54: The Slip and Slide

54: The Slip and Slide

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers

The Slip and Slide

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.

~Mark Twain

Do you remember when you were a kid in the summertime and your dad laid out a sheet of plastic in the yard and squirted water on it so you could run and do belly flops and slip and slide all the way to the end? And do it again and again until Dad said you’d wasted enough water? Ahhh, those were the days, my friend.

Caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients rarely get the chance to laugh and giggle until their sides ache, but let me tell you about an evening I spent slipping and sliding with my husband. George got up to use the bathroom about two o’clock in the morning. I heard a frightful crash and raced into the bathroom to find him flat on the floor and using bad language. I helped him sit up after he decided nothing was bent or broken, and the next step was to get him up on his feet.

I was not a weakling; I swam and worked out daily. So, I felt confident that if he gave me his hand, I could pull him up. He reached his arm out to me. I grasped his hand firmly and gave a mighty heave. Well, the reason he’d been in the bathroom in the first place was to use the toilet, and since he had fallen before he accomplished his mission, the floor was now wet and slippery.

My feet went out from under me, and down I went right on top of poor George. After the shock of finding ourselves so intimately entangled, we both began to giggle. The giggle turned into a guffaw, and we were laughing so hard our sides ached. The bathroom floor had turned into a slip and slide.

The initial problem now was worse by a hundredfold. I have an artificial hip and knee, and I couldn’t get up. George couldn’t get up. We tried, oh dear Lord, how we tried, but we always ended up together in a heap on the floor, laughing as though we had been smoking locoweed until we were as weak as newborn kittens.

It soon became obvious it was time for some clear thinking on the subject. What to do? What to do? George, of course, had the correct answer, “Call 911!” I almost did until I realized I couldn’t reach the telephone. It was a wall phone and dangled nearby just out of reach in the hallway. Then I thought maybe I could find something to use as a tool to hook on to the phone cord to pull it down.

It is time now to confess that neither George nor I wear night-clothes. Putting it delicately, we sleep in the “altogether,” and my next thought was what the 911 responders would see when they came through the door if I did manage to call them. They would see two old people, wrinkled and soiled, hair standing on end, wallowing around on the bathroom floor naked as jaybirds, and giddy from laughter. I thought, “No way! I can’t call 911 even if I can manage to get at the phone.” There was no way anyone was going to see us like that. My prudery wouldn’t allow it.

But what was the alternative?

After several more attempts, we realized the entire problem was our inability to get our feet underneath us. If we could somehow manage that, we could begin to stand upright. Okay! How to do it?

The back door was not far away, so we decided to crawl to the door and get it open. This was a success, so we continued inching our way out the door and onto the steps that led down to the carport. Aha! Another success. Swiveling our hips enough to sit on the steps, we wriggled our butts down to the step below, struggled to move down one more step, and turned our bodies sideways so we could dangle our legs over the edge.

I won’t say it all went smoothly, but after a whole lot more laughter, several bad words, and a great deal of effort, we finally stood erect in the harsh glare of the streetlight not 25 feet away, naked as newborn babes and, by this time, freezing to death.

Lucky for us, the neighbors were all snoozing away, and no one came to see what the ruckus was about. We walked up the steps into a hot shower and fell back in bed. I still can’t believe we got away with “prancing” around naked in the middle of the night. Our reputation remained intact.

As a final word to the wise: Put grab bars up in your bathroom!

~Beverly Isenberg

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