By Max Wallack
Puzzles to Remember
Previously, I had heard about Alzheimer’s patients wandering as a non-goal directed behavior. People with Alzheimer’s disease frequently pace and are restless. It is reasonable that they might wander to an area which is now unfamiliar to them and become disoriented and lost.
The goal-oriented wandering is usually understood as searching for a place and time that the Alzheimer’s patients remembers that gave them peace and comfort.
The type of wandering that my family dealt with was escapist wandering. My Great Grams, who passed away from dementia in 2007, knew she was “in trouble” (her words), and always felt she needed to escape. She just didn’t understand that the fearful thing that she needed to escape was within her own brain.
Great Grams made many escapes. What she feared most was not having a home. What she feared was being put into a nursing institution or hospital. She would escape when she was fearful that we, her family, would put her into such a facility. The sad part of this was that her escapes would often make her greatest fears a reality.
The worst of Great Grams’ escapes came early one morning. Grandma and Grandpa were home with Great Grams. Grandma was still sleeping. Often Great Grams would plan her escape. One way we had a heads up was that we would notice that she would put on her nightgown on top of all her other day clothes, so she would be ready for her escape.
On this particular morning, Great Grams quietly snuck out of the house. The house is on top of a steep hill. Once you walk down the long street, you reach a major street. Keep in mind, Great Grams was about 92, and she had Paget’s disease of the bone, which, in her case, produced leg pain and a weak bowed left leg. Well, somehow Great Grams managed to run down that entire hill to the main street. Grandpa noticed she was gone, and ran after her. He didn’t even have time to put shoes on.
Now, Great Grams was a very fearful woman. She had been a fearful person her whole life. She was afraid of traffic, afraid of strangers, etc. Well, this fearful woman started flagging down trucks out on the major road to beg for help because we were “going to kill her”.
Let’s picture that scene. A tiny woman in her 90’s is standing on a major street corner with a man around 60. This man, wearing no shoes, is arguing with the woman.(He was trying to convince her to come home.) It didn’t take long for a truck to stop and offer help.
Then, the unbelievable happened. Great Grams, this tiny fearful woman with the bad leg, climbed up into the truck with this strange man. Her fears had driven her to do what she feared.
Fortunately, we learned later that the truck driver lived nearby, and he had accurately assessed the situation. He said he felt sorry for Grandpa.
He drove Great Grams to the police station, where she continued her accusations. The police sent her to the hospital by ambulance. She was then transferred to a psychiatric facility for several weeks, before she came home once again.
What Great Grams did, could not be considered wandering, in my mind, until I read the article explaining escapists. Great Grams ran in terror, and she usually ran toward what she feared most. She was an escapist.
Since 2011, Puzzles To Remember’s Assistant Director, Hailey Richman, age 8, has been distributing puzzles to nursing facilities in the New York area. Hailey spends time doing the puzzles with nursing home residents. She always brightens their days.
If you have puzzles that you would like to donate, please contact us at PuzzlesToRemember@gmail.com and we will find a location near you where you can bring your puzzles. We can also provide you with a donation letter so that you can claim the value of your puzzles as a tax deduction.
To see a short video from WCVB Ch. 5 "BOSTON STRONG" about Max's efforts on behalf of Alzheimer's patients, click here.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
By Max Wallack
Posted by Max Wallack at 7:22 PM