Left: After a visit to assisted living as outlined in the "Aftermath" section of today's post, I always walk down the hall to the Aviary and sketch and paint the birds. I find a quick five-minute, or less, sketch like this balances me out, and grounds me enough, so that I can get into the car and drive home and get back to work. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen and Daniel Smith Watercolors, on Fluid 100 Cold Press—a test of their 100 percent cotton watercolor paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
It's 12:40 a.m.
I'm wide awake.
At 11:50 p.m. I was checking emails. I saw one written by a friend of CR. It had posted at 11 p.m. This friend was to have picked CR up for lunch.
According to the desk attendant at [the Residence], about twenty minutes before CR was supposed to meet me for transportation to the Engineer's Lunch today, he left the building “with two men.” I checked the log book and saw that indeed, he did leave. I want to convey the concern of the group. We missed him! We hope he didn’t have a medical emergency, and that he is back in his room resting comfortably.
I woke Dick (who had gone to bed at the regular time and is not cursed with worry-induced insomnia like I am, because in truth I was worrying about the folks before I received this email). Dick doesn't wake well—always being startled, regardless of how gently I try to get his attention—I have opted for the "Rip off the Band-Aid™" method. I call from two rooms away, loud enough to disturb him. Any closer and he'll leap out of bed injuring himself and possibly me; it's not as funny as it sounds.
Once he was awake, I told Dick that I had called the front desk at the assisted living facility and no one had answered so I left a message about my concerns, raised by this email.
I also told Dick, "I'm WIDE awake, I could go over there and check on CR…" I was really bothered by the unnamed "two men" he'd left with. We know all his friends, and of those still living, no one would come and take him out of the building. Most would in fact be waiting for him at the luncheon.
D: No, I'll go tomorrow. If he went to the hospital they'd have called you and me. No one would take him.
R: Well if they did, they'd return him in about 5 minutes. He can be difficult. [a beat] Really, I can go over there. Ninja in, Ninja out.
I demonstrated stealthy progress and Ninja Skills, in mime, as I said that.
D: You're not going to use your Ninja Skills. You'll get in there and Dad will wake up and have a heart attack.
I pause my Ninja Feet Demo, and I look frozen and startled as if someone just turned on a light and "caught" me. [a beat] We laugh.
R: What's the point of having Ninja Skills if you don't use them? [a beat] Just saying…
D: Good Night Munchkin…
He rolled over as he spoke. Ending the conversation. I stood in the bedroom doorway pondering my next move to distract my mind from worry…
R: I could cut your hair tonight. [a beat] I'm wide awake, [a beat] really…
D (without turning, his back still toward me): Good Night Cutie.
Here's what happened.
We'll never know.
The next morning on his way to work, Dick stopped to check on his dad. Dick then called me to say all was well. But he didn't have any ANSWERS to any of the questions I had, such as where his dad was in the missing three hours he was outside of the building, memory impaired, without his heart medication, wandering down one of the busiest streets in the city, where there are numerous light rail crossings. Oh, and did I mention he's pretty much deaf and almost totally blind?
I received a call from the staff saying I'd used the wrong number (I'd taken it off the internet) and that I'd used the daytime office number (it was all that was listed). She gave me a new number to call in this late night situation and apologized that no one had called me back until 10 a.m. She had no other information, except that CR had been back in the building since 2 p.m. the previous day.
I headed over after lunch. I worked my questions gradually into the conversation so as to not put him on the defensive. Basically I was trying to find out what would have taken him outside, minutes before he was to go to a luncheon he looks forward to monthly?
After a very circuitous conversation it became evident that he didn't know the previous day had been his luncheon date (it was written in large letters on his calendar); and he didn't have any recollection of leaving the building (though he was clearly signed out).
Next I asked questions about what he was working on and other projects he might work on, to change the topic. It was obvious there was no information available from him on his outing. None of it had made it into his memory.
The next week he tried to leave the building again, and this time the staff stopped him and asked him where he was going. He said he wanted to go to a store. (The stores aren't close and they are across the previously mentioned busy street and rail line.) The staff person convinced him to allow her to accompany him to the in-building store, where the items he said he wanted to purchase (laundry detergent and toilet paper) were to be found.
On the way back from their shopping trip she carried his purchases because he can't carry things and use his walker safely. (He refuses to get one of those really cool walkers with a seat and carrying capacity.)
She then offered to put away his purchases while he went on to dinner (he gets nervous about being late). She told me that when she unpacked and put things away she saw he had an ample supply of EVERYTHING that he said he urgently needed to buy.
This means that he is either too blind to see into his large, well lit storage closet where all these items reside, or he wanted something else that he didn't buy because she was there. (He was buying hundreds of dollars worth of lottery tickets before he entered assisted living, when he was still driving to the grocery store, and he has a child-like secretive approach to his chocolate consumption.)
Or there is some other reason we will never fathom, perhaps as simple as he just wanted to take a walk.
This is both the reality of, and a metaphor for, eldercare.
I sleep very little.