October 25th, 2011 at 9:28 am
Bookmark and Share

Elders and wandering into trouble

by Judy Kirkwood

My Dad always checked the locks on the doors every night, making sure everyone was safe. That was his job as a husband and father. It became an obsession as his Alzheimer’s progressed. If he could lock the doors, he could unlock them, and one night he let himself outside. It was dark and cold and he was in his pajamas and robe, and so sensitive to cold that we warmed his blankets in the dryer every night at tuck-in.

Mom called my sister around one in the morning to tell her she had searched the house and couldn’t find Dad. As Sis drove up she saw Dad knocking at the front door. He had gone to the car to get his gloves, which he often wore in the house. However, he probably didn’t recognize the house he lived in when he got out of the car, although he seemed fine once he was back inside.

Elders and wandering

My Dad was well cared for by my mother and sister at home until the week before his death when he went from the hospital to a nursing home. But, unlike my father, my mother-in-law was living alone when she began wandering. A neighbor called my husband’s sister to report he had found Faye walking down the road that curved around the golf course at the end of their lane. Usually, she went no further than the mailbox. This time she didn’t seem to know where she was and the neighbor was alarmed at the extent of her forgetfulness.

He didn’t know that although she still dressed herself nicely, bathed and put on make-up, she had started being unable to distinguish people on TV from real people. We began to hear that she was exhausted making coffee for the CNN news crew and that President Bush was at that moment landing his helicopter on the circle of grass in front of her house. That was certainly a sign Faye needed live-in help or to be in a nursing home. But that was not my decision to make.

I think when you have not grown up in the same house with someone who begins suffering disorientation as a result of dementia, it is easier to see how abnormal things have become. But when that person is someone on whom you have relied and who has taken care of you, it is more difficult to admit.

There was no denying that there was danger on the road past the mailbox. It was time. Thankfully, Faye adjusted beautifully to her new nursing home room where, when she wandered out her door, there were many friendly faces.

Posted in Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Other | 2 Comments »
Tags: , ,

2 Comments to “Elders and wandering into trouble”

  1. Helen

    So sad when loved ones “go missing” — whether physically or mentally.

  2. Lila

    Embarrassed to say that I sleepwalked a few times as a kid and my parents had to get a lock on the door that locked from the inside. When I went off to sleepaway camp, they told my counselor and I was mortified by the embarrassment of it all.

Leave a Reply