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Bathing Sparky

By Gwendolyn deGeest, RN,BSN,MA

(Page 1 of 4)  

Peter was 13 when he had his first dog, 18 when he worked in the lumber camps, and 20 when he married. Peter, now 74, is pacing up and down the hallways of Tick Tock Manor where he is a resident. Peter always paces on this day, because today is Peter’s bath day. Things are done right on schedule at Tick Tock Manor. The caregivers never forget Peter’s bath day. Even more amazing, is that, although Peter has dementia, he never forgets the bath day either.

This morning is different, however. Peter is clutching a small book close to his chest. When the caregiver approaches him to offer to assist Peter with his bath, he becomes agitated and walks off quickly in the other direction. Any further mention of bathing sets Peter off in an angry outburst.

Peter and I sit side by side in the lounge situated next to the bathing area. And Peter proceeds to share the family photos in his small album. It becomes evident that many of Peter’s photos have been taken of a black Labrador dog in a garden. “Who is this, Peter?” I ask. “That’s Sparky, my dog,” replies Peter, with a big smile on his face. Peter is happy to share that he and his dog, Sparky, have spent many happy years together. He also adds that he misses Sparky very much. In one of the photos, Peter is in the backyard with Sparky, where Sparky is receiving a bath.

“What’s going on in this picture, Peter?” I ask. “Oh, Sparky is having his summer bath,” says Peter. “I can’t do the bath in the house, because Sparky races around after, shaking off all the water. Sparky loves being clean.” Peter shows pride on his face.

I see this as an opportunity to distract Peter away from his own bathing situation.

“Peter, I see that you and Sparky are having a lot of fun together. And Sparky likes to be nice and fresh and clean. That’s great. Let me help you to be nice and clean as well. And when Sparky comes for a visit, you will be fresh. How does that sound?” “I don’t know about that. Do you think my wife can bring Sparky for a visit?” “Sure she can Peter, anytime, and you and Sparky can have a good visit. Let me first help you with your bath. Let’s go.” “Oh, alright,” says Peter. He takes my hand and we walk together to the bathing area.

The small book is left behind on the table, the book containing memories of who is Peter, the book that holds the photos of Peter’s best friend, Sparky.

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