“Minnie, look who it is! Kathy is here for Beauty Day!”
“Oh!” Minnie squealed in delight. “Beauty Day!”
Minnie’s daughter Ellen smiled to herself. She could still hardly believe the change in Minnie. A year ago, Ellen was about to pull her hair out over her 89-year-old mother’s steadfast resistance to shower — or even change her clothes.
How far they had come since then!
When Ellen had first contacted the senior care agency about sending someone to help her mother with bathing, Ellen had held exactly zero belief that it would work. She was asking for their help mostly just so she could know she had tried everything.
Her mother had always been fastidious about hygiene throughout her life, but since her Alzheimer’s had gotten worse, getting her to bathe had become a sore point — at best. Most of the time, Minnie would completely refuse to cooperate. “I have already had my shower. Now leave me alone!”
The ladies at the senior care agency office reassured Ellen that her situation wasn’t really that unusual, and they thought they could help. They would start by sending a senior care aide named Kathy to Minnie’s home to give her a manicure. This would allow Minnie and Kathy to start building a relationship without introducing the sore point of bathing just yet — they would work up to that.
Ellen agreed to the plan and set up a time for Minnie’s manicure. When Kathy showed up, Minnie took to her bright personality right away. Kathy soaked Minnie’s fingers and feet, and they chatted like a couple of old friends. Kathy filed Minnie’s nails and used non-rinse lotion soap to cleanse and moisturize her hands, forearms and elbows as well as her feet, lower legs and knees. While it wasn’t a full bath, it was the best Minnie had had in a while — and she felt great about it!
They arranged for Kathy to return the following week for another manicure and pedicure. For the next couple weeks, Kathy and Minnie repeated this routine. On the third visit, Kathy commented that Minnie’s neck looked stiff. Minnie agreed it was and allowed Kathy to rub her neck. She sighed audibly in relief. Kathy asked if she’d like her to rub her shoulders as well. When Minnie said yes Kathy suggested she remove her blouse and lie down on her bed. Minnie happily complied. Kathy rubbed her back and neck and used the opportunity to cleanse the skin on her back and arms with non-rinse lotion soap.
From there, Kathy’s visits were framed as massages. Minnie happily lied down on the bed and enjoyed Kathy massaging her body while she was cleansing her skin.
Minnie even allowed Kathy to apply a “skin-protecting cream” to her private areas to prevent infection, rashes and discomfort. Kathy smiled at Ellen. “After all, that’s what washing does for skin, right?” she said, outside of Minnie’s earshot.
Eventually, they introduced hair services as well. Minnie trusted Kathy to shampoo her hair in the sink and then dry and curl it.
Ellen could still not believe that Minnie would allow all of this, but Kathy’s confidence, skill and kindness had earned Minnie’s trust. Ellen had researched the topic and learned that for individuals who can’t or won’t bathe, sponge baths are sufficient when done correctly.
No longer a cause of stress or conflict, Kathy’s weekly “Beauty Visits” were a source of great relaxation and enjoyment for Minnie—and gratitude and amazement for Ellen.