My nephew came to visit for a few weeks during the summer. He spent his days in the way most children do. He went exploring the woods, and he went swimming. He was a wonderful visitor and we enjoyed his company. The only problem was he was young and he did not understand the reality of his grandfather’s disease.
My mother and I seemed to be constantly searching for my nephew. Where was he? We would call out to him and worry. He always returned completely unharmed with the same story. “I told Grandpa where I was going.”
No matter how many times we told him that Grandpa was an unreliable source, my nephew just did not understand. He thought we were just being overly protective and dramatic women. I don’t think my nephew even understands the stress we went through now that he is an adult. Maybe it is best that way. May he always remember his grandfather as the gentle soul who thought he was old enough to be safe anywhere he went.
It was a challenge for us when Dad would answer the phone, have whole conversations with people, and then not even remember who had called. Once, he had invited people over to sell him a reverse mortgage. Fortunately, those men were very friendly and were quite aware of what was going on by the time they left. No paperwork was signed and no reverse mortgage was completed. After all, my husband and I were in the process of buying the house.
The first take-away from this experience is it is not only those who have Alzheimer’s who wander, little boys wander thinking the Alzheimer’s patient is completely capable of allowing them to do so. Though my nephew was never in any danger, Alzheimer’s patients should not be responsible for the wellbeing of children. That is a difficult reality.
It is so incredibly difficult to get others to understand the reality of the disease. My father’s friends were always telling my mother that he could not be sick. After all, they were having wonderful conversations with him and he was quite coherent. The problem is, he could have an intellectual conversation, but he just couldn’t remember enough to follow through with day-to-day life decisions.
The second take-away, and perhaps the most important, is that there are very aggressive people in this world who spend their days calling on the elderly. They have interesting ways of getting sensitive information from their victims, I am sure you can think of a few yourself, such as “Your computer sent us a warning that there is something wrong” –we now have access to your computer. “Your family member is in danger, send us money” – we now have access to your bank account. “You need security,” the list goes on.
We were fortunate in that we were there. I can’t imagine what might have happened had my father been living alone.