My brain is different than many (Understatement alert!!) As you surely have noticed as you sit at the digital cornbread table, I think and express my thoughts quite often in analogies and little stories. Today is not going to be an exception to this.
I drive daily on a very busy highway that has two lanes going both north and south. I have been struck (pardon the near pun) by how often people will pull off of one of the many small or large perpendicular roads onto MY highway at a customarily slowish speed…right into the path of cars going between my speed (about 58 MPH) and the rest of the folks’ speed (going 79+ MPH). The assumption is that those in the right lane will get over to accommodate their blind brave-pidity. People actually die pretty frequently when such a Russian Roulette lands on the bullet instead of the empty chamber…a.k.a. when someone is surfing the web on their phone in the right lane and don’t notice the brave slowpoke pulling out. Today I experienced a new version of this quaint scenario. A cowpoke pulled out in front of me pulling a large horse trailer and my left lane was ocupado. Tire screeching and some swearing in my heart happened and I barely evaded the Lone Ranger and Tonto towing Silver the horse, but not before I nearly emptied my bladder. What made this stranger is the fact that said fella had the door to the trailer wide OPEN. The horse seemed ok and, about 5 minutes down the highway I saw him pulled over securing Silver and the open door. The horse seemed oblivious.
Considering this an analogy, if you will, the poor horse was mom or one of the Sweet 17. Environment makes all the difference! Likely 30 minutes before, said mare was probably eating some green goodies in the field. She got loaded up by someone and had her routine ended. She was exposed to brand new dangers, some realized and some not….and depended completely on the wisdom of her caretaker the whole while.
We make mistakes in caretaking all of the time. The trick is to NOT make careless mistakes. Take your time and think through outcomes before pulling out into traffic. Get advice for people of whom this isn’t their first rodeo. Pray about decisions. Read the ALZ.org or similar websites. Talk to social workers. There is no sense reinventing the wheel. If you need more time to work through complex situations, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s help line or your local area agency on aging and see if respite funds are available to get some time off to discuss and plan with your care team.
This scenario also calls to mind the necessity to plan ahead. You can only plan ahead if you know what you face. Ask the hard questions if you or your loved one has signs of dementia. Talk to your primary care physician. If you have received a diagnosis, don’t panic…but do act. Gather resources. Plan for care. Study. Learn. Start attending care meetings and support groups. You may see the potential disasters ahead…the likely ones (like the danger of pulling out into traffic) and you may be surprised (the trailer door may have became unlatched). The more you know, the better you can plan and try to make good choices. Life and hard choices come at you like a 1991 Ford Tempo driving 59MPH (I was flying compared to normal)…be ready.
My 1991 Ford Tempo is a luxurious little car. Sure it’s AC has been weighed and found wanting and the car as a whole has its “issues”, but don’t we all? She only has 60k miles on her and I drive an almost innumerable number of miles, so I can suffer until I retire her to pasture and move to the next cheapster car. 😉 What makes me think of dementia when I think of my car is the whole concept of One-Size-Fits-All (Most?). This car should hold my 300 pound frame because it “holds 4 passengers” and “I am a passenger”. Simple logic. However, I have to contort and exhale to squeeze my girth into the “white bomber”. That actually isn’t a big deal to me at all. What is frustrating to me is the sun shade.
Minus a strong enough AC (she uses the old Freon that was falsely deemed to create a global apocalypse and made obsolete decades ago) I need to do everything I can to keep her cool so her rear view mirror doesn’t melt off of her glass. (This has already happened). I realize for my Deep South and Southwest US friends that out 95 degrees “isn’t that bad”, but to me, a computer guy used to sitting in a cool/cold office, the heat is a shock. So I resort to a sunscreen whose package assures me that it will work for 99% of the cars on the road today. LOL. My pint-sized Tempo is officially a 1%er!!!! 😉
So what, from a dementia standpoint, you may ask? Well, while a one-size-fits-all approach to caring for a loved one with dementia isn’t ideal, copying and learning from other people will help give you a starting point. Every case is indeed different. Symptoms are different. The original personalities (pre-disease) are completely unique. That being said, there are patterns that the disease brings people through that are very similar, depending stage and type of dementia. The more you know and the more experts you can meet, the better off you are. I am NOT an expert, but I do learn every single day of ways I did well in some cases and poorly in other cases. I have learned a lot the hard way. I wish I would have known more several years ago, and I have nobody but me to blame. My biggest wish is that I would have learned and studied from people in the trenches instead of going it on my own for as long as I did. One-size-fits-all may be one-size-fits-most, but some starting point is better than nuthin’. My sunscreen in the ole Tempo is folded and wrinkled and bent and squeezed under the visor to hold it still…but it is helping a little until I can find a 1991 Tempo-capable sunscreen on Ebay. And when I do find that sunscreen, I hope it has Pac- Man or The Dukes of Hazzard on it so it can remain in theme. 😉
Last thought/kind of an update: The nursing home is requesting to move mom into the general population into a nearby wing of the facility. I am torn on how much to fight this. Mom is certainly not a Bird Woman of Alz-catraz and cannot escape her wheelchair, needless to say the building, so that is no longer a reason to keep her in the lock down unit. However, she is/was a social person and I fear her spending hours and hours staring at the wall in her room. They do have 2 activities folks in the general population and mom will participate, in whatever capacity she can, in those sessions. It MAY be safer from airborne viruses being separate. We are just torn on the decision and are seeking advice here and elsewhere. Any thoughts from the cornbread table?
I will update you as we decide how to approach moving away from the Sweet 17 into the land of the Sweet 150+…most of whom are unfamiliar and some of whom may be less sweet.
Thank you for indulging me in my analogy/story party. 🙂