Mom is a stubborn woman, and there is no assisting her if she doesn’t want assistance. She will not be forced to do something without a fight, so generally, unless it is for her safety, I let her decide when she wants to eat, when she wants to sleep, when she wants to get up, and when and where she wants to go.
I have never had to physically stop her from wandering, but there were a few times I took her out for a ride (to get some ice cream or drive down to the lake to look at it) just because she was ready to go somewhere. But as the disease progresses, her world is getting smaller and smaller.
This last winter, sometimes she would be ready to go — somewhere. Anywhere. Home, maybe? Church? Out? She would start to move.
Now, we live in Maine, which is known for having a style of farmhouse that is called “big house, little house, back house, and barn,” so there are many doors to go through before one actually reaches the outside. And through each door it gets progressively colder. I just let her keep heading out, staying with her until finally she says it.
“It’s cold. How do I get back?”
“Right through that door right there,” I say, pointing to the door she just came through.
And I lead her back into the warmth of the house.
“Oh, how nice!” she exclaims when she reaches the warmest part.
And she looks at me adoringly as though I am Robert Peary leading her back from the North Pole. “You’re wonderful.”
Beth Whitman lives in Maine and is a member of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage, a developing community on the coast of Maine focused on multigenerational living and sustainability.