WHEN my babies were born many years ago, the joy they brought radiated like warm sunshine no matter what else was going on in our lives. Even changing their diapers was a challenge gladly accepted, especially with the boys.
You just learnt to anticipate the possible threat of sprinkle and took the necessary precautions, like putting a folded piece of cloth on his crotch. Everything that was done for the baby was done with joy, even if you got sprinkled despite the protection. It was quite funny and you ended up turning it into a game to challenge your reflexes — how quick you could be to avoid being “shot”.
And when the baby was all cleaned up and radiated that beautiful baby fragrance, it was impossible for the heart not to burst with love. All you wanted to do was coo at the baby as you picked him up and showered him with hugs and kisses.
For the majority of the population, these babies eventually grow up and leave the diaper stage. They go on to fulfil their destinies and make you proud. However, there’s a small group of children who don’t leave the diaper stage. There’s also a group of adults who transition into the diaper stage later in their lives. As their caregiver, you’ll learn that diaper-changing isn’t always so fun and rosy when they’re all grown up.
For those who are bedridden and docile, changing their diapers is quite straightforward. Doing it alone is manageable once you learn the ways. For those who are bedridden and forever under protest or the non-negotiable type, you’d have to be firm and very swift in what you do. You certainly need to be strong but more importantly, you need to learn the moves. In my family, we joke about this and say that we just need to learn to Kung-fu our way in and out of the situation.
Behind the laughter and jokes, changing diapers for adults who aren’t very cooperative is challenging. If you don’t do it right, you can hurt your back or pull some muscle somewhere. When that happens, you’ll be in pain and you’d have to get someone else to do it.
What if there isn’t someone else who could? You’d still have to do it despite the pain.
The most important thing to remember here is to preserve your health and protect your joints. Lifting heavy objects like lifting the bedridden person’s lower body to adjust the diaper can injure your back, knees, shoulder or wrist. You can literally break your back if you don’t do this right.
Your estimation of where the diaper has to go has to be on point. This comes with practice. There are many articles and blogs on how to change the diaper of a bedridden person. It seems quite straightforward, though you’ll need to practise. You place the diaper from the side rolling the person this way and that as you work your way through, or from the bottom using your forearm to raise the legs. What they don’t tell you is how to deal with overfull diapers or when the bedridden person can still move or wiggle, thus making changing their diapers a bit more challenging.
First, you’ll need all your necessary items within reach. You’d need disposable gloves, loads of wet wipes and tissue paper or toilet rolls, as well as underpads as a barrier between the person and the sheets. If they’re pricey, a large garbage bag will suffice.
Also, be prepared to have a few clean bedsheets on standby for those odd balls of poop that sometimes manage to stray, roll away and get smashed by your loved one as they try to settle down. In my experience, even the smallest fecal matter from an adult stinks for a long time. So you’d have to change the sheets again.
I find diffusing essential oils before the clean-up very helpful in dealing with the smell of faeces and urine. It neutralises the odour and purifies the air. It’s more natural compared with many of the synthetic fragrances I’m allergic to.
It’s only human and quite natural to gag as your initial response. I’ve been doing this for years and that’s still my first response. But I still go on with it anyway. In the meantime, I find ways to make my difficult tasks bearable.
It’s so easy to get angry when they soil themselves repeatedly after you’ve gone to great lengths to clean them up. But they can’t help it. You’d only make them feel sad and guilty. And for what? Pooping and peeing are natural bodily functions.
If you can communicate with your loved one about cooperating with toilet needs, that’s really great. But quite often, this either takes a long time to achieve or is nigh impossible with some. So, in the meantime, stay cool and learn to deal with your situation the best way you know how.
Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org