Sure, poop is gross. I agree. But we all do it. And (hopefully) do it often.
As a caregiver I deal with a lot of poop. Like, lots. Because everyone does it. It is a typical day at work to have full conversations with my co-workers about the poop status of all our residents (obviously not in front of residents, as to respect dignity and privacy).
We talk about it. We track it. We clean it.
Now, here’s the thing; I don’t like to wipe butts. It’s not something I look forward to. But it tends to be something that scares people. I’ve had a few people ask me if changing and wiping people is part of my job description, to which I respond, ‘um, of course.’ To which I usually get a pretty disgusted look back.
I would be a pretty poor caregiver if I did not give care in all aspects of life. Poop, even though people hate to talk about it, is a huge and important part of life. It hurts when we don’t do it enough. It’s uncomfy when we need to do it too much. And we feel our best when we do it just right. Even though to most of us it seems like a pretty routine thing, that we might not think about much, it’s a big part of daily living. Which means, that as a caregiver, I support people with all daily living activities, poop included.
So, I’m now a wiz at wiping and a champ at changing. I can’t believe I just said that to the world — ahhh. Anyhoo — there is a very important reason I am telling you this. I am telling you this because I have a theory. That I’ve only told very few people in my life, but I am about to share it with you. Get ready. Here it comes.
And not just our own. I think this teaches you so much about being human.
Now, please don’t just go wiping strangers’ butts, that’s really weird. I do not condone that in any way. What I mean is, if given the opportunity to provide care, we shouldn’t be scared of wiping butts.
In our world today, we are starting to take accessibility into consideration more often and nothing makes my heart happier (even though there still is a long way to go). I think where we are lacking is talking about the disabilities that don’t fit into the ‘pretty’ boxes. We need to talk about the messy and uncomfortable parts of disability and just being a human. However, there are still disability services out there that will only accept people who are independent in the washroom. Imagine all the individuals who are missing out on things, simply because using the washroom independently isn’t possible for them. It’s time for society to buck up and get over our weird fears of something we all do.
I will argue, that having your butt wiped is one of the most vulnerable states you can be in. So helping someone with this teaches you how to respect dignity in these smelly situations. One day, I will need someone to help me in the washroom and so will you. And I hope they won’t make me feel gross for this inherently human thing. I wouldn’t want someone to make a big deal of it. I wouldn’t want someone to joke that it’s smelly. I wouldn’t want someone telling my friends about it. I wouldn’t want someone telling me they hated this part of their job. I wouldn’t want someone to tell me I couldn’t do something because I needed help in the washroom. I wouldn’t want someone to not clean it properly because they are rushed.
I would want someone who gives me respect even in my most vulnerable position, even if it is not their favourite part of the job. For if people are lucky enough to care for you and I while we age, they will get to know all parts of us; our sharp minds, our wisdom, our humour, our hearts, but this also comes along with the not so glamorous parts of being human. This is the true honour of caregiving – loving people’s souls and their smells.
I tell people, especially people my age, who don’t have kids, about my wiping butt theory – because most have not wiped a butt other than their own. They are often astonished at all this act has taught me. I tell them that I work hard to make residents feel comfortable so I can maintain their trust. I tell them that part of having such special relationships with people is about loving them in all areas of life. I tell them I take this part of my job very seriously because I want to do it well. I tell them it helps form deep, trusting, respectful relationships. I tell them about it because poop is taboo and it doesn’t need to be. Caregiving isn’t disgusting. Caregiving is about doing life together. They are amazed that I’ve learned so much through wiping poop.
To be clear, I am not here to claim that disabled people have so much to teach me because their lives are so hard and sad compared to mine. I do not mean this at all. I am not saying that it is disabled people’s jobs to help non-disabled people improve themselves. I do not believe any of these things.
I am saying, that all humans are vulnerable and we need to embrace and respect this. We need to embrace that we aren’t the perfect people we seem to be on social media. We need to understand that we all poop no matter our abilities, the number in our bank account, the amount of followers we have, or what have you. We all do it, so let’s not be so scared of it. Let’s care for the people in our lives like we would want care given to us. Let’s clean up the poop. Being human is messy and dirty and gross and full of liquids, rashes, warts, puke, pee, puss, drool, and plaque. No need to be scared of caregiving because it means cleaning up poop. Because cleaning up poop means you are a human helping a human with a very human thing.
Don’t be scared of it. Wipe some butts and learn about vulnerability, respect and compassion.
That’s all for me this week folks. I hope you learned something from my Wiping Butts Theory. It’s not scary. It’s human. Disabled people aren’t gross. Caregiving isn’t gross. Poop means we are human. And all humans deserve to be supported though all human activities, even pooping.
Follow along to hear all about the ups and downs in direct support work, young adult life, and allyship – it sure has given me lots to write about! Enjoy some casual, light-hearted tales about all my adventures along the way.