When Bobbi Carducci of The Imperfect Caregiver asked me to contribute a post to her blog (where this entry also appears), I settled early on a topic that has been much on my mind recently. Then, suspecting it might send some readers running for the exits, I decided to check my instinct by asking my Facebook friends about particularly unappealing cocktail party discussion topics. Their list included pap smears, what sub-department of finance someone works in, minutiae-filled marathon training and post-run recovery rituals, CrossFit (described as the Amway coffee chat of the 21st century – by the way, Amway was on there too), someone’s latest airline travel delay nightmare, detailed hole-by-hole recounting of a round of golf, and fibromyalgia.
Included on this list, indirectly, was incontinence. Unfortunately, this is actually what I am writing about. But hang in there with me anyway.
My father is about as physically bulletproof as a 91 year-old can be. He is independent, sharp, strong, and mostly mobile. However, what he is not is able to do is control his bladder. It controls him. Back in 2002 when he weighed 50 pounds more than he does now, he had congestive heart failure, for which he was prescribed Lasix. If you don’t know what Furosemide (that’s the generic name) does, it’s a so-called loop diuretic, meaning it tricks your body into squeezing more water out of you. Kimberly-Clark, the company that makes the adult diapers Depends, should send their manufacturer royalty checks. Then he’s on Flomax (aka Tamsulosin), which relaxes enlarged prostates. In other words, it also eases the flow of urine.
Maybe Depends should be sending royalty checks to these guys as well.
Compounding the problem is that he is now only mostly mobile. So, reaching the bathroom when the urge strikes sometimes just takes too long. Who among us has not reached the bathroom with mere seconds to spare? He loses those seconds to slow movement. When you live in a community like he does, this causes complaints from other residents, which is a big headache.
His physically slowing down also affects the often-recommended solution of using Depends: he physically has trouble putting them on and taking them off. That assumes my brother and I could convince him to wear them, which we can’t. And honestly, I almost don’t want to succeed.
I’m oversharing about my father’s incontinence because I have to deal with it and at times, it dominates my discussions with him. With time to reflect, I realize how insane this is. He is a whole human being, a man in full, and this is an imperfection. This is a man who remembers stories about family members, friends and me, a history that will die when he does, and this is what I’m spending our time together talking about? How much to cut back his Lasix by? Whether or not to try out Oxytrol (a female hyperactive bladder medication) as a solution?
As caregivers, however, we frequently focus on the imperfections. They are the urgent we tend to rather than the important. It’s a peculiar byproduct of being in a caregiving position. Put another way: I have a good friend my age who has related issues, and I promise you, we have never discussed Oxytrol.
We also tend to obsess on the imperfections in how we provide care, whatever form that takes. As a Sandwich Generation father, I find often myself evaluating and second-guessing how I provide for, communicate with, and otherwise help raise my children. I even write an entire blog about it.
In the end, however, what matters is not the imperfections but the thing in full.
As I mentioned, I want to thank Bobbi for the chance to guest-write on her blog, the title of which I have a new appreciation for. Sometimes writing about imperfections in others and in ourselves, helps put them in the right perspective. I know it has for me.