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Posts Tagged ‘safe’

old man sleepingin bed

Even while asleep this caregiver gets comfort from her husband with Alzheimers; sleeping in the house.

I sometimes feel a bit isolated when the caregivers leave, but not for long.  Ken is in bed and usually asleep as the evening stretches before me.  Yes, cabin bound, but I don’t feel I’m alone in the house.  I’m not.  My husband is sleeping in the next room.  I can sit with him and read or I can talk to him if he’s awake.  Awake or asleep he doesn’t make much sense, but that’s all right.  If something entertaining is on the tube, I can sit next to his bed and watch TV, holding his hand while he sleeps – or not.

Alzheimer’s makes life such a dichotomy: at times I state that he is gone and other times when we are alone he is with me.  At night, his very presence gives me a semblance of companionship – the same feelings I had years ago when his day had been long and hard, and sleep beckoned earlier for him than usual.  He was at home although he was asleep.  If someone called I would simply ask if it was important because Ken had a rough day and had gone to bed early. I suppose that’s the feeling I have now at night:  my husband is here, but he went to sleep early.

It’s with that feeling I go about my evening – even laughing at myself for the lack of logic in some of my actions.  Ken’s caregiver, Ben, is very good to me and very considerate.  Waste Management comes to our neighborhood on Wednesdays to collect the contents of our various waste containers so Ben puts the cans out on the street before he leaves each Tuesday evening.  He also makes sure the cans from the house have been emptied as well. However, there are times when a forgotten waste basket filled with paper needs to be added to the recycle can.  I think nothing of taking the trash out to the street before I go to bed – even at midnight.  I have no fear of leaving the door open and dumping my small amount of paper into the recycle bin for pick up the next day because my husband is in the house.  If I lived totally alone, even though I am comfortable in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t empty the basket until daylight.  How rational is that?  Am I safer because he is here?  In his condition, certainly not, but because my husband is here,  I feel safe.  I know my reasoning defies logic, but feeling safe and feeling that I’m not alone is not only a comfort, but a battle fought and won, and it’s a blessing to have someone with me in the house, even if that someone could do nothing if a bad guy jumped out from behind a bush.

Bob DeMarco in his Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog often talks about AD victims still being here, and physically DeMarco, of course, is right and in some cases an AD victim’s cognitive awareness is in and out.  In reading about his experiences with his mother, Dotty, I realize that where she is with her AD is not where Ken is with his AD. During his awake time when daylight fills the room he is seldom the Ken I have been married to for more than a half century.  And when I look into his hazel-green eyes and see no response or recognition, and I’m sure others will agree, that’s when I have that feeling he is not here – he is gone.  But other times, and during those long night hours, as lacking in logic as it is, he is here with me — but we mustn’t disturb him because my husband is sleeping. And his presence fills my home and my heart.

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lost shoe

Like a long lost shoe, Alzheimer's patients often feel lonely, lost and abandoned.

“Good grief,” confessed my neighbor Ruth many years ago,  “I forgot Laurie at Mayfair’s.”  It was a few days after the fact that she mustered up enough courage to tell me she had forgotten her child while shopping at one of those supermarkets where there was a built-in Kiddie Korral, a special fenced-in corner of the store where you could leave your children for a few minutes, withour worry, while picking up groceries.  More often than not Ruth went shopping by herself, leaving the younger children with her oldest daughter, who was more than capable of keeping an eye on her younger siblings.  All of the little ones had enjoyed a few stays in the Korral, and if they caught mom heading out to buy groceries, they pleaded to go along.

“Oh please,” Laurie had begged, “Can I come with you – pleeeeease?”  How could Ruth resist such coaxing?   Laurie climbed into the car with her mother and off they went, the little girl being more excited about her visit to the Kiddie Korral than spending some one-on-one time with her mother.  Absorbed in the picture books and surrounding toys,  Laurie didn’t notice the time passing, nor did she notice her mother push the grocery cart past the fun-filled corner and out through the open glass doors of the supermarket.  Nor did Ruth remember she had brought one of her children.

“Where’s Laurie?” asked Jackie, helping her mother carry in the groceries. “Did you forget her at the store?” she joked.  That was the moment of truth.  Ruth leaped into the car and raced back to Mayfair’s. There was Laurie still looking at pictures from the pile of selected books next to her chair.  “Time to go,” said Ruth, relieved to find the little girl safe and sound just where she had left her.  For Laurie there was no trauma and no feeling she had been forgotten, much less abandoned, nor would she be scarred for life from the experience. However, Ruth wasn’t alone is losing a child.

One year we lost our three-year-old son, Kevin, at the county fair.  He didn’t want to be in the stroller, so I pushed his empty vehicle while he held his father’s hand.  Feeling independent, he soon insisted on walking alone, and when his sisters, Ken and I turned to go into an exhibit, Kevin kept going straight.  Within seconds we realized he was gone, and he was – disappeared from sight – and so quickly.  After minutes of searching and not finding any trace of him in the crowd, terrible visions began entering our minds.  Immediately we found the sheriff’s office and reported our missing son. “Wait here,” the deputy suggested, “We’ll find him.”

It wasn’t like Ruth leaving Laurie, she was pretty certain she knew where to find her little girl. We did not.  Our child was lost in a world filled with strangers – and they could be dangerous strangers.  My little boy was alone and frightened somewhere out there.  We were near panic.  It seemed like forever before another deputy appeared before us holding our crying and frightened child, his precious face streaked with smudged tears, his small arms stretching forward to me as we both sobbed; Kevin’s tears from being lost, my tears because he was found and safe in my arms.  “No need for positive identification,” said the sergeant in charge. “Looks like she’s the mother.”

Ruth, nor I, nor Ken, were bad parents, neither were the number of other friends we knew who had misplaced, lost or forgotten one of their children during those years of transition from toddler to an independent human being, especially in a large family. Fortunately, all of our lost children were found.

One couple we know drove 50 miles before they realized their small son was not in Uncle John’s car, but back at the dam.  The return trip was a little frantic, but Steven was safe  in the capable care of the park rangers even though he probably felt lost, abandoned and fearful.  Another family outing involving multiple cars arrived home, hours away from their excursion site, before they realized one little boy was still at the aquarium in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  A quick phone call and Uncle Gene who lived in the City came to his rescue, once again finding the lost child safe with aquarium staff.

Those desperate emotions are always within us and rise to the surface when we feel threatened; possibly in preparation for our own defense.   I suppose they belong to the “Fear Family,” often made worse when fear itself is mixed with believing you are alone and lost.  However, with a diseased mind, those same fears of emptiness and desperation can be a constant in addition to other instinctive feelings that bring unimagined misery to the mindless.  Is it any wonder they can rage, become angry and combative?  Occasionally, I look into Ken’s eyes and see fear and entrapment.  I understand how frightening life can be for AD victims when there is no reasoning power to comfort their own confused state.  Reassurance, however, can come from someone else or something: a familiar voice, a caring touch, pleasant music, soft words, company and many other soothing actions or words.

A few weeks ago I walked through our living room on my way to do a few quick errands.  Ken was sitting comfortably in a chair with Ben beside him.

“Where are you going,” Ken asked.

“I have to go to the bank, I’ll be back soon.”

“No, you won’t” he retorted.

Once again I pled my case, “I’ll be right back – really I will.”

“You’re just saying that,” he insisted.  “You won’t ever come back.”

I looked into his handsome face.  Written clearly was that look of abandonment.  Incredible sadness filled his eyes and demeanor.   I felt astonished to read him so well.  I could see the disappointment, the sorrow, the acceptance of my leaving forever as I moved toward the door.  He was convinced that I wouldn’t be coming back.  I was leaving him alone – abandoning him – in his immediate need for comfort and assurance.

“I can do this tomorrow,” I said to Ben, removing my coat and putting my purse aside.  Ken said nothing more as I sat down, but his face showed relief.  Did he know me?  Was he having a Ken moment?  I don’t know the answers.  What I do know is that for a brief period of time he wanted me nearby.  He wanted that feeling of security — to be with someone familiar — even vaguely familiar.  In much the same way as my three-year-old son had buried his wet face in my shoulder, his arms desperately clinging to my neck Ken too wanted to feel safe, knowing that he was found.  This I could give him with my presence.  Even if it lasted for only a little while, I wanted him to be comforted in that moment knowing he had not been abandoned.

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