ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND WANDERING
“Can I help you find something?” my husband Randy asks Mom as she comes out of our guest room and starts down the dark hall.
The clock on the wall reads 12:14 AM. Mom shuffles on straight ahead.
Randy rises from the couch and calls again to Mom across the kitchen. “Chris? Do you need something?”
Mom continues on her way.
Randy dashes through the living room to intercept her. He meets her at the front door.
Mom’s eyes are wide, frightened, lost. She tries the doorknob.
“Chris, your room is this way,” Randy says, gently redirecting her back toward the guest room. And back she goes.
The next morning, we query Dad about Mom’s wandering. His response? Mom has yet to ever wander. So we present last night’s evidence to Dad: Dad’s sound sleep; Randy’s eyewitness testimony; Mom testing the door knob. But the facts fall on deaf ears. Dad dismisses the evidence as circumstantial.
Sophocles wrote in Antigone, “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” This is as true today as it was then.
How are you managing your role as the bearer of unwelcome news? For Alzheimer’s Kids who are also people-pleasers (like me), this can require triple measures of effort. What effect is this role having on your relationship with the Alzheimer’s Caregiver in your life?
ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR BEHAVIORS
“One day, out of the blue, your Mom knocked on our door and asked if we had a cup of coffee!” said Tom and Nancy, just after Mom’s Memorial service. They were Mom’s neighbors’ four doors down. “We said yes, and her face lit up. We had never met before, but your Mom walked right into the house and made a beeline for the kitchen. After coffee and a chat, she said, ‘Well, I better get home. Buzzy will be looking for me!’ And off she went. After that, we made sure to keep coffee in the house. And she came by almost every day for a cup!”
As Tom and Nancy reveled in the memory, only one question kept racing through my mind: “Dad sent her out for a walk…by herself?”
Even with Mom now gone, my heart pounded with anxiety at the idea that she wandered off and ended up inside a stranger’s house.
Protecting Mom from wandering out of the house had been an ongoing project for my sister Diane and me. We knew that Dad, and only Dad, her daily Caregiver, could keep a “Mom-safety-system” in place. So we put a great deal of effort into making it easy. We lobbied for the house doors to be kept locked. Diane got Mom a medic alert bracelet. I printed out photos for us all to keep on hand for showing emergency workers in case a Mom-hunt was ever necessary.
It took more than a year before Dad really believed Mom might become lost on their street someday. Slowly, Dad began to enforce the “Mom-safety-system” and lock the doors, and see that she wore her bracelet.
Has your Caregiver begun living as though it is necessary to help your Alzheimer’s Loved One stay safely at home? Has your Caregiver begun enforcing a safety system to ensure your Loved One’s safe return in case of wandering when out shopping or at a restaurant? Sharing research and tips is one way to begin the conversation. Perhaps in time your Caregiver will accept that wandering is common and could happen one day with your Alzheimer’s Loved One.
For tips from the Alzheimer’s Association on keeping your Alzheimer’s Loved One safely at home, click here.