Memory care, here we come


When I last wrote, J’s continuing care retirement community had suggested she leave assisted living for memory care. My initial reaction was somewhat negative. I mostly was concerned that J no longer would have control over her own comings and goings because memory care residents can’t leave the floor without supervision. 

What a difference a couple of weeks — and a little bit of information and an open mind — can make.  The most important change came because I went back and visited the memory care unit. I hadn’t seen it since I first looked at the CCRC in March 2016. 

Memory is a funny thing, even in those of us with no impairment. I had remembered a much more institutional setting. The memory unit I visited, however, was very homey. It had only 24 residents, three full time staff members at all times and a dedicated activities director. I have often thought that there should be group homes for people with Alzheimer’s disease. This memory unit seemed pretty close to that ideal. 

Of course, no bed was immediately available for J, so we began to wait and the CCRC administration went radio silent, failing to respond to my phone calls or emails. Sadly, this is not unusual. 

What happened next was one of those blessings in disguise. Last week, J wandered off the CCRC campus and was found in the rain on a neighborhood street. Now that the CCRC was at risk for potential liability if J were hurt while she wandered, they swung into action. J started to spend days in memory care, returning to her assisted living room only at night. 

And then magically, a room opened up. She will move in on Monday. 

The move is not without annoyances. J has to be financially qualified for this new level of care, so there are forms to fill out, bank statements to provide, phone calls with my lawyer and a contract to negotiate. The actual move also is largely my responsibility, so I had to hire a mover on very short notice. 

These irritations are small, however, compared with my firm belief that J will be much happier in this new setting. 

Stay tuned. 

My Wandering Star

J and I are on our way home from a great day in New York, seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with friends and enjoying a delicious Italian lunch. (Yes, even Jewish girls can appreciate a Christmas show, especially when it involves the high-kicking Rockettes, a gaggle of Santas and snowflake drones floating around the theater.)

  

It wasn’t always clear the day would end so well. Yesterday, I told J we were going to New York today and tried to determine out loud when we would need to wake up to get ready, walk the dog and drive to the train station. Big mistake because, unbeknownst to me, this made J anxious.

I was doing my usual million and one errands – paying bills on the third floor, doing laundry on the first floor. At 9:45 pm, I thought J was in the bedroom on the second floor when I heard the front door slam. Down the stairs I flew. J and the dog were gone. In the rain. I tried J’s cell phone and heard it ring in the house. 

We live in a nice but very urban area where dangers lurk in the dark of night. Fortunately, our dog is a rescue pit bull who looks fierce. (Appearances can be deceiving. He is actually very sweet.)

  
I quickly put on shoes, jumped in the car and made a loop around the neighborhood. No J. I started on a second loop in the other direction. There was J and the dog, coming up the street. 

I did ask J in exasperation what she was doing and where she thought she was going.  She couldn’t communicate a coherent response. I firmly believe she thought we were leaving for New York and she had to walk the dog. 

Next time we have to go somewhere, I won’t tell her until the morning of. It will be easier on my heart. 

Let’s See if this Works

While I am quickly investigating additional resources to cope with J’s recent wandering, I have increased the signage at home. Post-its now festoon the refrigerator. “It is Monday, Dec. 21.” “There is NO Alzheimer’s Assn. program.”  “T (our son) will pick you up.”

I also left a sign on the door: “Do NOT leave without T.”

Last week, J went to the local office of the Alzheimer’s Association on her own three times, twice on a day when there was no program and once when she was supposed to wait for our son to pick her up. 

Ironically, J and I have a meeting at the Alzheimer’s Association this afternoon where they are going to tell her she can no longer participate in the program she has attended and loved for three or four years. I expect her to be very sad. I did argue with the Association staff when they tried to “transition” her out of the program a year or so ago. (They have no program for people at J’s stage of the disease, so they aren’t “transitioning” her; they are kicking her out.) This time, however, I see that she no longer has the verbal capacity to actively take part. 

We have an appointment at a highly regarded day care program next week. I am hoping this will be a solution. I also am looking into more home care and am beginning to look at residential facilities should that be necessary down the line. 

I am staying optimistic that the right resources are out there and that we will find them.