• Amanda Witthauer

We have a wanderer

Updated: Aug 2



We have a wanderer

If you have never heard this then you are lucky. Sometimes as our parents age certain things happen and it can absolutely catch us off guard. One thing is wandering... When I was younger several years ago my husbands grandma came to live with us. The issue was the behaviors. Facilities did not want to keep her, so we offered our home. This was my first awakening to what can happen and I was anything but prepared. Grandma moved in and she was sweet, but as the sun went down grandma was alive. And I am not talking she liked to talk, watch TV and stay awake. I am talking she probably could of completed a whole gymnastics routine and still had energy. Up and down the halls she would pace, and frequently take her clothes off. We got used to "Mom grandma is going down the hall naked again." It was hard. I had training and I had been in the field taking care of people but not this kind of people. I had to learn that grandma had dementia and she wasn't herself. Several times a night I would find her on the floor, stacking the sheets on the base board heater. There was no sleep you were always worried about what grandma might get into next. It was difficult to take her anywhere because within two seconds she had stripped down to nothing but her undies, and that's if I got to her fast enough otherwise she had taken off everything. As I learned, I was able to understand more and more about this dreaded disease. I learned that really stimulating grandma during the day did absolutely nothing, but made me more tired. It was like I had an infant in the house any second she slept I slept. It was important for me to get sleep anytime she actually slept because it was hardly ever. And just like you do with a newborn you learn how to manage. We lived next to a busy road so I was always worried about grandma getting outside and getting run over by a car. I was also worried during Christmas time that she might put the lights in her mouth. I had to almost baby proof my house to make sure grandma was safe. This became a full time job. Our world had absolutely changed over night. And since she didn't know who we were trying to shower her was a chore all in itself as well as trying to get her to want to be there. She always wanted to go home. Home to where? I don't think she knew, she just knew that this wasn't it. Desperate there were a few things that worked well with grandma. Talking about things that only she would know like her husband or her daughter. When she would get anxious that would help calm her down. When she wanted to leave I would be able to say " your daughter is coming to see you today so you should stay and wait for her." She was really coming to see her, but you don't know how much of a blessing it was to say that and have grandma calm down. I learned at that point I loved taking care of people, and dementia is one of my favorite. In a facility setting I also learned this works, years later. At the facility we would give the dementia patients letters drafted from their loved ones saying I will see you soon, don't worry Mom we are taking care of your dog. Several times a day I would see the residents look at those notes and just seem relaxed after that. So if you find yourself in this position, try it. For me it was a lifesaver!

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