Occupational therapy

The occupational therapist at the Alz center left me a message today saying that she is going to start working with Mom on dressing, grooming and bathing. She said Mom had become more resistant to these things. She also said she had already gotten authorization through Mom’s insurance for this work. That was a relief. She told me to call her back if I had any problems with the plan.

I didn’t have problems, but I called her back. I had questions. A little over a year ago, I was picking out Mom’s clothes and encouraging her to change outfits about twice a week when she was still in assisted living. She had already started to dislike showers there, but she would take one with my help, and was cooperative with one staff member who helped her once a week. More than a month ago, an Alz center nurse told me Mom wasn’t showering at all anymore – she was getting sponge baths in her room, and all the important parts were getting clean, she assured me. So with that history, how is it that Mom can benefit from therapy now? That was my primary question.

The occupational therapist told me she would evaluate Mom tomorrow so she didn’t really know the details of Mom’s behaviors yet. But the nursing staff had told her that Mom has become more resistant to verbal cues or physical help with the tasks of getting dressed, getting groomed and getting clean. So the therapist will try different strategies and approaches and see what works with Mom. She’ll try to determine what Mom can do with strictly verbal instruction, and what she needs physical help with. And then she’ll try to figure out what words and actions work best to make Mom comfortable with the help. I guess I also wondered, but didn’t say out loud, why they were bothering with this. Inevitably, all Alz patients need help with this stuff. My impression is that Mom has needed help with most elements of dressing, grooming and bathing for a good year and a half or so. The therapist said, though, that once she figures out what works best with Mom, she will train nursing staff in those techniques. So instead of the staff having to take the time to figure out each patient’s individual needs on their own, a therapist takes some of that burden from them. It makes sense to me, but I have never given any thought to the details of successfully working with Alzheimer’s patients. It’s not just a skill, but also an art.

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7 comments so far

  1. Jennifer Jayhawk on

    I have been watching “The Memory Loss Tapes” on HBO. It is all available online.

    I was just with my Mom 24/7 for two weeks. She took two showers during this time. She has a colostomy bag that explodes fairly frequently.

    The whole aging thing is just brutal. It is just killing me/breaking my heart.

  2. Andrea Carlisle on

    I hope all goes well and that they figure out what your mother needs and the best way to deliver it.
    And Jennifer, thanks for pointing us toward “The Memory Loss Tapes.” I knowseveral people who will want to see that.

  3. margaret massey on

    What a blessing to have such a fantastic team working with your mom!!!

  4. Jeff on

    Em – your last sentence made me thing of Studs Terkel’s book/musical “Working”, which I’ve done twice. There’s a song we teach often at AMDA called “It’s an art”, about being a good waitress. As far as I know the most recent update (maybe 10 years ago) to the script involved a grocery-store checker using the scanner for food items. At NYU we added a monologue for soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan. Your last paragraph made me think there is a whole new chapter/monologue needed for Alz/Assisted Care Nurses and staff. As the country changes, so do the workers and their jobs.

  5. momsbrain on

    Jennifer: I am sorry you are having a tough time. It is heartbreaking. I haven’t seen all of the HBO special, but I have watched the episode about caregivers twice, and it makes me cry.

    Andrea: Thank you for your support – I’m not even sure how long this process will go on…

    Margaret: I agree, I feel lucky to have gotten Mom into this center.

    Jeff: I think long-term care staffers totally deserve that kind of recognition. We all might need them someday!

  6. sandy on

    It really is great that your mother is in a facility where she can get the attention she needs!

  7. momsbrain on

    Sandy, you are right, I feel very lucky that Mom is in this facility. I hope your family is doing OK…


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