Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reality check, deuxième fois

Typically, in the aftermath of a great event, there's a debriefing. In the debrief, from what I've gathered from my reading of various thrillers, parties to the event talk about what went on, how it went and perhaps if it's a learning organization, there is also some talk about how things could have been handled differently or better. In the parallel universe that is Alzheimer's care, you can dispense with the debriefing. It serves no useful purpose.

Case Study
This morning, mother and I went out to one of her doctor's appointments. We were out for several hours. We came home and I immediately served lunch. I try to limit the number of hours without food or water, because we have found that good alimentation and hydration help to keep the mind clear. Yeah, well.

At approximately five p.m., mother came down the stairs in her outside shoes (usually she's in bedroom slippers) and said to me, "I'm going out". Now, I thought she meant that she was going to take a walk alone. This would have been a problem since she tends to go too far and not remember which house she lives in, but this time, she had far more on her mind. It turned out that what she meant was that she was going to walk to her sister's house. Unfortunately, her sister does not live on this land mass, so clearly this was not a good idea. I stopped her at the door and advised calmly that we were in the United States of America and that her sister was at home in Trinidad. She chuckled in that, "I don't think so" way that she does. Here's what happened next ...........

"I spent the entire morning with her this morning", she insisted, this in response to my saying that her sister was at home in Trinidad and that we were at home in the US.
"No," I replied. "You spent the morning with me."
She gave me one of her famous, 'don't be ridiculous' looks even as she pulled the front door further open. So there we were getting ready to get in to a tug-o-war over the front door. She was ready to head out to find her sister, and I was busy trying to stop her progress. Frankly I was also a little nervous about the intent in her eyes and voice. She was going. Her mind was made up. I had to figure out how to stop her. For a brief moment there, I was scrambling psychologically and then a flash of genius, "Well, let me just call her for you," I offered. 
"I don't know the number," she said. 
"Well I know it. I can call her." 
"You know it? How you know it?"
"She's my aunt. I know the number."
"She's your aunt? I never knew that."
There's no time for self pity or frustration or anguish here. I don't even know what those things feel like. All I know is that I have to get on with it. Whatever it takes to slow her momentum. I made the call and tersely explained to my aunt that I was calling because Barbara was trying to head out the door to walk to her place. They talked for about 20 minutes. From what I could hear of the call, they seemed to be having a fairly normal conversation. As usual, the question of Mummy going home to resume teaching came up, but my aunt did her best to dissuade her. At the end of the call, Barbara seemed to be better oriented as to place and person but who really knows? Certainly, she was no longer intent on heading out the front door!

After the call I found myself, because Mummy now seemed more Mummy-esque, trying to debrief the event. How stoopid am I? Seriously? In my weak defense I will say that at that point, Barbara really did seem to be more in the present, so I actually thought (did I really think at all?) this was a good idea. But just to prove that reality and orientation as to time, person and place are fleeting what did she say to me? As I recounted the events of the last thirty minutes she laughed and began to explain things away and then, because it seemed relevant I asked, "Do you know who I am? Do you know my name?"
"No" she said, "what is your name?" I told her. And then, the punch-in-the-face line, she said to me, "You are Mary Smith? If you were Mary Smith I would know you and you would know me."

I would know you, you would know me. Reality, expletive deleted, check. Deuxième fois. How many times will reality be checked I wonder?

Copyright © October 2011 L.S. Semper 

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