I visited my 100 year old grandmother in the nursing home yesterday. Walking into that building is so incredibly difficult for me. It just feels absolutely filthy. I need to clarify that this particular nursing home is very clean. It never smells. I can easily say that it is one of the nicest nursing homes in reasonable driving distance from my house. Still, I always feel significant anxiety there.
My poor grandmother has severe Alzheimer's Disease. She never recognizes me or my family any more. I can assure you that she has probably not washed her hands after going to the bathroom for many years. I'm sure her hands get washed when she gets baths, but I suspect that is the only time. There are times when her hands look visibly dirty. She sticks her fingers in her mouth. I'm sure she must have "accidents" and I suspect that other residents do too, so I am always afraid of sitting on any chairs (though I cannot see any visible stains). I stand whenever I visit her and insist that my husband stand as well. I don't let my husband touch anything there; not the doorknobs, not my grandmother's wheelchair, absolutely nothing. I touch everything (being careful to not touch myself at all) and then the very last thing I do before we leave is wash my hands. I also usually don't take my daily shower until after I've visited her. Yesterday, the cat who lives on my grandmother's floor rubbed up against my leg. All I could think about was the fact that all the residents touch this cat with their dirty hands.
I hate myself for not visiting my grandmother more often. She was a wonderful grandmother to me when I was growing up. I have lots of sweet memories. I feel ashamed and I feel like a failure, both as a granddaughter and a Christian. *Sigh.* Notwithstanding all of my successes in battling OCD, there are still some things that are great challenges to me, and this is one of them. I'm going to try very hard to see her weekly.
How would you fight this one? Would you sit on the chairs on your visits? Would you absentmindedly touch your face or your hair, even if you touched my grandmother's hands or wheelchair, or other possessions? I want to love her in a tangible way in spite of my contamination issues. I want to put this frail, elderly woman's needs before my own. As a Christ follower I'm commanded to care for the widows. I don't want to disappoint my Lord. I don't want to disappoint myself. I keep thinking that she is already 100 years old, and I probably don't have very much longer to get this right. This is hard.