You suspect that your mother has not been bathing. Her hair hasn’t been washed and she’s wearing the same clothes as the last time you dropped in and now her sweater has numerous spills and stains. Your mother had always been meticulous in her appearance; this is completely unlike her. If you try and ask her about bathing or changing her clothes, she becomes furious and yells “I used to bathe you! I don’t need you to tell me when to bathe!”
It’s not surprising that a discussion around bathing can touch a nerve. Personal care is aptly named because it is so deeply personal in nature. Personal care includes all the most intimate elements of hygiene, tasks that are rarely discussed or openly acknowledged. It can also highlight the feeling of role reversal between elderly parents and their adult children—the same tasks parents once performed for their children are now being required in reverse.
For many families, it is awkward or intrusive for a son to ask his mother if she’s experiencing incontinence. He wants his mother to have the care she needs but he also wants to protect her privacy and he doesn’t want to be the one to help her in the washroom.
Professional caregivers assist with all components of personal care. From the outset, their caregiving role includes personal care and it is part of the daily routine. It does not include a role reversal, such as with family, which can protect the client’s pride. Professional caregivers know how to assist in such a way that dignity is always protected.
Our Warm Embrace philosophy of care is to empower our clients. We encourage clients to manage their own personal care to the fullest extent possible and only assist when necessary. While it is far faster to just complete personal care tasks on someone’s behalf, it is more dignified to allow clients to direct their own care. It will take far longer—often three or four times as long—but speed is not the goal. Dignity and a positive personal care experience are the priorities.
For this reason, we do not schedule half-hour or one-hour visits for personal care. We believe that it takes time to assist someone at their own pace, to follow their preferred care routine, and match the hygiene standards they have always maintained. It’s about so much more than quickly rushing through a shower or sponge bath. It’s about setting someone up for success that day and helping them to feel like themselves.
It might include applying makeup or curling hair which aren’t necessities, but can go a long way in making someone feel inspired for the day.
Professional caregivers realize that it is an honour to assist another person with such intimate care. You must be invited into someone’s personal space and you are being entrusted with the most intimate of hygiene tasks. While many people may just see an “icky” task at hand, a professional caregiver sees the person in front of them who needs assistance to be healthy and well, a fellow human being who deserves dignity and respect.
If your loved one begins to need assistance with personal care tasks, enlisting the support of a professional caregiver may be the kindest thing you can do to protect their pride and dignity.