• Lisa

not-so-great escapes

I knew it was going to happen sometime, and this past week it finally did. Mom eloped.

I’m using the word in the sense we use it in health care, when someone not cognitively competent makes an escape, planned or not, from their home or facility. She hasn’t tried before, though the whole wanting to go home thing and not understanding that’s where she is has been getting progressively worse. Wednesday night a week ago, she went for the door. She’s done it a few times recently, but in daylight, or evening at the latest, and she’s always told me she wanted to look at the outside of the house. Remember I wrote in an earlier post that she seemed to be trying to orient herself sometimes.

On Wednesday though, it was in the middle of the night. She woke me up at 2 am yelling and grabbing things and saying she had to leave, we had to stay up until 7 o’clock, a doctor was coming and she had to meet him, and assorted other things that made no sense at all. She hadn’t been sleeping well the past week or more anyway, and I was so sleep-deprived I could barely see straight. Somehow, though, I blocked her. I managed to stand firm while she hit me, then flopped on the floor and flailed around, and kicked me in the shins.

I don’t know how I kept my composure. The past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself really emotionally distressed when she goes out of her head, having to fight not to cry and yell. I’ve been praying ‘Lord, if you have to, just burn my emotions out completely. I’d rather feel nothing at all than to hurt this much.’ That’s exactly what happened that Wednesday night. Mom raised fifteen different kinds of cain for two or three hours, and I stood there and really didn’t feel a thing: no temptation to scream or push back or anything. After the fact, I was very thankful.

The next day, I noticed her pee seemed to smell especially bad. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was the pee, or just her toilet needed cleaning (LOL). So I scrubbed the john out, but the next time she went, yep, still super smelly. Friday morning I called her doctor. He only comes in half a day on Friday usually, and does paperwork but doesn’t see patients. I explained the situation to the nurse who answered, and she put me on hold. When she came back she was almost giggling. “He says your diagnosis sounds right, and he’s going to call her in an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection,” she said. UTIs, in case you didn’t know this, can make a normal elderly person go out of their head. If said elder is already mostly there, it just makes everything worse.

Mom started the antibiotic that night. By Saturday evening she seemed much better already; her pee smelled normal, and she looked in the mirror and asked if I would help her wash her hair. On top of that, she even spent a while cleaning around her bathroom sink afterwards. I went to bed about midnight, hopeful.

Then came 2:20 am. She woke me up raving again. This time I couldn’t catch her in time. They move like toddlers, some demented people, quick and sneaky and slick as a snake. She made it out the door and onto the porch. There was no attempt to orient herself, no rational thought at all that I could tell, other than yelling she had to get to the neighbors and wake them up. I tried to get her off the porch. She flopped down, like she does indoors when she can’t get her way, then started to try and get off into the yard. Wrestling her was of no avail.

Now, bear in mind, it’s 3 am by this point. It’s 20 degrees out (if you live somewhere where you use Celsius, that’s 6 below 0_0) and I’m wearing nothing at all but short pajamas. No time to grab slippers or robe or anything, and afraid to leave her. When she rolled off into the yard, though, I managed to dash back into the house, but just long enough to grab my phone and run back out. By then she had crawled into the driveway and was trying to get to the road.

That tore it. I pulled the trigger and called 911. I was crying and shivering. The operator kept me on the line to explain, but he kept asking if I needed police or an ambulance. “I don’t know!” I told him. “I can’t get her back in, and she’s sick, and it’s so cold.” So bless him, he sent both. When 3 cops pulled up, they wrangled mom and told me to go in and get some clothes. I could barely feel my feet by then, but I staggered inside for my houseshoes and housecoat, plus my scoodie (scarf-hood; I crocheted it last winter).

When I got back outside the ambulance was coming up, eerily quiet though red lights were flashing. It reminded me of the last time I’d had one at home at night, the night my dad died. I filled the paramedics in, they loaded mom, and I ran back inside to get dressed. Of course, by the time I got to the hospital, mom was calm, and back to her baseline of what I used to call in my patients ‘pleasantly confused’. Man, if I had known then what I know now.

Anyway, this is the long version of ‘why it’s been 3 weeks since I blogged’. I hope to get back on weekly posts, because I need to talk about Christmas. I’m kind of dreading it. But that’s another post. Later, y’all.

#caregiver #dementia

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