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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Missing Person Alert February 28, 2016

I read today an announcement and a call for help in the West Side Rag, an online news source for the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I will spend the summer once again this year.

When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease I worried daily that this article would someday be about him. "Police Put Out Alert for Missing UWS Man" In the beginning of his illness, I would leave him alone in our apartment and go to see my patients in my office a few blocks away. The door staff in our building kept an eye on him, but they could not restrain him or tell him to stay home. They talked with him and even asked what he was up to, where he was headed as he left the building. They worried, too, that he would become disoriented and not find his way home. He had a cell phone with a GPS but it had to be turned on in order to be effective and it was not yet sophisticated enough to pinpoint a specific place where a person with a memory disorder would be. 

My husband was a thrifty man, raised during the Depression and the Second World War. He turned the phone off when he was not calling someone. When he forgot to turn the phone off, he did not recognize the sound when it rang, nor did he recognize the vibration of the phone in his pocket or attached to his belt. Besides, he was often watching Con Ed workmen dig holes in the street which make lots of noise!

After two years of worrying, no one in the building disagreed with my decision to move to a gated single story house in a newly developing community in sunny Arizona. We purchased a plot of land in the center of the new community, away from main roads or highways where my husband could be involved in watching the construction of the other homes, which he loved, build a workbench (with my son's help) and outfit his garage workshop and work in his garden.

For another two years, this plan was effective. When my husband began to leave the house by himself, I installed a security system which alerted me when any of the external doors were opened. Just like a parent has to be alert when the children are quiet, which is counter intuitive because we like to get some work done when it is quiet, a caregiver to an Alzheimer person has to be concerned when it is quiet as well. Where is he and what is he doing that could cause him harm?

Caring for my husband had its rewards and its challenges, but luckily, he didn't go missing during the years of his illness. We are missing him now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Facts of Life After Being a Caregiver February 10, 2016

When my friends can't reach me when they phone, they leave a message which goes like this:"I guess you're running around somewhere."
If I don't answer a text immediately, I get comments like "This IS 2016, you know."

Both responses are critical of me. I am expected to answer my phone and to answer a text message, no matter where I am or what I am doing.I am supposed to read my email messages often during the day. WHY?
Don't folks realize that I am reacting to so many years in which I HAD to be constantly aware of the telephone when I was away from home, lest the memory care center where my husband who had Alzheimer's disease was residing, needed me to contact them? I finally am free of the obligation to be close to my phone.
I guess that I always was so responsive to the needs of others, it is now expected of me. But what is the excuse of folks who are only meeting me now?

Younger people especially want to reschedule meeting times and wish to text or phone me to extend the time, instead of being where we were to meet at the designated hour. Usually I am on my way or at the destination already. Don't they realize that my time is worthwhile also?

There is also the issue about location. If I am in the city, I walk and carry my phone in a pocket or a fanny pack. I know how old-fashioned that word is-- and that piece of equipment. In Arizona folks use these packs when we hike or otherwise are pocketless. Since we drive everywhere, our cars hold our possessions, including our purses in the trunk and many of our clothing items have no pockets. 

I am also well trained to be on time. Folks today think nothing of being on time and think that phoning or texting they will be late is perfectly fine. We try to fit so much into a day we don't leave enough time to get where we are going.

And then there are my age cohorts who don't turn their phones on , not wanting to use up their batteries. They see cell phones as for their own emergency use only. Some don't use cell phones at all, preferring their privacy. I guess I am old-fashioned in my expectations and I do not  yet wish to be tied to my smartphone.