Delicate Situation

How do I tell a story without being gross, or making you want to run for the bathroom? I am not sure, but I will do my best to say each phrase delicately.

Al is my brother, in case you new blogger followers do not realize it. Al has Parkinson’s and is mildly mentally challenged. He is also a heart patient. I have been caring for him for almost five years.

In the second year of caring for him, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He has gone through many changes in these two years, the latest being urinating in his undies. Here lies the issue of yesterday and today.

I go to a local pharmacy that takes Medicare, and we purchase a gadget called a Texas Catheter. It is very similar to a regular catheter, except it has a condom like look and feel that attaches to the outer part of a man’s private area, instead of a tubing being ran inside. There is a bag that attaches to the leg and a tubing attached to that to let the drippings flow from Al to the bag.

Now, I am sure that most of us are grown ups here and have seen the male specimen. We know that it can do tricks, by hanging low or hanging high. I say this with much blushing!!!

Now picture this, 2012, as Ma would say on The Golden Girls. Bathroom, Al sitting down on the shower chair, sister, me, sitting down across from him on another chair. Cuts open the cover for the bag and the cover for the attachments. I look at poor Al’s eyes and tell him I am soooooooooo sorry, that I have to be with him in such a delicate situation like this, and I will hurry as fast as I can, and if I hurt him, please say ouch!

I put my surgeon’s gloves on and I look at Al’s body part, and ask myself how am I going to get this tight-fitting rubber piece over something that is looking down at the floor and not standing at attention.

I think, tick tick tick tick, and I tell Al, well bud, here goes nothing, but I did not mean actually nothing, because by the tenth time of trying to get this stupid thing on, and it flipping back at me and reminding me it was not going to listen, I had probably made a naked spot on his skin where once there was hair.

The sweat was pouring off my brow and I could feel Alvin holding his breath. It was like doing a delicate operation with no knife. FINALLY, I get the little gadget in place. I attach it to the bag on the leg, and I have him stand up so I can see how it fits when he moves and then sits. We go through these motions a couple of times.

I am disappointed that the tubing is not very long, not giving Al much space, but it was all in place, so I quit. I wet a wash rag and wiped Al’s arms and back down where he had sweated from fear of losing his man hood, then peeled off my gloves, tossing them in the trash, and go to my own bathroom and cool myself off with a shower.

Now all this happened yesterday, before he fell in the early evening, so when he gets up from his nap, he tells me it rolled off. I said what rolled off, and he points to his umm,  his personal area, and says, that! I thought, oh my gosh, it was so darn tight, that his whole thing fell off. I was castrating the poor guy and didn’t even know it! He says that he placed the bag in the trash. I said alright, I will call the pharmacy and tell them this is a disaster for the two of us, and ask if they have any suggestions.

After the fall and checking him out, I go to start supper and guess what is lying in the kitchen sink, THE BAG. Oh how sick! It has been in my sink, quick, get the bleach and a new pair of rubber gloves!!!

I take care of all that and the area is now all sterilized, ready for supper preparation, but I have now lost a bit of my appetite. I go to the computer for a bit, so I can forget the memory of my poor sink, and then later go back to do my duties. I did a load of laundry after supper, and discovered that each pair of undies and shorts were at different levels of wetness, so when the timing was right, I had to tell Al that he would have to wear the depend briefs from now on, and he didn’t say too much.

This morning, I called the Pharmacy and explained the issues, and she said she had longer tubing, that would help Al to move better, therefore the little attachment would stay in place.

To bribe Al to get him out of the house, because I had told him prior, that we would not be going anywhere today, and it is hard to change what was once said, so I knew that Arby’s was having a deal today on their new sandwiches, Turkey sandwiches. A great deal, free! Also, Dairy Queen was having a buy one blizzard get another for ninety-nine cents, so I ask him if he wanted to do these two things, plus ran back over to the Pharmacy. He jumped at the opportunity for blizzards, well not jumped, but did say yes.

We go and get the sandwiches, then go to the Dairy Queen and got the blizzards and then went to the park and ate in the shade on a bench. He is a slow eater compared to me, so after I was done I snapped these photos. After Al was all done, we went to the Pharmacy and picked up the longer tubing, and then I remembered that he needed a new electric razor, so I also stopped at the drugstore and bought one for him.

We go back home and we head to the bathroom. I am explaining to him that this will work much better with this new longer tubing, and since I had one day’s practice with the attachment going on correctly, this would be a breeze today.

Soft tears started flowing from his eyes, and he told me he felt like a little kid. I said that I understood, which I really did, but this old disease was trying to pull one over on us and we had to stay ahead of it.

He took his clothing off, while I put my doctor gloves on and I once again asked myself how was I going to get this on something that was not looking up.

It was no easier for him or me than it was yesterday. He was crying, and I was sweating tears. After several attempts and no progress in works, and no extra hands to help me, and having pulled the last hair I could get by with without being hit, I gave up. I told Al this is the pits, we can not make it work, and I am not going to have you suffer for this, when the bag of briefs was setting right beside us. He shook his head, and he, himself, yanked that nasty rubbery piece off of himself, and he threw it in the trash. I put all the clean items back in the bag that it came from at the store, so now I have all these little gadgets lying here that can’t be taken back. Texas Catheters anyone?? LOL

48 thoughts on “Delicate Situation

    • i have taken care of many patients such as yourself, it is nice that you can do these things for yourself and do not need help. we will get through this one way or another. i just hope i can find someone to come on a daily basis. i think each of us needs this. so glad you responded my friend…………….


      • yes his situation is different from mine…i just know it’s not fun having a bag of any kind. i hope the depends work well for both, i’m glad Al is willingly wearing them 🙂


      • i wish Al could somehow attach the gadget to himself, but he can not, and no matter how hard i tried, i could not get it to stay on……….you are right though, any bag is not fun. i wish they could fix all of these things that all of us suffer from


  1. As I read this, I smiled .. I hurt .. I had so many mixed emotions. I empathize with you each & every day. Since I saw you at the pharmacy today, it made it even more special reading this knowing what you were doing. You ARE a fabulous sister!!


  2. I’m sure this wasn’t meant to be funny, but I had to smile .. I could see the whole carry on in front of me. My God, what a carry on for both of us. You made me sweat too. Had to look up over the net and see what that thing was all about. That’s not anything you should have to do yourself – over here the district nurse does it – my mum has a catheter all the time and it’s only nurses that can change that. I really feel for you both .. and I understand that AL throw it away – I would have flushed it down. Try to sell it on ebay ????? !!!! You’re amazing .. to make something so good out something so tough and you got me to smile too. Well done.


    • i tried to make the blog light and airy with such a delicate topic. it is and was more than either Al or I could handle. maybe ebay is a place to sell it!!! i will not put him through this again!!!!


  3. Terry, I know exactly what you are talking about. I had a friend (who died several years ago – nothing to do with the catheter) and looked after him temporarily for a day or two and had to fit him with one of those gadgets. He was in his 70s and had never been able to look after himself as he was born with fused joints. So for him I suppose he was used to it but it was rather embarrassing for me. Would it help to have a commode beside Al’s bed so he doesn’t have to get to the bathroom? That is what I had for my mother, and it worked well. But then there was the night, around midnight, that she fell and knocked over a half-full commode onto the rug. That wasn’t fun, either. But once it is far enough behind you it can actually seem humorous. It will probably take a little while longer for you to get to that place. But you did a great job writing about it. That was much more successful than the actual procedure. 🙂


    • thank you for your very nice compliment on my writing. i am glad you know what i am talking about with this gadget. it is hard to place one on when the body part is not co-operating. my first thought when he wet at night, was a bed side commode. the problem with this would be his freezing of his legs. when they don’t move, and he can’t figure out to call me, he is going to wet the bed, even with the commode sitting right beside him. i could get up every hour or two and check him but i hesitate, because I already do not get enough sleep. sounds selfish doesn’t it………..he goes potty several times in a day or night because of the enlarged prostrate, so i guess the briefs are the best way right now. i like the commode idea better. maybe i should just get up during the night…………


      • No, you need your sleep, Terry. I think since the commode isn’t an option the Depends are the best solution. If you get sick you won’t be any use to Al, so you are not being selfish in not wanting to get up every hour or two.


      • And hugs to you in return. I know how you are feeling. I haven’t slept properly for the last week or so. Last night half the fire department seemed to be at the corner by my building last night at about 2:00 a.m. and I hadn’t got to sleep by then. I heard Robyn get up before 6:00 and went back to sleep later. So I can imagine what it would be like to have your sleep interrupted every night. It is not good. You can keep it up for a while, but there comes a time when it begins to take its toll. Get all the sleep you can, Terry, and stay healthy.


      • i laid down on the couch while Al watched all of his television shows and fell asleep off and on. a stupid fly kept buzzing me and i finally got up, feeling more tired. can’t wait to go to bed. my ankle has been swelling up from the heat, i wish it would cool down now, but i heard tonight that there are going to be a couple of days soon that could be sweatshirt days………


  4. have you asked the dr. if he could be catheterized? for his own benefit and not just for ease, over time though the depends would keep his clothing dry it would be bad for his skin. even with the best of care urine breaks skin down and can cause a number of issues. let me reassure you that even while working as a nurse those texas contraptions were much reviled!

    poor al, as we age or become infirm, one of the things we lose is most precious to us… our dignity. there is no way for him not to be embarrassed at having you take care of such private matters. wish there were some answer to that one. it is a sad situation and he doesn’t seem to have the ability to work through this. do you think he could work with a therapist? are there support groups that might offer some assistance to you?


    • one support group here lead by his own neruo, which has dismissed him except as PRN. the group is based on learning about Parkinson’s. I feel I don’t need to attend that, as I know what the disease is. I have thought of the cat, but then realize it can b a burden when he can still walk. i will have to take great care to make sure his skin is well taken care of and breathing. i so appreciate your concerns, advice and support. it touches me…………..


  5. Oh Terry, I am sorry. What a tough ordeal for you both! We went through several surgeries with my husband that resulted in catheters and leg bags. It was tough for him, and thankfully his Dr took care of putting them in… (Usually in the emergency room, and only once with my assistance because they couldn’t get a nurse in there fast enough!!!) This went on for over a year and a half. No, there is no way to deal with this situation delicately. That said, I think you handled it admirably.


  6. My prayers are continuing for you both. I appreciate your love for Al and all that you are doing on his behalf. It must be more difficult than I can imagine for him as well. May the Lord bless you and enable you both.


  7. As I read your story I thought of my husband and how he took care of his dad. A few years before we met his father had a major stroke. We would often visit his parents and on rare occasions get him to visit us. Anyway…that was the first time I had witnesses compassion…you could see the pain his fathers eyes to have to be helped like a child from your own son and I saw the love in Tom’s eyes. Neither one of them ever said anything while my husband took care of his dad’s {needs}, it was always in silence. But compassion always filled the room. Just like now compassion fills your article. Blessings – Patty


    • thank you Patty. It is so hard on the family watching a member that has been stricken by some illness. to watch the life escape them is torture. i am so glad you shared this with me. i don’t know why really, but it reminds me there are still humans with feelings………..


  8. Bless you both 🙂 This was funny but also I felt for you – all the more being a man being able to imagine my sister doing this for me – I would hate it! I think you’re both amazing and am grateful you are able to share this with the world so that we can laugh with you (knowing WE didn’t have to actually be the ones to suffer it) and also sympathise. A wonderful post Terry 🙂


  9. While the two of you have difficult times, such as these, I am glad to see you can apply a bit of wry humor to the situation. May God bless you with many a smile.

    My dad had a similar situation for a time. The bag would not fit attached to his leg under his clothing, so he had to carry the bag around in another (cloth) bag with the tube running out of his pants leg. He decided to apply a bit a humor to the situation. Whenever someone asked what was in the cloth bag, he answered, “My puddle.” He looked forward to the security checks after that. 😉


    • good evening Mona! so nice to see you once again. I appreciate your comment. everything you tell me has always meant so much to me in my heart. it is wonderful to see you tonight! hope you are enjoying each day!


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