Adventures in Alzheimer’s – hide and seek edition

by Julie Frayn on August 8, 2015 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's

When your parent has Alzheimer’s, you never know from day to day what you’re going to find. Or not find.

pics of grandson's, face down

pics of grandson’s, face down

Her glasses went missing recently – for four bloody days. We searched everywhere we could, in the sugar canister, the freezer, the oven, in every nook and cranny, every drawer and closet. No damn glasses. I was about to take Mom to her dentist optometrist to order a new pair but wanted one last kick at the hide and seek can. In one of those serendipitous moments borne of total frustration, I flipped the pillow off the bed she never sleeps in (technically, I smacked it in anger and it flopped over without fanfare) and tada! Glasses. They were under the pillow the whole time. Now it’s the first place we look for stuff.

same pics of grandson's hidden in a drawer

pics of grandson’s hidden in a drawer

Her black television remote went missing the same day as the glasses. It was a few days later during a cleaning session that I found them. Needed some cleaning supplies, so down on one knee I bent and stuck my head under the sink. Voila! Remote control, standing upright in a bucket next to a duster and a can of Ajax. In its absence, we were lucky to have the Flipper that I’d ordered from Amazon. It would also go missing but be quickly found in the freezer, under the couch, or more recently, in place of baby Jesus in the year-round nativity scene.

One morning, all of her lamps were gone. They wouldn’t fit under the pillow, so we checked Dad’s snuggery (the room that used to be my brother’s bedroom but was turned into a treatment room for dad’s dialysis. Now, 20 years after his death, it’s a dumping ground for hidden stuff, unused Depends stuffed into a velvet box, and Mom’s rarely worn clothes).

pic of Mom & Systir hidden in a drawer (often found under the couch)

another pic hidden in a drawer (often found under the couch)

We got the lamps back in place, but they had no light bulbs. We never did find those. So I stole some from the ceiling fan.

Another visit, most everything was missing from her stereo. She has an old fashioned console kind that is just used to display pictures and hold lamps. Hasn’t played records in decades. I asked where her stuff was. She had no idea and wanted to know who moved it and why?

The popular philosophy is to go along with her version of reality. Or as baby girl and I put it, buy into the crazy. It’s not a skill I’ve learned. Sometimes, rare times, I can do it. But how do you let her think strangers are coming into her house and moving her shit? I’m not going to tell her that I do it. So we tell the truth, we seem to be better at that. We explain that, in a tired state, likely in the night, she moves her things. She can’t believe it, says she would never do such a thing.

Painting done by my Grandpa, covered by mom's jacket

Painting done by my Grandpa, covered by mom’s jacket

Sigh.

We discovered later that she’d cleaned off the stereo the night before. My systir had been over and it was all gone. She found the lamp and put it back, then discovered a cord PINNED to another cord. Luckily Mom couldn’t get the pin THROUGH the cord, but I bet she tried. The next day, baby girl found everything else. Under mom’s bed.

She moves pictures a lot. Sometimes she just puts them face down in situ. Other times they disappear – into drawers, under the couch, under the bed. My working theory is that they turn into strangers staring at her, watching her. She keeps school pics of my systir’s boys on her dresser. They disappear and reappear and appear face down at regular intervals. One time she asked who put them there. I said she did.

No, I’ve never seen them before.

They’ve been there for about 17 years.

found under the bed - all the pics from the stereo

found under the bed – all the pics from the stereo

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn Frayn August 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm

I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense to agree with her that a stranger comes in and moves or hides things. I think that just reinforces her fear. That night with the stereo (she had called to ask if I knew where everything had gone) I also told her that she took things away, probably the night before, when she was very tired. She didn’t believe me either. I’m glad B found the photos under the bed, I looked freaking everywhere, but there! The cord shenanigans are a worry. xo

Reply

Julie Frayn August 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Next weekend I’m going to ask baby girl to take Mom grocery shopping. Then I’m going over to hide that stereo wire and see if I can’t clip the phone cord (or tuck it under the baseboard). xo back

Mary Smith August 9, 2015 at 7:39 am

They – the experts in dementia care – are always saying we should make use of family photos to keep the person engaged and help them remember but recently I’ve been wondering if that really is a good idea. If a person is confronted by photos of ‘strangers’ I can’t see it being helpful. Dad was cross once when I brought old family photos. I thought it was because he objected to me going through cupboards to find them but later I realised he was upset and embarrassed because he didn’t know who the people in the photos were. Soemtimes, he recognised everyone and named them; sometimes he was looking at total strangers.

Reply

Julie Frayn August 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I can imagine the frustration! Mom has a lot of photos around, and more and more doesn’t know who some of the people are. Doesn’t help that in many of them, I don’t know who they are either…

Kathi August 9, 2015 at 7:59 am

I agree with you and Carolyn and Mary, about the pictures and about not going with the crazy flow all the time, not reinforcing it by default. You need to throw out that anchor of reality now and then at least, even if she won’t grasp it or forgets that she grasped it for a second. Oh, Julie. Lordy.

Reply

Julie Frayn August 9, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Yeah. Reality is a concept that she’s lost. She called me last night to ask if I had her doggy. He’s been dead for four years. That’s not the first time she’s called someone because she can’t find her dog. But this was the first time she was awake (i.e. hadn’t just woken up). Unless she had and she didn’t know it. So I had to break the news of his death again. She had a little cry.

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