The first time that I went to a support group, one of the veterans of this dementia caregiving experience who was present asked me if Mom had started wandering out of the house yet. He encouraged me to start looking into adult day programs, a suggestion that probably elicits in Mom an equal level of horror as moving into any type of senior community. She thinks of herself, she reports even today, as quite independent.
Well, yesterday one independent woman I call Mom strolled right out the front door in inappropriate winter clothing, leaving the door unlocked.
I have absolutely no idea how long she was out of the house or what really transpired while she was out. By some miracle, she had a fully charged cell phone with her and she picked it up when I called. Since she rarely answers the phone, or even carries it, I am grateful for this. I found Mom perhaps 6 blocks from our place early enough in the evening that her fingers had not yet fallen off from frost bite. I got her home and settled in with hot coffee, dinner and pajamas. She reported that she had talked to a lot of nice people.
For me, the whole experience was one of those dividing lines that happen in life. Before yesterday, I still had the illusion of Mom being relatively safe. Today, I know that she is not. We agreed that she will wear a bracelet with my phone number as an immediate step but of course, it is not enough.
Somehow I did appreciate the fact that she reported that at some point in her wandering she managed to make it to a bookstore that is a preferred walk of ours– the store is about a mile from our place and we often go there in the evenings. Mom points out to me that she found the bookstore just fine. I point out that she did not find our house again afterward. Her response to that was that a description that she was close, but just a little bit off. By the description, I suppose we can say that she was just a little bit unsafe. Oh, the reassurance.