Blogs About Mom

When Dementia Nearly Gives You a Flood, Take a Bath

Stress Level – Moderate

Every morning, Mom puts a space heater on in the bathroom a few minutes before her shower because she can’t stand to shower in anything less than a Roman caldarium. As par usual this morning, she sauntered out past my desk and declared, “I’m just gonna let that warm up a bit, and then I’ll take my shower.”

We missed par this morning by about four inches of water.

I usually try to avoid the sauna—did I say sauna? I meant bathroom—when she’s heating it up. But today I really had to pee, and I’m now calling my bladder my little disaster avoidance system.

As I got nearer the bathroom, I heard the water running. Great. She turned on the shower, and now liquid money in the form of hot water has been rushing down the drain for 10 minutes.

No. No, not the shower. The tub. It was nearly full, and had I not had to pee, we would have certainly had quite the flood. That we didn’t is the only reason for my stress level being only moderate.

Activities of Daily Living

Depending on who or what you are consulting, ADL or Activities of Daily Living is a list or scale that determines everything from a diagnosis of dementia or incompetence to the VA benefits Mom gets every month in form of Aid & Attendance. The VA, for example, lists eight ADLs for which an eligible candidate is evaluated:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Walking
  • Sitting
  • Transfer from bed to chair
  • Attending to wants of nature
  • Other

In the VA’s determination, if an eligible candidate requires assistance with just one on the list, they qualify for the benefit. And there is no scale of how much assistance is needed. It’s a yes or no question. In Mom’s case, when we first filed for her benefits two years ago, we used the “other”. Mom was more than capable of the first seven ADLs, but should could no longer manage her medication properly. And that got us her benefits.

Checking Items Off The List

I’m a list maker. Always have been. I love crossing out a task well done. Except for this list. These days, today especially, I have to check off dressing and bathing. Not because Mom is physically incapable of performing those daily ablutions. Because she now sometimes struggles cognitively with them.

About two weeks ago, she became incredibly upset because she just could not make a decision about what to wear. She hated all her clothes. Nothing fits her. Which shoes to wear? Where’s her hair brush and bobby pins? How could she not have any clean underwear? (She had a drawer full.) It was then that I realized I’ll have to start laying out her clothes et al every morning for her.

But the tub thing today was unsettling, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Not the mere thought of water everywhere averted, but that I really will have to watch her more closely and take nothing for granted. And not that a flood would have just been a mess to clean up. Thankfully, and for no reason I understand, she had NOT put the space heater in the bathroom. It’s a high end space heater, with a a bunch of auto-shut off safety features. But I got a little jolt—pun intended—of fear that flood waters might have become electrified.

All those years of mine in aviation brought to mind a simple statement for emergency managers and disaster investigators. All disasters are a series of events like a chain. Break one link in the chain and the disaster doesn’t happen. My bladder and the lack of the space heater are two links that thankfully were broken. And there was a third link. She hadn’t stoppered the tub. The water had filled up because the faucet outstripped the tub’s drain rate.  Had it been stoppered, I doubt my bladder would have saved the day.

Waste Not

So now we had a tub full of cool water and an empty hot water heater. I was tempted to calculate just how much money we’d already put into the county sewer system. No. Not a ton. Not a bank breaker. But I just hate waste, especially if it costs money to boot. I empty water glasses into my plants instead of the sink, for Christ’s sake!

So I took a bath. I plopped a lavender bath bomb in and tried to meditate away what could have happened but didn’t.

A little while later, Mom was in the shower and I went by to check on her. I heard the shower running and the tell-tale glug glug of water from the faucet hitting the tub. I found her ankle deep in a filling tub with a pitiful stream from the shower head. Completely oblivious.

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