It is very tricky to do Mom’s manicures now. Her hands are so frail but the nails are as strong as ever. I’m amazed at how well her hair and nails are still growing even as the rest of her body shrinks and collapses in on itself. Some Mondays become spa days.
Mom has always had beautiful hands. I’ve talked about her hands before and how precious they are to me. When I wrote about them in January of 2016, her hands would still reach for mine. I still hold her hands but I have to seek them tucked under the covers.
Very rarely does Mom use her hands to feed herself. Her caregivers do most of the feeding. We wipe her eyes when they are weepy and her mouth when food drips. She uses her hands to hold on during walking, fingers wrapped as tightly as possible around the wrist or hands of her assistant. That’s when those sharp daggers at the ends of her fingers can really get dangerous. They claw deeply into the skin and bite down tightly. It’s amazing how much strength she still possesses in her grip!
When those grips make puncture wounds, I know it’s time for a spa day. I associate the word “spa” with a lovely, expensive pampering. The word itself has a happy sound. It makes the difficult process somewhat more bearable. Her nails are so thick and strong it requires almost all of my hand strength to cut them. Of course, I do not have fine manicuring skills since she is my only “client”. It is a long, careful process. Her skin is translucent and thin and the slightest nick could break through.
At this point in her dementia, she doesn’t always understand what I am doing. Her skin is hyper-sensitive and she doesn’t enjoy much caressing, so the trauma of holding her hands still is difficult on her. Although I try to be extra cautious, I sometimes move her hands into an uncomfortable position and she becomes agitated with me.
Thankfully, our caregiver Jean used to cut hair so I don’t have that responsibility. Clara and Laverne do most of the hair and body washing. I do try to keep her eyes clean of matter and she will occasionally allow me to wash her face very gently.
On these spa days, I remember well the woman she was – perfectly manicured, coiffed, and lips covered in “Love that Red” lipstick by Revlon. I am grateful that she was unable to know the future then. I am grateful that I am part of her care team now. Although it is difficult, it is an honor to care for the hands that cared for me.