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The Slowing Down of the Gut

About Monday's post on "something scary," I wanted to add that I've mitigated chances of Bob falling by making sure, when we brush his teeth, that we do it while he sits on the bench in the bathroom. Another thing, I used to let him stand on his own when I needed to grab something for him or to throw away his briefs. I did it only while he was holding onto a counter or some other sturdy piece of furniture, even the door handle. But since this incident of falling backward can come on so suddenly, I don't do any of that anymore. He either sits on his shower chair and waits for me to throw away his briefs or I wait until after he is safe in bed again to clean up after us.

Okay, so now, onto today's post which will be all about the gut and the dementia patient. Again, I am not a medical professional so if your loved one is showing signs of stomach problems--diarrhea, constipation, or any kind of pain--call your doctor.

Bob used to be extremely active. He played golf three to five days a week and walked with me too. We used to take 4 and 5 mile walks around Mount Finlayson's trail.


It was 2017, when we were on this very trail that Bob had his first fecal accident. I was yammering away walking ahead of him, talking and talking when I could tell he wasn't as close. When I turned around, he was fifty feet away and standing strangely--stiff and bent-kneed.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

We were about two hundred feet from the parking area. Fortunately, no one was behind or in front of us. We each had a liter bottle of water because it was early summer, sunny and warm. I usually keep a sweatshirt wrapped around my waist. When I start out, I'm a little chilly but by the end of four miles, I am quite warm so I tie the arms of my sweatshirt and secure it around my hips.

He said, "Something happened."

I ran back up to him and right away understood. The stench nearly knocked me down.

Excrement dripped down the inside of his legs. I opened my water bottle and splashed his legs but needed his to fully clean him up. Then, I whipped off my sweatshirt and tied it around his hips to hide the mess on his pants.

"Come on. Let's get you in the car."

I ran down to the parking area to ready the car for him. We had more water and towels in the back. I folded a couple towels onto the passenger seat and set the water there. Plus, I wanted to open the windows and get the air conditioning blowing.

When I ran back to get him, he had made his way halfway back down. I stepped in behind him, trailing him in case a runner or someone appeared. My body could block anyone from seeing anything. Or at least that's what I was thinking.

Then we made our way to the car, where I washed off his hands--he'd gotten them messy--and washed off his legs again. And we zoomed home.

Our house has several doors--one service area, one off the back of my studio and one off the front, one at the front of our house, one off the back porch, and finally, one off the back deck. I call it a house of many doors. Windows too, if you must know. Dirty windows, but, hey. Lots of dirty windows is better than no windows at all, right? Meh.

Anyway, I used to run a B&B out of the house before Bob. The bathroom for the downstairs guestroom has a shower only + toilet facility. You simply open a glass door and step into the shower. No need to step over the side of a tub.

It was at this point, I started needing to shower him. Not as often as I do now. He could actually shower himself until 2019 when he finally retired from his business. But he continued to have these fecal accidents and it was only then that he started to need my help more often with other things. There is no rhyme or reason to why. It just is and has been like this since June of 2017, a couple weeks before he turned 70.

Fast forward to now. Bob is fully bedridden. He cannot get out of bed on his own. Now, he can no longer remain active. With an inactive lifestyle, comes an inactive gut. A doctor described it to us this way: When the mind malfunctions, the body shows signs of the mind's malfunctioning.

Sometimes, we need to take extra measures to get him to "go." And, it is at this point that I can't believe I'm writing about this subject--about poop--but as they say, poop happens. Although, sometimes it's more difficult than other times. But it's a common issue for people with dementia so why not address it in these chronicles?

We've used enemas and laxatives but nothing works as well for Bob as fruit and vegetables, beans and salsa, and other jazzier foods that excite the digestive system. And why not? If it keeps him regular and comfortable, why not? These bland, old people diets don't work on Bob. They constipate him and bog him down.

And we make poop fun. At first, it wasn't. At first, it was shocking and horrifying. As I've mentioned before, I never had kids so other people's poop wasn't a thing for me. Now, it is!

How do we make it fun, you ask? When he goes, I come at him with my examination gloves on and say, "Mr. Thumb is here!" [Insert scary Stephen King voice here]

Plus, every time he goes, we make it a shower day. So, he gets every inch of him cleaned up. Squeaky clean, we say. We do safe showers too by using a shower chair instead of making him stand on a slippery wet floor.

If you have recently started to care for someone, know that this may become part of your future. It may not but still, it's good to know what might happen.

If you have been caring for someone for a while, you probably have already experienced this part of dementia and how a slowing mind, means a slowing down of the body. Usually it's gradual so you will have some transition time to get used to your new normal.

We sing about poop too. I know. What the hell kind of songs does a person sing about poop?

As a fiction author, I make up stories so it's an easy sidestep jump into making up songs.

Oh, good heavens, no! They're not good songs at all!

But at least we're singing and laughing. That's important for the dementia patient too--to smile and laugh with them as much as possible. Otherwise, life gets pretty dull and frightening for them.

Stimulate the mind as these situations occur. Doing so takes your loved one's mind off the problem and onto goofy stuff like silly songs, wonky dancing, or funny faces.

I like to make faces at Bob too. My dad made faces at me and my sis. Dad's face was all elastic and weird. He passed that onto me. You gotta utilize what God gifts you. These are God's strange little presents. Like today. It's not called present for no reason.

Throughout his letters, the Apostle Paul mentions several spiritual gifts, including wisdom, faith, discernment, teaching, administration, service, mercy, hospitality, and encouragement. Like in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Romans 12:3-8; and Ephesians 4:11.

These are all great gifts and, as caregivers, God has bequeathed them unto us like crazy. Especially, the last four of spiritual gifts. They're all wonderful, of course, but these last four come in super handy when caring for someone you love. So, use them. Poop be damned!

God bless you all.

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1 Comment

Jo szcz
Jo szcz
Mar 27

Susi, you have a real knack ... not just for writing, although that is for sure ... but also for making unbearable things bearable. Your experiences and suggestions in these chronicles are a much needed resource for those caring for others. Keep up the great work! May your reward in the Kingdom match your love and patience here on earth. I love you Cuz, and I pray for you and Bob daily. Thank you for your humor ... and for just being you! 😍 Jo

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