How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. –2 Samuel 7:22
As a reminder, this series is going through the warning signs of dementia as found at this link: LINK
Have you ever gotten lost? I don’t mean that you misplaced yourself in the house…I mean lost as a ball in tall grass. I mean lost like about 10 golf balls last week when I hit the course lost? I mean lost like the moral compass of the United States lost?
Flash back just before the Bicentennial celebrations of 1976 and zoom over to St. Louis, Mo. The Applegates were on a little vacation in the ‘Lou, as we were wont to do in those days, with a trip to the Arch, some good food (picnic), possibly a run to the Botanical Gardens and/or the Zoo…and quick visit to Grant’s Farm. Grant’s Farm, a huge park and attraction originally owned by Hugh Grant, is home to hundreds of amazing animals and a bunch of really cool attractions/exhibits. (OK…apparently my BA in History with emphasis on American History can’t even validate the the actor’s ownership. History “apparently” says it was owned by U.S. Grant, the Civil War General, the man with the face on a bill that is too big for me to afford–I have teens— the former president?!?! Apparently my degree wasn’t as exhaustive as it could have been, which is really disappointing because I hoping to catch the Four Weddings and a Funeral/Notting Hill/Bridget Jones’s Diary marathon next time I visited!)
Walking around Grant’s Farm is a joy, especially if you are an urban jungle dweller who never sees farm animals, needless to say exotics like the farm has. So I, an inquisitive and ultra hyperactive post-toddler in my very early elementary school years, was always moving. Somehow I must have lulled my folks and siblings to sleep with a moment of movement reprieve that fine day when I snuck out a la Tommy Pickles. I don’t fault my parents who were finally getting a break from my noise, or my siblings who were too young to know better as well. The escape was my doing…and I was to make the most of it. I moved quickly and was completely gone before my parents had a clue where I was. Anxiety and panic ensued and, after an BOLA alert was issued and they enlisted 20,000 of the area’s finest to search for me (and after retracing every step we took), I was found in a petting zoo nearby. Even now, on a cold day, I still walk with a slight hitch from the spanking I endured at the “great escape”. (Editor’s note: yes…we got spanked. Who cares what Dr. Spock would say…it was wise.). I wasn’t LOST, as such. I mean, I knew where I was going. However, apparently, to my family, they considered me as such. Regardless, all’s well that ends well…and we were reunited and finished the vacation strong… and, after the spanking, with some hugs and ice cream…
So, what constitutes being “lost” and/or losing something and what of this retracing of steps? Allow me to start by adding and emphasizing a phrase common in several of the warning signs: “disruptive of every day living”. See, everyone loses things here and there. Some (me) hate losing things and it drives us batty, but we all do it. All of us forget where we parked at Wal-Mart. All of us misplace that one green tube sock (it was behind the drier), our car keys, our lucky shoes, our will to live when we watch the news (wow…that escalated quickly), and our cell phone. It just happens. When it does happen, we typically close our eyes, look to the top right of our closed eyes darkness (where things we are trying to recall are located in kind of a GPS format…note: apparently my college science class was a little rough too.), and try to mentally retrace our steps. This is possible until it isn’t.
In dementia, getting lost has multiple layers. Here is how it might play out:
- You drive to the mall
- You park
- You walk in the Food Court
- You turn right and head toward JC Penney.
- You forget what you needed at JC Penney.
- You forget why you were at the mall.
- You forget THAT you were at the mall. At this point, the fact that you have forgotten where you are parked makes scant difference.
- Confusion ensues and you sit at a bench and try to sort it out.
- Eventually you are found by a mall cop who asks if you are OK and calls home for you.
Getting lost, obviously, has multiple bonus facets when you are driving. Your ability to move out of range of finding is enhanced greatly and the Silver Alerts common in the area are often needed. However, it is also possible to get lost in your own home, in the yard, and even in a nursing home…and it takes skilled and empathetic folks to reassure you that you are ok.
See, anxiety is the frustrating cousin of this warning sign as is self-imposed isolation. When we suffer a being lost scare, these two cousins rear their heads and send the sufferer into a spiral of being afraid and staying home/isolated so it doesn’t happen again. As I have mentioned in at least 25 articles, isolation is super harmful to anyone, but especially to one suffering with early dementia symptoms. It genuinely makes things worse and makes it even more likely you will lose something…or your way…again.
These problems can manifest themselves in many other ways too: being accusatory that loved ones are stealing from you (when you actually just lost things), hoarding everything into one area that you can keep an eye on it, over-reliance on lists, storing things in strange places, and other similar ways. My mom had a stage that she would keep a pillow case filled with her valuable things (that were far less valuable than other things…a lesson we could all learn…) and carried it everywhere in the house that she would go. Sometimes she would even slip food/drinks in there, which would cause a mess…but it was her coping mechanism for fear of getting lost or losing something.
Billions are made yearly, rightly so, in equipment to help protect a loved one from getting lost, but, in the end, it also takes manpower. We must develop a support system and make decisions (take away the car keys) that are very hard. That is one reason why the Alzheimer’s Association and your nearby Area Agency on Aging exists…to help you plan and protect and get respite time from planning and protecting. But in order to enlist these two group’s help, you must talk to your doctor if you lose things, get lost, and/or fail to be able to retrace your steps. Please do it today. Things can be done to help, but the first step is at the doc’s office.
Update: My stepdad and I had a nice visit with mom today in the cool-ish and breezy morning air. Mom was super happy although she wasn’t particularly verbal. We snuck over and looked at her shin where the scratch was and it is just a scratch. When you can only see a small spot and there is more hidden beneath a pant leg, it is worrisome, but all is fine. Probably dry skin… We are trying, in vain, to work out some form of birthday party for mom, but it seems as though the Shawshank regulations may make it an outside the window only party. We will keep working on it. I certainly understand the issue…
Dad Joke of the Day:
What’s the difference between a poorly dressed man on a tricycle and a well-dressed man on a bicycle?