I washed Mom’s hair today. What a mess!
For some reason, Mom, like many people living with Alzheimer’s, does not enjoy bathing or showering. Perhaps it is the overwhelming number of tasks associated with morning rituals that someone with Alzheimer’s can no longer remember how to do or what order to proceed in. I imagine Mom has a blank space in her memory when she’s asked to wash. And not being able to do it herself undermines her sense of accomplishment and control when she realizes she is dependent on someone else to assist.
Mom doesn’t know the difference between a skirt, a bra, and her nightdress. She can’t adjust the water temperature in the shower. She forgets to use soap. And she most certainly won’t put her head under the water.
When invited to shower, Mom often says she has already showered. The argument to convince her that she hasn’t or that she needs to wash often ends in rage and frustration, not only for Mom but for myself, my dad, and Sahlee, our caregiver. Or, Mom tells us she doesn’t feel like showering today. It does no good to remind her that she hasn’t showered since yesterday, because she of course she can’t remember. Suggesting she smells is even worse—how insulting!
Someone must be with Mom while she showers. And we must be there with the understanding that we may get wet.
When we can convince her to shower, usually every day, but not always, Mom has on occasion entered the shower with her underpants on. Trying to removing sopping wet pants from an incalcitrant individual is not an easy task.
Showering regularly can prevent body odor and urinary tract infections as well as funguses and rashes. We’ve learned, though, that the daily battle to get Mom in the shower can be relaxed on occasion.
This still leaves the problem of Mom’s hair. If we can convince her to wash it once a week, we’re lucky.
Today, Sahlee tried to convince Mom that we had a wedding to go to, but Mom wasn’t hooked by that idea. She often rambles during the day about the children or people she must see, and I wonder where in her memory she is on these occasions. I don’t think her self-references include beauty preparations for outings. I’m wondering where she sees herself most often. In her mother’s house? A young, independent secretary? A newly married woman? What has she done or accomplished in her life that might lend itself to needing to wash?
Perhaps if we couch it in terms of health issues she might be more amenable to our sitting her on a chair in the bathroom with a towel draped on her shoulders.
In any case, wetting her hair and massaging in shampoo was the easy part. But she would not look up or tilt her head back in order for us to rinse it out. We had her stand up and bend over the bathroom sink instead. That worked until she realized that there was water pouring down her head and she took a few steps backwards. Lots of water ended up on the floor, on our shoes, and on our clothes. Most of the shampoo came out, but not all of it.
Mom was upset but not angry. She even agreed to dry her hair and style it with her brush.
And so to next time. There are many articles online about the benefits of non-washed hair. Can I swallow that advice? Will Mom’s hair become lush and full with little to no washing? Or will she end up with dreadlocks?
I think I’m going to invest in dry shampoo. Yes, it’s a real thing. Maybe we’d be less wet on that ride.
As always, entering my kitchen is a relief from the stress of caring for Mom. With Purim happening this week, I wanted to make something that reflected the holiday. Purim is the celebration of Queen Esther saving us from the genocidal plan of King Achashverosh’s evil minister, Haman. There is a legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat; to commemorate his downfall, we eat three-cornered pastries. Generally, these hamentashen, or oznei Haman (Haman's ears) as they are called in Hebrew, are sweet, cookie-like desserts. The hamentashen I made are cheese-filled and best served with tomato sauce.
This Italian pastry is generally made as stuffed half circles of dough that is crimped at the edges to hold in the stuffing. I’ve made them here as savory oznei Haman or hamentashen specifically for Purim. Enjoy!
3 teaspoons yeast 2 tablespoons date honey 2 cups warm water 5 to 6 cups flour 2 teaspoons salt
1 250 gram (8.8 oz.) container cottage cheese 1 250 gram (8.8 oz.) container white cheese (gvina levana) ¾ cup grated yellow cheese ½ cup grated parmesan 3-4 cloves garlic 1 large onion, chopped 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cups fresh spinach Pinch nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste
Proof yeast by placing in bowl with date honey and warm water. Let sit up to 15 minutes until yeast begins to react.
Add remaining ingredients and mix with fork until a stiff dough starts to form. Knead with hands for a few more minutes—adding more flour if dough is very sticky—and place in a warm location to rise for one hour.
Meanwhile, sauté garlic and onions until onions become translucent. Add spinach and cook until wilted and dark green. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine cheeses and pinch of nutmeg. Add cooked spinach, and salt and pepper to taste.
Roll out dough on a floured surface until about ¼ in thick and cut out circles by using a cup or bowl with a wide diameter. (I used a bowl that was 15 centimeters in diameter, about 9½ inches.)
Place one heaping tablespoon (plus more if it fits) of filling in the center of the dough circle.
Moisten the edge of the dough circle with water.
Gently lift circle edges above the filling and pinch together so that a triangle is formed. Pinch together the remaining triangle edges.
Place on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
Brush finished oznei Haman with egg.
Poke or cut small holes in the dough so that steam can be released.
Bake at 450° for 20 minutes until dough is crisp and browned.
Serve hot with tomato sauce.
This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.
About the Author: Miriam Green writes a weekly blog at http://www.thelostkichen.org, featuring anecdotes about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and related recipes. Her book, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, will be published next year by Black Opal Books. Her poetry has appeared in several journals, including Poet Lore, the Prose Poem Project, Ilanot Review, The Barefoot Review and Poetica Magazine. Her poem, “Mercy of a Full Womb,” won the 2014 Jewish Literary Journal's 1st anniversary competition. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bar Ilan University, and a B.A. from Oberlin College. Miriam is a 20+-year resident of Israel, and a mother of three. You can find Miriam on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thelostkichen/.