I wondered if I should share this very personal story. It concerns my mother, who has dementia. I shared it with people in my Facebook dementia group and it turned out to be something that most of them needed to see and greatly appreciated.

I decided to share the story, not because I want to embarrass Mom, and not because I want to make myself look good. I want to share this story for two reasons.

One, if you’re a caregiver who’s struggling, this might help you figure out how to change your mindset so you can get through things better.

Two, if you’re not a caregiver but have other things going on in your life that are dragging you down, maybe this will encourage you to think about them in a different light or realize it’s time to do something else.

This happened two days ago, but I’m editing the first line of the story to make it as timeless as possible; here we go…

One morning I awoke to the 2nd worst thing that could happen and still have my mother being alive. Mom has dementia and also hates staying in bed. I bought her a cushioned mattress topper that seems to help a lot, but we all have a point at which, even if we’re comfortable, we can’t stand being in bed any longer.

I saw on the camera that I have in her bedroom that she wasn’t in bed anymore, so I assumed she was in the bathroom. I went to check on her and looked long range into her bedroom and I knew it was going to be a horrendous start to the day.

There was a long trail of poo on her bedroom rug from the bed to the doorway, and though I couldn’t see any on the runner in the hallway I assumed there had to be something there, as that rug is brown.

I took a peek into the bathroom, and she was sitting on the toilet. However, there was poo on the rug in front of her, on the long run in front of the sink, and a little bit on the big towel I would have had her drying her hands on, her socks… and I assumed her nightgown, which would have been on the back.

There was something amiss. “Mom, where’s your underwear”?

“What underwear?”

“The underwear you were wearing when you went to bed last night.”

“I don’t know.” Now it’s a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

I go into the bedroom. Other than the rug, there was poo on the draw sheet, the top sheet, and a bit of urinary leakage that made it to the first chuck on the bed; the rest was totally dry. There was a slight bit on the regular sheet, but luckily the comforter escaped damage.

The 2nd strangest thing is the towel I put down on the side of the bed to potentially catch any accidental poo was totally poo-free… as she’d picked it up and folded it before anything could get on it; how considerate. I still washed it. Still, no underwear.

I took a moment, then decided to see what I could do in the bathroom first. I immediately realized going the wet wipes route was the wrong way to approach things; this was going to have to be a bleach mixed with water and paper towels job.

I told Mom to stay on the toilet, then went to my bathroom to get my trash can. I had an epiphany and called the next door neighbor, who was going to be at the house to watch Mom in about 30 minutes anyway, told her what happened, and she said she’d be there immediately. I did that because I wasn’t sure I could keep Mom on the toilet for 30 minutes while I worked on other things.

As I’m walking back to her bathroom, I finally notice a big white, wrapped piece of paper cloth on the dining room table… the underwear has been found! There were smears of poo on the tablecloth, but luckily it’s plastic and was easily cleaned. However, there was poo on one of the large cushions on top of heavy chairs that I use as a barricade to keep her out of the living room when I’m in bed during the night. I’m really lucky she couldn’t figure out how to get past the barrier, otherwise the mess would have been disastrous and everywhere.

The tag team worked wonders. My neighbor cleaned Mom up, which took a bit longer than normal, whereas I went to work scooping up poo where there were big globs of it on the rug in her bedroom. I’m lucky to have a large rug cleaner, so I put together a cleaning package and went to work on her rug. There was only a small drop on the rug in the hallway, which of course I stepped on while wearing my house shoes… which was lucky once again. It took three sessions in the bedroom, not including a session where I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed with Comet and a brush, but I can declare the rug is now poo-free.

Everything was washed twice and it took 2 loads, but I claim success on this adventure. She hadn’t done anything like this for almost a year, so I have to think my lucky stars this isn’t a regular event. The only thing that would have made this worse is if she’d decided to start smearing it all over the place, which I understand happens with a lot of people that have dementia. I was lucky to get that out of my mind before I went to bed. lol

What did I do during almost all of this? I laughed. A year ago I might have freaked out, but now I feel like I’m in better control of situations and can figure out quickly enough what needs to be done. I know this wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t anything she did intentionally.

In the end, it makes for a funny story, and she remembers none of it. I’ll never forget it, along with the so-called happy ending.

It also makes for a great motivational lesson for everyone.

Bad things can happen but we have options to get past it. We can change our mindset. We can realize that something’s not as bad as it seems in the moment. We can decide it’s time to change the parameters of what’s going on, especially if it’s continuous, and there’s a lot of ways to do that as well. And, no matter what, we can always ask someone we trust for help.

What would you have done if you’d awakened to this? What have you done when confronted with a situation that you found distressing? What will you try doing if that hasn’t worked for you?

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