I think I’ve written in other posts that mom’s latest fixation is taking walks. We have concerns with her walking by herself, so to prevent catastrophe, we have “babysitters” over daily to keep an eye on those happy feet.
A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, a lady from church was over watching mom. Mom was adamant that she was walking to her sister’s house that day (about 1 - 1 1/2 miles down the road) and was quite annoyed that people were over everyday to visit when all she really wanted to do was go for a walk by herself. This sweet sister from church told mom she would be delighted to walk with her, so off they went on their walk to my Aunt’s house. Once at my Aunt’s house, my Aunt told this lady that she would make sure mom got home safely and that she need not stay with her the rest of their visit. A little after noon time, my cousin drove my mom back home to her house.
Today mom was at it again. I got a text from my Aunt Ellen to say that mom had walked over to her house. That same lady from church had gone with her and once they were at my Aunt’s house, she left mom to visit with her sister. My Aunt had planned on driving her home. However, when mom was ready to go home, Aunt Ellen couldn’t find her car keys. Waiting patiently is not an ability mom possesses any longer. As my Aunt went to change her clothes and look for her keys, mom slipped out the front door. Aunt Ellen is disabled, so she was unable to chase after her and she still hadn’t found her keys.
Meanwhile…I was picking my son up from Kindergarten and never heard the notification that I had received a new text. I had just gotten in the door, was trying to cool off from the heat outside and sat down in my chair, thinking of what to make the boys for lunch. I made a quick phone call to handle a business matter. As I was on the house phone, my cell phone rang and I saw that it was my other Aunt (Claudia). I didn’t think much about it (she wasn’t with my mom today, so I never thought it would be a call about mom) so I dismissed the call as I finished up my other phone call. When I hung up the phone, I opened up my cell phone just in time to receive a second text from my Aunt Ellen, entitled: “Urgent”. I read through the 2 texts to learn that mom had gotten away before Aunt Ellen could stop her. I texted her back to ask if she had found her keys, knowing she most likely hadn’t, and immediately loaded the boys back into their car seats.
Right as I was pulling out of the driveway, my dad called.
“I’m on my way out the door to look for mom,” I said, knowing that was exactly why he was calling.
Dad was frustrated. This was exactly the kind of fiasco that he has been worried about and has tried so hard to avoid. He tried calling mom’s cell phone, which led him straight to voicemail. His fear was that mom had become confused on her way back and lost her way. And with her not answering her phone, it added more stress to the situation.
I tried to reassure my dad that mom getting lost would be the last of our worries. I worried more about her not recognizing traffic and getting hit by a car, or collapsing from the 100 degree heat. In our meetings with UCLA, and in my research on semantic dementia, the memory of how to get from one familiar place to the next remains preserved…at least, until the later stages.
However, as I was talking with dad and driving around, I saw no signs of mom. I drove around the route that I thought she was most likely to take. Then I looped back around to try the alternative roads she could have turned down. Still no mom. I was beginning to get a little worried. I hung up with dad to call Aunt Ellen to verify what time she left her house; surely she couldn’t have made it all the way home yet. As I made my way around the loop for a 3rd time, Aunt Ellen on the line, I finally saw mom. Relief swept over me when I saw her face. I pulled the car over to the curb, where mom stopped and stood by as if she was waiting for me to drive past. She finally realized who I was and opened the passenger door.
“Oh good, it’s so good you were driving here too because I’m so sweaty and tired too and I got lost coming back; I went to Ellen’s and I took the wrong way, I went the other way instead of that way and it was so weird too and I couldn’t find the right street and then I had to go all the way back around and then I came this way too so it’s so good you found me….”
On and on she rambled, hardly pausing to breathe, let alone allow me to get a word in. Over and over I asked,
“Where is your phone? Mom, dad was trying to call you, why aren’t you answering your phone?”
When she finally heard what I was asking, she replied,
“My phone? Here, it’s broken, it wouldn’t work so I tried to fix it at Ellen’s but it won’t work so I have to take it home too and charge it…”
I tried to explain to her that she cannot leave the house without making sure her phone works and furthermore, she should not be walking alone. She didn’t hear a word I said. Instead, she rambled on and on about her walk, how much she was sweating, how the lady from church walked her to her sister’s. On and on she went until I pulled into her driveway.
“I’m glad you’re safe mom, please don’t scare us again,” I said (talking over her, of course).
Mom unlatched her seatbelt and opened her door.
“Oh I need to see if the mail’s here too. It’s so good that you saw me, I’m so sweaty I’m gonna go get the mail now and go inside.”
And with that, she shut the car door and walked away.
I am glad that mom was safe today. One thing is clear…we can’t rely on mom’s ability to navigate anymore. Sadly, that ability is declining with everything else. And now some more hard begins, as dad has to figure out how keep mom “under control” while he is gone for the day at work. :/