Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alzheimer's is a Safety Stealer

So, today we are writing about SAFETY at One Word Wednesday over at my web site My Sweet Peanut.

We moved mom in a hurry.  She got sick, had a stroke (which she recovered from beautifully - physically, at least) and could no longer live independently.  We called in a favor from one of my husband's friends with a truck, grabbed some boxes from his work, made one quick trip to Target, put our head's down and had it done in 2 days.

Safety was an afterthought.  I forget sometimes how quickly mom's memory and abilities can deteriorate after an illness.  I was thinking the mom that would be moving in was the mom that had just been at our house the previous Sunday for brunch.

It only took one day to realize the need for a few additional safety precautions.  Moving the knives.  Taking out the rugs.  Taking out all tubes and bottles of everything from the entire downstairs area.  Putting a safety latch on the pantry door.   In those 5 short days in the hospital, she could no longer recognize the difference between a tube of toothpaste and a tube of medication or ointment (isn't that an awful word?).  She refused to open a drawer for silverware, so she might grab the biggest, sharpest knife to cut an orange or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  And she was using crazy, wild, forceful movements to slice - terrifying!  She would reach for things that looked yummy that were much too high for her to reach - and I can tell you mom on her tippy-toes is not a good idea!  Her balance was impaired.  Her strength was low.  She tired easily.  Our rugs might as well have been hurdles.

But all of that was manageable.  I could watch her, see what needed to be changed and fix it. 

And then the Alzheimer's really started to take it's toll on her common sense.  Her long term memory.  Her ability to know the difference between a logical response and a "What the HECK!?" response.

She started opening the door to whomever knocked or rang the bell.  Even after we put a sign up.  The neighbor kids.  The UPS man. Our mail carrier.  Salesmen.  And last week, the kind of scary guy who puts the door hanging flyers on our neighborhood homes really early in the morning.  He didn't even knock - she just saw him walking up the drive and went to open the door!!!  In her nightgown!!!

I tried adding locks up high...did I mention that my mother is bull-headed?  And that she will willingly go up on tippy-toe?  Bad idea.  And not the safe solution I was needing.  I'm not sure what we are going to do - I guess have our home re-keyed and add key only locks outside and INSIDE!

She's also started roaming.  Not out front yet.  But out back.  And there is a tiny step down to get out to our back patio.  Which mom is more than capable of doing - but I would feel better if I were there to assist.  Or catch her.  Or pick her up. 

I'm a nervous wreck every time I run upstairs to grab laundry or make a bed or take a shower.  Not that she'll let me these days...

And that's our newest SAFETY issue.  Unless mom can see me with her eyes.  She is terrified.  She calls out.  Then she screams out.  And on occasion, she wails.  It is heartwrenching. 

Alzheimer's has taken away her ability to know that I have just left the room.  Or that Ill be Right Back.  Or where my voice is coming from.  Or where she is.  Her ability to feel SAFE.

Can you imagine waking up from a nap or a daydream and being in what you think of as a strange place?  A stranger's house?  Having no idea where you are?  Why you are alone?  Where everyone has gone?  How old you are?  Who you are?  Not recognizing the furniture or the scenery or your own clothes....How could you possibly feel safe?

Alzheimer's has stolen a lot of things from this family, but stealing mom's independence and her capacity to feel safe and sound has been the worst thing so far.

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