29 Jan
January 29, 2013

You! That’s right, you, the author of a new book on elder care, or “long-term care expert,” or Assisted Living CEO…


It’s shower time!

What I’m about to say may not seem important to you, but I CAN ASSURE YOU it’s damn important to me, and millions like me. (But don’t worry, your time is coming.)

Next to toileting, showering  it’s one of our most intimate and private moments. And here’s how it works, for example, in an assisted living facility.

You’re a shy, reserved, 86 year-old recent widow with episodes of syncope.. With the exception of your husband and doctor, you’ve never disrobed in front of anyone. Suddenly, you find yourself  stripping down in front of  a  twenty-something year-old man whose name you don’t even know.

Want to have some real fun? In our example, let’s mix up the genders and ages. And don’t forget about the “trainees” who pop in during your shower to observe.

Now, here’s the worst part: just when you’ve finally become comfortable with someone undressing/washing/dressing you, that person gets sucked into the Great Personal Care Attendant Revolving Door.  Why?  Because these  angels of mercy — many are women of color, doing their best to raise young children — quickly discover you can’t pay the rent and feed the children on $8.50/hr.

Could you?

2 replies
  1. pianomusicman says:

    Not a pretty picture. Medicalization often equals depersonalization, no? The obvious seems to become the arcane. It’s like what happens in prisons, though we don’t tend to feel the same sympathy for convicts as we do for the elderly. Institutions do behave like institutions, no matter who the inmates may be. I recently read Robert Whitaker’s two books about the treatment, now and historically, of the mentally ill. Shocking stuff. It’s as if these kinds of places combined with something like absolute power bring out the very worst in people. Anyway, thanks for sharing this, Martin.

  2. julia5150 says:

    My mother (75% into Alzheimer’s and 85 years old) was residing in one particular assisted living residence where it routinely took 2 staff members to give her a shower — one to hold her down and one to hose down. I eventually reported the facility to the state for abuse and neglect — it went nowhere — and moved her to my home, where it took weeks and weeks for her to learn to trust that I wasn’t going to hurt her. Clearly she’d been victimized. Thanks for your blog and for putting this information out there because people are really in the dark on this one.


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