My Dad’s a Goldfish – Personal Care


The new shower looks good, there’s a shower chair as well so the Goldfish doesn’t have to stand up and it will be easy to keep the shower area clean. The Goldfish says he likes it but can’t remember if he has actually used it. Step-monster says he has.

I call social services and the CC comes to assess the Goldfish’s care needs and how they might be met. I said I thought he needed someone coming in for personal care – washing, dressing and shaving in the mornings. The step-monster lied through her teeth, telling the woman everything was just fine and they could manage perfectly without any help. At one point I cut in and pointed out this whole process was started when she was crying she couldn’t cope and wanted to send dad to the residential home for a shower. She just smiled and said she thought they were managing very well.

I walked the CC to her car, apologizing for the step-monster’s refusal to accept help. She said not to worry, she’s seen it all before, step-monster (she didn’t call her that, of course) is in denial and will come round.

The sun shone for our outing this week so I packed a picnic and went for a run on country roads and through part of the Galloway Forest to a lovely riverside picnic place. The Goldfish remembered driving those roads when he was working and commented, as usual, on the trees: not the Sitka Spruce in the forest, which he dislikes as much as I do, but on the broad-leaved trees by the roadsides. He always liked trees and it is lovely that he can still identify them, hasn’t forgotten any of their names and takes real pleasure in seeing them.


When we started to drive home he lost his bearings and didn’t recognise the road. “Are you sure you know the way?”

“Yes, dad, I know the way. We’ll reach the main road soon.”

“Oh, well, that’s all right then. I’m glad you know where you are going.” He looks anxiously out of the window. “Are you sure you know the way?”

“Yes, dad….”

The moment we came to a junction for the main road he knew where we were and relaxed.

I know it was a hot day, which may account for it, but there was a distinctly whiffy aroma in my car, which lingered even after I took him home. Mentioned it to Wee-sis who said she was mortified when she took the Goldfish for a chest x ray recently. “When he took his shirt off, the smell was terrible. He hadn’t had a shower that morning and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d not had a proper wash for days. I don’t believe he is using the shower at all.”

The Goldfish would be mortified if understood his lack of hygiene. Finally I plucked up the courage to speak to the step-monster about the Goldfish’s personal hygiene. She said he has a good wash every day. I said: “He smells.”

“Do you mean, do you mean… Do you mean his pants?”

“No, I mean body odour, an unwashed, unpleasant dirty body smell.”

“Well, he has a good wash at the sink every day.”

“Why doesn’t he have a shower? What’s the problem with the shower?”

“He doesn’t want to use it.”

“You mean he can’t use it. It really is way past time to have someone in to help with showers.”

“I don’t want a lot of strangers coming in to the house.”

“But if you can’t manage to help dad have a shower we need to get someone in.”

“Would it be male carers?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to discuss with the CC and see what she can do.”

“It’s just – well, you know your dad likes the ladies – it would be awful if he did something or said something inappropriate.”

Yes, the Goldfish always did like women around him and had a habit of putting his arm round a female waist but I’m fairly certain he’s extremely unlikely to do so with a carer – besides which, a carer would know how to deal with such a situation. He’s 87. I phone the CC to make an appointment.

In the meantime the mental health person came to do an assessment. When I arrived at the house to meet him the Goldfish looked really scruffy, unwashed and unshaven. When I mentioned it, the step-monster shrugged and said: “Well, he’s got all day.” Surely if he has a wash and shave in the morning it would help him feel a bit brighter?

As expected it was very clear his memory loss has worsened. Step-monster wittered on and on about him ‘doing fine’, despite what she was hearing. He managed to get the day of the week, the date, and the month and the season wrong and clearly had not the faintest idea who the Prime Minister is. How can she convince herself everything is fine? And that she is managing?

When the CC came to discuss dad’s personal care the step-monster started to insist they were ‘managing fine’. This time I wasn’t going to let her get away with it and told the CC that the Goldfish was often smelly, unwashed and unshaven – and the new shower was never used.

“Well, he can have a good wash at the sink,” said step-monster.

“He could if he knew what to do,” I replied, “but he no longer understands what he has to do to wash. He needs someone to help him and if you can’t do it then we need to have someone coming in.”

She finally agreed to have support workers come in but only three mornings a week – and not before 10am because she likes to have some time to herself in the mornings. At least for three days a week the Goldfish will smell a bit sweeter. A small victory!


27 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Personal Care

  1. Fascinating, these accounts of Dad, and fascinating that he remembers the names of the trees. This seems to be a hard thing for many partners, the business of ‘strangers’ coming in to their home to attend to the one needing the care. Not only are they feeling it an intrusion into their own personal space, it’s also evidence that they themselves cannot provide what’s needed, and also evidence that people out there, think there’s a problem, and this is a threat of course to their state of denial. So they lose privacy in their own home, face feelings of failure about not being able to care for partner, and experience threats to the denial which is one of the things that helps them cope. Having said all that though, one hopes that the more well partner, can put self to the side, in order to do all and everything, to support and care for less well partner. Sadly, as we see, not so easy. But thankfully daughters (or whatever other family) can bear influence and as evidenced here, small hard won steps, are actually gigantic. Nice to think that the well turned out, shiny, clean, sweet smelling man I remember, is restored, at least for three days a week. I think we all feel better after a shower, whether we remember the shower or not. My mind turns to those who have no-one to advocate and speak for them———————-

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your considered and well put response to the blog post Janette. You are completely right about denial being threatened by the need for extra care and support for a partner. And yes, it must be desperare for people who have no one to advocate for them. Every time we end up in hospital answering the 101 questions needed before admission can be completed I wonder what happens when the patient can’t speak for her or himself and there is no one else.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At least the CC saw past all the denial. Confrontation is never easy, but you were absolutely right to insist your Dad have help. I suspect the S-M would claim all was fine even were he unconscious on the floor.


    • We have been so very lucky with the support we’ve had from CC and social services. I’d heard a lot of negative things about how useless they are but we’ve our CC is incredibly supportive. I’ve learned not to be afraid to pick up the phone and shout for help and I think sometimes people are reluctant to do so.
      I’ll be posting later about the time the Goldfish was unconscious on the floor!


  3. As much as I miss my mother, I’m kinda glad she didn’t see dad after his first major stroke. I moved in and took care of him… which was fair since he took care of me and my kids when I needed it. He was the one who insisted he didn’t need help washing. Fortunately, I had power of attorney and his Occupational Therapist on my side. We sweet-talked him into it.

    The hardest thing was after his second stroke when home care wasn’t enough. I was in tears and had to be convinced I really couldn’t do it any more. It was the toughest thing I ever did, but also one of the best. It took time, but we got him into a great place with wonderful staff. His health improved because the nurses were on top of every change and taking care of him before he got really sick. I visited him 3-4 times a week, usually taking him for drives. He loved that. And I had more time for my kids.

    Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community of care-givers to help with the other end of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alison, thanks for reading the blog and taking time to comment. I have heard similar stories about the person needing care not believing they do and finding ways to hide their needs. The place you found for your dad sounds great and it must have been a huge weight off your shoulders once you knew he was being well looked after. We have some really good support workers who give me big chunks of time off so between us (the DH, Wee-sis and I) we are managing for now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone’s situation is unique. I think it’s great that part of your managing process includes this blog which can also help other care givers.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Given that you call her the step-monster, am guessing there must be some “history” between you two (I have a step-devil, so get it – I really do). Imagining me and step-devil in a similar conflict over my own lovely mum makes my blood run cold.

    On the other hand, whatever has passed between you in the past, she must now be dealing with dementia on a full-time basis too, and may also be struggling and in denial as to the fact herself. My husband, who does his best to be a loving son towards MIL, still has a tendency to stick his head in the sand over things like this…

    Argghh never an easy one is it… 😦 Wishing you all the best!

    DG x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, thanks for your comments. There didn’t use to be ‘history’ between me and the step-monster and I actually thought we got on quite well. But then, I lived away for many years and didn’t see her as my sister did. I always realised how mean with money she was but it got much worse and then when the Goldfish started to lose his memory I saw a different side to her – totally selfish. I think I might do a post in the futre to provide a bit of backstory to the change in our relationship.
      Denial is such a huge obstacle for lots of people.

      I signed up for your blog but haven’t received any posts. Maybe I didn’t sign up properly?


  5. My mom often smells, and her breath is horrendous. But when I bring it up she says she bathes every day and brushes her teeth many times a day. I don’t believe her. But she lives alone, and there’s no one to check and tattle on her. Except her own smell. That tells everything…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Julie, I feel for you and your mum. It’s such a difficult situation and I don’t suppose your mum will accept any help? We thought dad would be resistant to someone coming in to help him shower but, apart from a few serious glitches whcih led to battles with the care agency, it has worked well. He would NEVER wash if it was left up to him.


      • She is hesitant to accept help. Any talk of home care of assistance and she gets scared that we’re trying to take her out of her house and put her in a facility. It’s a tightrope walk, getting the help she needs while respecting and being aware of her need to still be independent as long as possible. She’s doing okay. It just gets scary sometimes.


  6. It’s a tough one, Julie. I don’t know how your care system works but over here social services will do as much as they can to provide care in a person’s own home. I’m glad she’s doing okay for now and hope your mum will come to accept in the future that having some help in her own home isn’t such a bad thing.
    I’ve put a new post up, which I hope you will enjoy – at least there’s a bit more humour in it.


    • Thank you so much. I’ve been really pleased you nominated me and so did Frangipani. I’m especially pleased because you have led me to find other people who are blogging about dementia and caring. Thank you.
      I tried again to follow your blog but it still won’t email me when you put up a new post. I have to find it on my ‘reader’ – why do they make things so difficult sometimes?


  7. Well, it isn’t funny, and I know because I’m in the same boat, but you made me chuckle, just seeing myself in exactly the same place as you. There’s always an urgency around the corner.


    • Thanks so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I’m glad I made you chuckle – we need to laugh whenever we have the chance – or it would be tears and drustraiton all the way. I’ll go and take a look at your blog, now.


  8. My parents had divorced many years before and my father and the step-monster had been married for 40 years. She left him when his dementia became worse and she couldn’t cope but refused to have extra help. It was all very unpleasant to say the least. I moved in to take care of him, helped by my sister and husband.
    I don’t know how many of the posts you’ve seen but my father died while I was blogging and after a gap I decided to continue it though it’s now written retrospectively from my journal entries.

    Liked by 1 person

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