Blog 21: Dressing Up

As 2010 advanced, those nightly incidents with that wedding outfit became the least of our clothing worries.

This is because that year also saw Bill starting to reject pyjamas as night attire and opting to go to bed fully clothed in his singlet and shirt, his undies and shorts and his socks and shoes.  He would hop into bed like that, prop himself up on three pillows, pull up the sheet and blanket and go to sleep.

I worried that Bill’s feet would smell with his shoes being on all the time and often I would try to get his shoes off his feet after he was sleeping.  That was a risky business, though, with him sitting propped up like that. He was always very likely to wake as I pulled the bed linen from around his feet, untied his laces and tried to manoeuvre the shoes off.  It was scary because I couldn’t be sure that, if Bill woke, he would recognise that it was his wife who was interfering with him.  He might think that it was an intruder and then there would be trouble.  On some nights, I lost courage and let him sleep in his clothes, boots and all, but on others, I was stronger and was able to get the boots off.  And that was the best that I could do.

As time went on, I realised that the reason for Bill’s behaviour was that he was forgetting how to dress himself and was trying to circumvent the problem by not getting out of his clothes at all.

“If I don’t take them off,” I think he thought to himself, “I won’t have to be bothered putting them on again, and that’s something that I can no longer do, anyway.”

That attitude caused me big problems.  Trying to get Bill into clean clothes became a daily battle. I could usually slip his shorts and undies off and get new ones on to him when he was sitting on the toilet, despite a volley of thumps and whacks on my back as I was doing so, but getting his shirt off was a different matter. As fast as I managed to get it half-unbuttoned, he would start buttoning it up again.  If I managed to get one sleeve off, he would push me away and have it on again in no time.  I would hold up the clean shirt, telling him that it would go on as soon as the other one came off, but it made no difference.  Remember, Bill could not imagine the future.  At this stage, towards the end of 2010, he could not even imagine things that were going to happen two minutes ahead.  He only knew that I was taking his shirt away from him and that he was becoming naked and cold as I was doing it.

One time, just as I got the whole shirt off him, Bill started punching me. I fled from the dressing room, came downstairs and left him to his own devices.  When, eventually, he came down, he had three shirts on, one on top of the other, with all three magically inter-buttoned.  As well, his shoelaces were no longer tied in bows. Instead, they were knotted with several tightly pulled knots.  He stayed dressed that way for three days because he would not let me near him to sort the mess out, though I was able to get his shoes off him while he was asleep.  Eventually, he had one of those turns where he became angry and fell into a deep, coma-like slumber.  When he woke, in his usual weak state, he co-operated with me and I was able get him changed.

By the end of 2010, I was in despair trying to get Bill into clean clothes each day.  Sometimes it would take me over an hour.  It would take a process of pleading, then leaving him be for a while, pleading again and deflecting his blows, before I could wear him down enough for him to comply or for him to have one of his turns.

In the end, in desperation, I called in the Blue Nurses to help me.

  1. Harold and Nola

    Whoa! What an extraordinary thing this was. We talked about this. It was hard to imagine such a clean-skin as Bill in this extra-extra-ordinary situation. Thank the Lord for Blue Nurses! [or any sort of nurse for that matter]

    March 16th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Yes, the Blue Nurses were a great help, Nola, but they weren’t the magic wand that I had hoped they would be. I had hoped that Bill would see them as authority figures who knew what was right for him and meekly do as he was told. But that, of course, was not the case because Bill was not being driven by the desire to oppose or to be difficult. He was being driven to behave as he did by his fear of being naked and cold. So, he was just as badly behaved for the Blue Nurses as he was for me. They made a difference, though, because there were now two of us to do the job.

      March 21st, 2013 // Reply
  2. Charmaine Zuidam

    I am really feeling for you. Cannot give enough praise for the Blue Nurses, what a mighty organisation.

    March 24th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      And I had help also from OzCare, Charmaine. I had never heard of OzCare until they had to come in and help. There are a few, like Blue Care, that do this great job of caring. They all deserve more pay!

      April 22nd, 2013 // Reply
  3. Matt

    Wow, what an effort!! You did such an amazing job trying so hard to look after Bill the best you could. He was fighting everything, but Your efforts meant he got to live in his home – the house he built with his own magnificent hands, with his loving, caring and understanding wife and battle his condition in the environment he had dreamt of living in and had worked so hard to create. If he could he would thank you for what you did for him.
    Well done.

    April 11th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Matt, when the ACAT assessor came to reassess Bill towards the end of 2011 and Bill took forever to obey the command:
      “Sit down here, dear” and kept putting unoccupied chairs up on the table while the Assessor was writing up the report, you would have thought that Bill was comprehending nothing. But, when she was gone, Bill said, quite clearly: “I want us to stay together.” And I am forever grateful that, with the help of Blue Care and OzCare, I was able to do for Bill what I did.

      April 22nd, 2013 // Reply

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