Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dementia Folk

These past few days have been incredible for me. I should have realized what I was in for, but being the "Pollyanna" I am, I thought things would be a bit different. I should explain.

Last fall cousin # 1 and I decided to visit cousin # 2, her sister, in Canada. Cousin #2 was in a position of transition. She lived by herself but it was clearly evident the time was coming for her to live in some sort of home for the elderly. She was experiencing some dementia and once on that slippery slope it doesn't take long to start the fast decline. Cousin #1 wanted to see where her sister was going to be living and see how the progression of the illness was going.

The problem is, cousin #1 is in the beginning stages of the slippery slope herself, but she is in denial. Oh, she knows she's forgetful, but I don't think she's accepting of the fact that she is on the road to la-la land on a speeding train. I too am forgetful at times but there's a difference.

My first indication that I was in for trouble was when cousin #1 lost he way to my house. She was to be here at 7:00am and at 7:20 the phone rang, she was lost. I told her how to find my house. About ten minutes later she called again.She had turned incorrectly at an intersection and found herself back at the same spot. I decided to go after her in my car and bring her to my house.

It didn't take long to find her and see that she was near panic. That's the problem with dementia's, it takes away some of your cognitive abilities and you find you're in a situation which you don't know where to turn or how to get yourself out of the predicament you're in...

We arrived back at my house where I asked for her keys. We had decided beforehand, since her car was newer than my car, hers would be the one we'd take on the trip. However, it was decided that I would do the driving... I brought my GPS and some maps because I knew better than to depend on Cousin #1's memory on how to get to the place in Canada. (good thinking....had I depended on cousin #1 we would still be driving in Canada right now).

The drive up to the border was not without some trials. First, we discovered that cousin #1 forgot her jacket. Yes, the jacket was left on the back of a chair somewhere back home. No problem though, she had a sweatshirt, and anyway how cold could it get in to a lake? Trust me it gets flipping freezing in Canada in May.

As we were approaching the border, three cars away, Cousin #1 realized her passport was missing. The panic, struggle and profuse sweating, thrashing and throwing stuff hither and yon as we creeped toward the customs officer was in full swing when she remembered she put the passport in a little nook in her car, "for safe keeping". We were the next car to go through customs by that time so I asked her for her passport to give to the "nice man". The passport took wing and flew at me hitting my glasses,bouncing off my nose and onto the floor under my feet. I tried with all dignity to find the " &*(^ "thing on the floor, but alas, I must have hit it with my foot because it had gotten wedged between the seat and the "hump" between the seats...

The customs officer was looking at my passport when I said, " I think my cousins passport is stuck between the seat and the hump. I have to get out to get it". The customs guy got a bit antsy and pressed some button. By the time I got out of the car there were three men standing around my car. I don't know if they thought I was going to pull a weapon, but they were obviously on high alert by this time. I looked at all of them and said, "I'm just going to try to unstick the passport from under the seat....honest". For a time all I could think was, "Oh boy, I wonder how Larry is going to like coming up here to bail us out...." and I thought, "Holy crap, this is like the day after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I hope they don't think we are some kind of Senior Citizen Al-Quida scouts or something equally bizzare". All these thoughts were going through my head as I stretched for the passport.

"Ta-da!!" I said as I pulled the passport from it's wedged in spot. I gave the offending thing to the custom guy and he looked suspiciously at cousin #1 who had put her sunglasses on. "Take your sunglasses off Madam" he said. She looked at him and said, "Why?" I looked at her and said, "Take the sunglasses off so he can see that it's you in the passport." She said, "I'm not in the passport, I'm sitting right here." It was like I was part of a flipping three stooges episode.

After the customs we were on our way to our destination. The drive was filled with comments of disdain for customs, the cars on the road, the miles we had to go and the GPS that was speaking to us with a British accent. I call the GPS "the lady: " and I've learned to listen to the "lady" so I don't get lost. I've been getting lost since the first day I had my license so this is nothing new for me. I take wrong turns all the time and end up in Vermont. It's been a joke in my family all my life. I'm directionally challenged and I admit it. It has nothng to do with being older, I just have no sense of direction. If you come to the end of the road and there's two ways to go ask me which way to go then go in the opposite direction. All my friends and family know this. When GPS's came out I got one for myself because those babies were invented for the likes of me. I know it.

Cousin #1 was a bit miffed at my use of "the lady" instead of listening to cousin's directions. I figured we wanted to arrive at cousin#2's place before 2021 and knowing the type of directions I'd get from cousin#1 we'd end up in Manatoba instead of Ontario.

We drove along quite well and found the city we needed to get to, no problem. We hadn't made reservations at any of the myriad hotels because we knew we'd find something. We needed to find something close by cousin #2's facility.

Finding lodging was quite easy and we settled on a place that was modest, clean and near the facility. Cousin #1 thought it was a dump. It wasn't, but it was older and very clean and the folks at the desk were very accomodating. I think cousin #1 was still a bit peeved at the customs officer who thought she was being flippant. Little did the guy know she was just being "cousin #1 at her finest".

to be continued....