November 26, 2011

Dementia Free Fall

Last summer I shared with readers the boots I purchased in a Douglas, Wyoming cowboy boot store. I promised myself that these boots, reminiscent of boots my father wore, would carry me safely down the path of caring for my elderly parents. Thanksgiving this year seemed like a good time to bring my parents from their 'lock down' senior living situation. Following is a brief account of two days spent navigating turkey, elder care, and dementia. Maybe some of you who find yourselves caring for elders can appreciate this story.

Dementia Free Fall

“Let’s get in the car, Mom and Dad!” The adventure out of Highgate lock down began with careful steps across a dangerous ice covered driveway. I deposited the grands in the car, buckled them in, and rushed back in to the Cottage to pick up their meds. It took longer than we all thought to package up pills for two nights and a day away. I kept checking to see if the grands were still in the car. They were there when I finally arrived, however, Mom was out of her seat belt, mad as a cat fight that I had kept them waiting for what she described as “more than an hour!” I knew better than to argue. She then went into a sulking silence. Made my heart skip a joyful beat to be able to drive halfway home without having to answer the same question over and over, “Where are we going? Who lives there (pointing to a red barn)?” And, of course the eternal scream, “Rich, how far are we from home?” Distant juniper trees became black cows. Cows became farms. Farms became wide-open space. “Do you like this place?”

A short hour drive west out of Bozeman and we landed in McAllister, our home. First out of the car, Mom declared she was freezing. Dad too. The wind was intense, bringing in a storm. We rushed into the house. No taking off coats! Sweet it was that both Mom and Dad took themselves on their own tour of our home as if they had never been here. Pointing to neighborhood homes, the question asked over and over for two days, “Who lives over there? Do you know them?”

Some years ago hiking the face of the Bridger Mountains, I gingerly walked across a scree field hoping with each footfall that my carefully placed boot would hold its place. Once, my hiking boot hit a shifty section and I catapulted down ten feet of unstable rock before catching a break. For two days and nights having my aging parents spend time at our home felt like the scree free fall. It hurt, it was exhilarating, it was scary, it was out of control with no way to change the free fall of dementia. A scree free fall is neutral, not to be taken personally. Same could be said for dementia’s free fall.

Dad drank a tumbler-full of Jim Beam
Jumping from bed, Dad forgot where the bathroom was
Dad took a 1:00 a.m. dash outside to pee off the front porch
Winds 50 miles/hour, temperatures freezing
Socks wet, Dad tracked back to bed, slept ‘til early morning

Mom refused to undress to put on her nightgown
She reached out to strike me
She yelled for me to get out
I left her alone
She put herself to bed fully clothed with her nightgown covering all

Over turkey Mom erupted in anger
Our friend had called her “Hon”
“Don’t call me Hon, I hate that!”
She railed, slammed, and stomped away
Silence and sulking
All sighed in relief

Lounging in our living room
“How are those rocks sticking?”
“Have any of them come down?”
“They look like they are about ready to fall”
Hours of ignoring but paying the price
Accusations of “What’s the problem?”
No one will talk about it
Laugh it off

Stare straight into my eyes
She asks, “Where’s Cindy?”
I am Cindy
“No, you are Carol!”
Graham is Rich
“No, I am Graham.”
More danger
Anger, anger, and more anger

1 comment:

  1. My prayers are with you and your parents during this time of transition. Keep writing, call anytime....Peace and love...Vicki