I was talking to one of the local shuttle drivers that used to take my dad on errands around town. This was as Dad was beginning to move into mid-stage Alzheimer’s, where he could no longer be trusted to complete even simple tasks independently. One of the chores my mom would send Dad out to do was to get the mail at the post office. The driver would drop Dad off and wait for him. This should have only taken a few minutes. Dad was in there about 10 minutes and the driver got worried, so he went inside to look for him.
He said Dad was wandering around, with a lost look on his face. He said, “I can’t find our box.” Surprisingly, he remembered what number the box was, just not where it was located. This was a task he had easily managed to do hundreds of times before.
The driver helped Dad get the mail but soon after, Mom would have to add one more chore to her growing list, as Dad lost the ability to complete even the most mundane of tasks successfully on his own.
It’s easy to overlook personal mobility when it comes to growing older. Dad was able to ambulate up until the last few months of his life, and while this worried me (as he did suffer multiple falls that sent him to the ER), it also was a comfort that he wasn’t bedridden. Dad loved to walk and even if his last year was spent shuffling up and down the drab nursing home hallway, at least he wasn’t staring at a ceiling that whole time.
I went for a brief, 10-minute walk today to pick up some things from the local convenience store. The short trip is actually quite scenic, as half the way there is a walking path that borders a golf course. I have walked this same path with my parents multiple times before, but now I walk it alone. Dad is gone, and Mom is not strong enough yet for that long of a walk. She lamented that fact today, as she was so used to being independent, as Dad was before he became ill.
Most of us take our ability to walk for granted. The ability to go outside on your own, breathe fresh air and stretch your legs seems so trivial, but for my mom right now, it is not an option without someone by her side.
I don’t like to think how I will be when I get older/become sick. I have such a fierce independent streak. I’m also not a people person. At least Mom thrives on the social interactions of those who assist with her care now. All of her caregivers, from home health aides to doctors just love having Mom as a patient, because she is so easy to deal with.
I apologize in advance for the type of patient I will probably be. 🙂