Bathing Dad Is Awkward
"My father needs assistance getting in and out of the tub, and I struggle with the thought of helping him. I know he needs the help, and I want to give it to him. But frankly, I just do not want to see his naked body. I hope I don’t sound awful saying that.
I’m sure other people must have the same issue. Tell me how I get past the fact that he will be naked. I think that once I get past that, I’ll be fine. Maybe."
Well, as a health care professional, I would say that all bodies kind of look the same. In other words, when you have seen one, you have seen them all. Consider the animal kingdom. Does one lion look that much different from another? Not really.
Just look in the mirror and add time. You, too, will have more wrinkles, less muscle tone, and skin that sags as you age.
The challenge you face here is the lack of familiarity and exposure in the past. We tend not to see our parents naked, and if we do, there are apologies and awkwardness. We’re oriented from childhood to keep our bodies covered and to feel shame about them. Running about naked even can get you arrested. Remember when streaking was a thing at sporting events? Law enforcement would chase those guys off the field. Nakedness is something we hide, so allowing yourself to assist someone in bathing is going to feel strange.
I suggest you approach it by accepting that it will feel weird the first few times. Know that it becomes routine, and you will feel less awkward over time. The most important thing is that you say nothing and act as normally as you can. You’re both adults and will make it through this. Look upon the task as just another thing to get done.
Helping a parent as they age is an honorable thing to do. Most of us will need some assistance near the end of our lives. How wonderful it is to have family members that are willing help us in our final years. As you approach this task, know that your assistance matters. It is a loving act.
With that said, you probably know it’s possible to hire someone to provide a bath service if you or your father prefers that option. Some children and elderly parents live too far apart to provide the assistance as frequently as needed. Other families prefer to have a non-relative assist with the bath. There is no right or wrong here, and options exist.
Bless you for recognizing the need and figuring out how to solve the bathing dilemma before your father sustains an injury. You will figure this out if you provide the care, or help him to hire someone.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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