One of the most challenging things for me to deal with during the time I cared for Mom in her own home was dealing with the confusion around where she was, and her wanting to go “home.” The conversation below is a version of the same one we had over and over and over again. Like many Alzheimer’s conversations it was like being on some kind of crazy merry-go-round from which we could never disembark. It was frustrating and tiring for Mom and I, just as it is for most care partners. Over time, I learned to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
“I think we’re at home,” I say. It’s early evening sometime in August 2011. Mom and I sit together on the sofa in the den in her big red brick house on the hill. She’s lived there for more than forty years.
We’ve just had a nice meal. I cooked. She doesn’t anymore. Except for toast. She can make toast. With honey. And tea. With milk. But that’s not really cooking. She hasn’t been able to make a meal for herself for quite awhile. When I’m with her, about three months of the year since 2005, I do all the cooking. I encourage her to help me. She washes the vegetables. Or cuts them. It’s important for her to continue contributing, to feel useful, to feel competent. Our after-dinner conversation consists of trying to figure out where we are. Literally. And existentially.
“Where do you think we are Mom?”
“That’s what I don’t understand,” she says, a little impatient. “That’s what I’ve got to find out!” She looks around the den, and sees the furniture that’s been here for decades. It was here last month, last week, yesterday, and today.
“That looks like my wingback chair,” she says. “And that chair is mine, it belongs at home. And this one here,” she puts her hands down on the couch on either side of herself, “I had it covered, it belongs at my place. But I don’t understand. Are we going to take it with us when we go?” She asks. “All this stuff belongs to me. We’ll have to gather it all up and take it with us.”
How the two of us will “gather up” a whole house full of furniture, and escape with it is unknown. The unknowns in our lives are multiplying at a dizzying rate even as we sit here contemplating where we are.
“Somebody else will want to put their stuff in here, whoever rents it or whatever,” she muses. “Look, even the pictures on the walls are mine. We’ll be all day getting ready to go!”
All day? More like a lifetime and then some! I don’t say that though. Instead, I just agree with her.
“There’s Granny’s picture, and my father’s picture, we’ll have to put them all in a big box.” She says. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“Nope, it doesn’t,” I concur. “How do you suppose it all got here?”
“I don’t know,” she says, more exasperated. “I’m not a magician! But I do know it costs a lot of money to move, and we’ve got to get this stuff out of this place. It’s not our place, is it?”
“Well, I think it is Mom. I think we’re in your house, the one on the Georgeville Road,” I say. “That’s where I think we are. Where do you think we are?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m lost. I don’t know what to think about it. I can’t figure it out.”
And around we go again.
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