My little old dog, Penny, is a teacher. One of my dog sitters, who admits to having issues with assertiveness, has credited Penny with showing her how to be more firm and clear about her own needs. And today, Penny reminded me of another pending lesson.
My girl HATES being left alone. When she sees me sling my handbag over my shoulder, she knows I’m leaving the house. That’s when the barking starts, and I swear she sounds like she’s screaming “YOU SUCK!”
Since she’s become ill, Penny’s ability to hold her water has been compromised. Once upon a time, she could hold her bladder for four hours or so without too much trouble. Now, it’s definitely harder. She likes to go out every hour or so. And I keep a diaper on her when she’s in the house.
I know she doesn’t like going in the diaper. If she dribbles, it’s one thing. But an all-out whiz can’t be contained by her puppy pull ups, and she will leak on her bed and on herself. Physical discomfort aside, when she pees in the house, she looks mortified. She’s a proud little dog. I respect that.
Recently, she’s been voicing annoyance when I go to another floor of the house without her. My thought process at that time was “if I don’t get back up in time, she is wearing a diaper.”
And then I had a flashback to my mom.
When my mother resided in her last home, she had been incontinent for some time and routinely wore adult diapers. When I visited her, I could usually tell when she needed to go to the bathroom. She might not be able to articulate it verbally, but I could tell from her gestures and behaviors that she was uncomfortable, and if I asked her, she’d confirm my suspicions.
On one such occasion, I asked one of the aides if she could help my mother get to the bathroom. She responded “She’s wearing a diaper.” And I said, “Yes. And she needs to go to the bathroom.” The aide complied and took Mom to the bathroom where she could eliminate in a toilet like a real person.
The response, at the time, gave me pause. Was I supposed to say “Oh, OK, she can just pee in her pants?” If I wasn’t there to run interference, that’s most likely what would have happened. But when I could DO something about it, I did.
I will confess that I don’t always get Penny out in time to avoid wetting her diapers. Sometimes I don’t quite know what she wants. A lot of the time I follow her to where she leads me and “out” is NOT her goal. And I DO have to leave the house, attend meetings, run errands and go places dogs (particularly incontinent ones) are not welcomed.
However, I wanted to use this as a teaching moment for anyone caregiving someone who wears diapers. I personally have not worn a diaper since I was an infant, but I can only imagine the discomfort of having to wear a garment containing one’s own waste for any length of time. Whether it’s a pet, a baby, or a cognitively impaired adult, the condition can’t be enjoyable.
So, never let a diaper do the heavy lifting in waste removal. That’s not their purpose. They are designed as a temporary bridge, if you will, from a point in time when a body must unencumber itself to a near future that provides the opportunity to completely rid the wearer of all the unneeded materials and remnants so as to avoid any irritation or infection.
Don’t assume that because someone is wearing a diaper, they’re good to go. Put yourself in their place, and you’ll absorb my point.