Dementia – Alzheimer’s – They May Be Calm and Relaxed, But Take Nothing For Granted

I was on my computer doing my normal “stuff” so far away from the world of dementia and Alzheimer’s, when the thought of them suddenly reentered my mind. I hadn’t heard much about him today, our Mr. Q the dementia man, who was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was one of those now rare, and becoming rarer, times when I could take my mind off of all his problems and by association my problems too. We had an additional caretaker today and I didn’t have to take Mr. Q anywhere.

Yesterday we had to take him to the doctor and it took so long I could almost write a book. Even though the doctor was relatively close (20 minutes away) we had to wait well over an hour before getting to see him. That whole trip only lasted three hours, not the normal 4 – 6 hours like usual. Even though Mr. Q was behaving well, he didn’t last through the test which was supposed to take 45 minutes. He had to be in a room alone while they ran an EEG. He suddenly got up after 15 minutes and politely walked away. So much for being well behaved.

Today as I left my room I was thinking what was Mr. Q up to now. I walked down the hall toward the family room where he was sitting down watching TV. Oh wait. He’s not in there because I glanced in the bathroom where the door was wide open and saw Mr. Q there next to the toilet with his pants half down (or up). I asked him what he was doing as I walked up to him. He answered in his usual way by just staring blankly at me and not saying a single word. That was his normal response to almost anything. No sound, a blank look, that is if he even did look at you, and no indication he was even paying the slightest bit of attention to you or anything you said.

I looked down at the bathroom floor and it was wet in a lot of spots. I suspect that was the result of him wetting on the floor or possibly spitting there. The caretaker who had just left him in the room where he was half asleep watching TV was surprised he was in the bathroom. For just a minute or two ago she had left him since he was calm and relaxed. So of course she could get some of her other work done without worrying about Mr. Q. Naturally it didn’t turn out that way. It almost never does.

I could write about so many instances where I thought it was safe to leave someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s for a few minutes and as soon as I left they got up and got into trouble of one sort or another. And it is not that they were trying, but things just happen and they certainly seem to happen to someone with those problems so much more than to someone who is not burdened with such mental problems.

Another instance where things were going well and there was no particular reason to be on guard since I was just escorting Mr. Q to a chair in the doctor’s office yesterday. As I walked forward guiding him to an empty chair only four feet away he suddenly, without any warning, fell to the floor instead of taking a step forward. I was very surprised, as well as my wife who was walking beside me. Fortunately he was not hurt and I got him up easily. Now Mr. Q has no history of falling, although surprisingly, he had recently fell a couple of times seemingly for no reason at all this last week.

Mr. Q used to walk around the house at night sometimes when he first arrived to stay with us almost five months ago, but had stopped that rather early in his stay. We did put a bell above his door however, lately, since he now has serious problems going to the bathroom to do his business. However, sometime early this morning after 2 am (that’s when I went to bed) we heard a scream from the caretaker who was sleeping on the couch in the living room. That’s another story of the many restrictions we are faced with. The room where her bed used to be has the bed dissembled so no one can sleep in that bedroom as long as we have the RCFE (Residential Care Facility for the Elderly) in our house. My wife got up and ran in the living room. Mr. Q had gotten up and in the dark had gone up to her and grabbed her hair and started pulling it.

Imagine you are asleep and are wakened by someone in total darkness pulling your hair. It’s a scary thought. Well the caretaker was scared, as well she should be. We cannot figure how he got past his door without ringing the bells above it. He has never once even look up there and seems to be oblivious to them. Even she did not hear the bells and she is only about 15 feet or so from them with no rooms to block the sound.

What’s more surprising is that almost the same thing happened about a week or two earlier when he somehow got past his bedroom door without the bells ringing and went up there and stood next to her then touched her, waking her up in surprise with a yell. This had never happened before — Let me think. Yes it did happen one time before with someone else, when he first arrived and he went to the bathroom at night. However, he went the wrong direction after leaving the bathroom and ended up in someone else’s room and tried to get in “his bed” which happened to be someone else’s bed. But that was a mistake he could be easily forgiven for.

Expect such behavior or problems if you are faced with taking care of someone with Dementia. Alzheimer’s patients can be expected to do strange things sometime during their bout with the disease. They may be calm and relaxed one minute and next minute into something or like Mr. Q does so often – just plain gone from sight. Other dementia or Alzheimer’s persons may not act the same as Mr. Q, but in most cases, especially after the disease has progressed a lot, problems of one sort or another will start to show up. Their behavior can go from being the perfect citizen one minute to one of craziness, stupidity, or behavior so seemingly weird that it is hard to believe it is the same person you knew who would “never do such things.”

Copyright © Charles Harmon