then there was the sweet old lady who couldn’t walk because of pressure ulcers on her heels. “I will never have another beautiful day.”
This is the story about the last old woman I will ever take care of.
My last old woman sat on the edge of the tub, transfer seat — -something that made it easier for her to have some semblance of independence with her bathing. She could sit on the seat in the tub and wash and then use the shower head for her hair and to rinse off the soap — she always used a creamy soap for her skin. The bench was easy to use and she didn’t have to fear falling in the tub.
As she sat there, I dried off her arms. She’d learned not to get right up — but to dry off a bit first — less standing and bending over to her feet that could make her dizzy.
I noticed the crepe look of her skin and reminded myself to use the lotion on her arms and legs to prevent cracks that could cause a deep opening or wound and turn into an infection. I toweled off her back gently for the same reason.
She took a deep breath, placed her hands on either side of the bench and slowly stood, making sure she was balanced. She wanted to finish iwthout help,
She then grabbed the Depends panty. Her daughter calls them her “fancy pants.” She’s not incontinent but a stroke and constant low back pain have made her slower — slower to get out of bed at night if she feels the need to urinate. She put her fancy pants on and pulls them up, adjusting them for comfort.
Then we move to the mirror. She glides on her deodorant — a mild type that’s good for her skin. She stares at her reflection and touches her face, moving the wrinkles around, trying to find a better look as she uses her face cream, but she then she smiles. That’s the better look.
She brushes her hair, a bit wiry with the dark sliding into the iron gray and then into white. She rubs some pain cream on her upper back and shoulders, using, of all things, a plastic spatula — odd, but it works, and so does the CBD cream on the fibromyalgia pain.
She slowly slips on her nightshirt, putting her right arm in first since that’s the arm that hurts the most. Then she heads to the toilet to sit down and “do her toe” — one toe has a small open area at the tip so she must clean it with Betadine and apply a small gauze and then a Band-aid and a piece of odd rubber that keeps the toe from bending down.
She was supposed to have minor surgery on that and another toe, but the Pandemic came along and she decided to wait. But she knows with Type 2 Diabetes she shouldn’t wait too long.
She slips on socks she wears all the time to protect her feet and she’s ready for bed.
My last old woman is ready for sleep with the help of Ativan (she’s worried about the election and losing her Social Security if her canidate loses) and pain medication for her lower back pain.
My last old woman’s dog is already waiting for her on one side of the bed and a cat is at the foot, hiding in the covers. She sleeps in a room separate from her husband for a better sleep; she misses him — but at least she has the dog and cat.
I pull the covers up over my last old woman and settle down for the night. I realize my mother never made it to 70 and today I turned 73.