Kate’s Last Pedicure

Kate has always enjoyed manicures and pedicures, and I have periodically taken her for both since her diagnosis. Now, however, she no long remembers the procedures and the little things she is supposed to do. The last couple of times I have stayed with her the whole time just in case she needed my help. It has worked out, but her insecurity on the previous visit made me more cautious. I made an appointment yesterday afternoon.

When we entered the salon, a different person was at the reception desk, so I pulled out one of my Alzheimer’s cards and slipped it to her. Although that was in advance of any problems, it turned out to be a good thing. I walked her back to the chair to help her get seated. Existing customers were in the seats on either side of her. It turned out getting in the chair was an ordeal. That was partially due to the fact that she had to go up a high step to get into it. The other part involves her eyesight and difficulty understanding directions. She apparently couldn’t see or didn’t recognize the chair itself. Despite my efforts to direct her by putting my hand on the seat of the chair and trying to get her to face it, she struggled to understand what we were asking. I should add that the woman who was to give her the pedicure and the woman sitting in the chair to her right were also trying to instruct and guide her. Although we were all trying to help, I suspect we added a measure of confusion. During this process, Kate let out a scream that was easily heard throughout the salon. All eyes were on her. That was just the beginning.

As luck would have it, the woman next to her was a retired nurse and very understanding. She introduced herself and explained the procedures Kate experienced. That began with the warm water running into the tub at her feet. She was frightened at first. The nurse had a very soothing voice that put Kate at ease at least as much as she could in what had to be a strange situation for her. I thought that at some point she would have some sense of familiarity with the process, but that never happened.

I brought Kate’s iPad to her chair; however, I put it down on a step to her side in our effort to get her seated. She didn’t realize it was there. It wasn’t long before she wanted it. The nurse gave her a magazine. I realized she was looking for her iPad and went over and gave it to her. I think the nurse was surprised that she was able to work an iPad. I wasn’t in a position to explain that she has only minimal capability to work her puzzles and that, with some difficulty. It didn’t take long for her to see that for herself. Kate finished one puzzle but didn’t know how to get to the next one. As usual, she made her way into the store. The nurse looked over at me and said she didn’t know how to help her. I intervened and showed her.

We had been there quite a while, when I noticed that Kate and the nurse were talking. The nurse mouthed that she was looking for her “mother.” I am sure she was looking for me and just said mother. She frequently mixes gender and relationships. The nurse showed Kate where I was sitting. She waved to me, and I waved back. A little later, the nurse called me again. This time Kate had taken her feet out of the tub of water. The nurse explained that the water was to soften the skin on the bottom of her feet so that they could smooth it out. Kate didn’t understand. I went to her and explained that she needed to put her feet back in the tub. She did, but it was only a minute or two before the attendant began her work.

That was when the “fun” started. Not knowing what was to come, Kate screamed again and responded audibly while the attendant rubbed the bottom of her heal. I went back to her and helped to calm her and then went back to my seat. In a few minutes, it was time for the other foot. Once again, she was surprised by the experience. I stayed with her for a while. When she was calm again, I took my seat in the waiting area that was about twenty feet across the room and clearly visible to Kate who waved to me periodically.

Finally, it was time to leave. It turned out that getting out of the chair and descending the step was a bigger problem than getting in. Anticipating that she would need my help, I was in place when she was ready. The first problem was standing up from a sitting position. That has become increasingly difficult at home and restaurants. This was a little more frightening for her because the chair was elevated so far off the floor. Kate is very insecure about going down curbs and stairs. To her this must have seemed like jumping off a cliff. All this was accompanied by a variety of audible sounds. As with other moments during the process, all eyes were on Kate.

As we walked out the door, Kate said, “Let’s get out of here.” I think most of the other people in the salon thought of their personal experience as a treat. Far from it for Kate. In the car, I apologized for putting her in this situation and mentioned that we might go back for a manicure sometime. She quickly said, “I don’t ever want to go back there.”

The personnel and the nurse next to Kate were very understanding. I don’t know how the others took it. I only gave my Alzheimer’s cards to the receptionist and the nurse. In my haste to leave, I didn’t think to give one to the woman on the other side of Kate and ask her to pass it around. I wish that I had because I did notice soft laughter among the group. I admit that from their vantage point, it was funny, but it was a sad moment for me. It’s been almost two months since I had to discontinue her bi-weekly massages. Now the mani-pedis. I wonder what is next.

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