One of the things I monitor with my mother is her feet. Feet are one of the things that can suffer greatly when someone is homeless, and my mother is no exception. She only wears one pair of shoes and wears them all the time, even sleeping. She sleeps sitting up and that lack of time spent horizontal makes her feet fill with fluid and swell. That combined with her lack of bathing and lack of changing her socks make infections in her feet a constant threat.
So, checking in with her about her feet is one of the things I do regularly. I keep giving her disposable wipes and clean socks. Still in rainy Northern California winter, her feet got infected.
I talked with her about going to the doctor, remembering how difficult it was to get her to go to the doctor the last time. You see, she has delusions about what hurts her feet. She doesn’t go to the doctors because they don’t know about what she believes is affecting her feet and treat her like she’s “crazy” (her word). She can’t stand people thinking she’s crazy.
When I was reintroduced to her last winter. Her feet were so badly infected that she could barely walk. It was an awful fight. Days, weeks of my trying to get her to go.
I finally was able to convince to go to the doctor by telling her that although they may not be able to do anything about what she believes is the cause, they may be able to help with the symptoms. The doctors gave her injection and oral antibiotics. I visited with her daily to make sure she was taking the pills.
The infection cleared, although her feet and calves remained swollen. I could not get her to use the compression socks that the doctors recommended or to go to a shelter or to take an RV I would buy for her. She remained outdoors and eventually refused to go back to the doctor for her 6-month checkup.
So, when it came time to go to the doctor again, I was ready for another big fight and a lot of work to convince her.
I approached the issue in stages. I gave her more wipes and socks, telling her we may have to go to the doctor. I check in again, her feet are not better or worse. I tell her we may have to go to the doctor.
Then I get the flu and miss a meeting with her.
The next time I see her, she has taken herself to the doctor and has the full course of antibiotics.
I was thinking that I need to remind her, to encourage her, to prod her to do everything, and then she surprises me with her capability of self-care. She was able to separate her perception of the cause of her injury from the infection.
Her perceptions have so drastically affected her life. Her perceptions affect how she relates to everyone, what she eats, where she stays. Everything.
Yet even in her inability to see beyond her perceptions in so many deep and essential ways, she had clarity about this and was able to get care for herself.
This is huge.
Also published on Medium.