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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ninth Inning for Outings November 17, 2011

The time for taking Bob out of the assisted living home for an outing is slowly coming to an end. It is now eight months since he entered Sterling House. In the beginning we were afraid to take him out, as he requested, for fear he would not want to return. But that fear seemed to be unfounded; he enjoyed the outing and was content to return to known surroundings. He would say, “This place is familiar,” or “I know where I am,” or “I know you,” to the staff member who opened the door for us on our return.

He was always hungry and wanted to go to a restaurant. No matter what time it was, no matter when or what he had had to eat, he always ordered heuvos rancheros and ate quickly and heartily. No longer. At first, he couldn’t find the eggs hidden under the cheese and only ate the tortilla with the sauce, so we ordered a more simple breakfast meal for him, which he seemed to enjoy. However, waiting for the meal to be served has become difficult for him and he is used to eating whatever he is served.

My son Steve enjoyed outings with Bob to large stores and I took him to his favorite thrift stores, but today, when we were in Home Depot, Bob said, “I don’t want to be here. Let’s get out of here. A half hour ago I would have liked this store, but no more.” He had just finished admiring the hardware aisle, commenting on how much money this store must be worth as well as trying out the wood drill and making a hole in the lumber provided. It is so sad to see that he realizes what he has lost.

Of course I understand his frustration. What reminded him of past accomplishments now is only a reminder of words he cannot find to name the things he sees. Two days ago, we took Bob to the pet store, thinking he would enjoy seeing the puppies, kittens, birds, guinea pigs, hamsters and fish which were on display. “I don’t want to be here,” Bob said while watching through the glass as a group of dogs were being trained by their owners, “Those dogs are being tortured.” As for the kittens, he said, “I don’t want one.” The birds, he said were “a little all right.” The fish he did not attend to at all.

Bob no longer enjoys feeding the ducks at the park. He complains if there are children on scooters, or if there is a fisherman nearby. He eats the stale bread we have brought; he worries about having to use the bathroom and attempted to urinate outdoors. He also worries about finding the car in the parking lot, but he no longer asks me if we have sufficient gasoline. I see how his life is diminished and I begin to miss even his cantankerous self. At least we knew Bob was still “in there” somewhere.

I hate this illness, but I understand where he is coming from. He now thinks we take him to a store only to purchase something. His acquisitiveness is gone; his collecting instinct is no longer functioning. His world has narrowed; he wants to go out of the house for a walk, for an ice cream, for a short outing that does not remove him from his secure zone for a long period of time. I am so sad, yet I am also grateful that my son Steve is willing to share so  many of these experiences with me.

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