Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First outing

2:56 p.m. Today's project was to pick up Steve from Raincross and take him to the dentist. It was the first time he's left the residence with me since he moved in September 8th. He's been on a few outings with the Connections group on their bus, such as visits to Fairmount Park and the Farmers' Market.

With advanced dementia, one doesn't know what to expect: fearfulness at going out without the group or excitement at "escaping." On a given day I suppose it could be either, or just general apprehension at a change in routine.

I was in for a nice surprise. The staff had Steve dressed very nicely, in his "Sunday go to Meetin' " clothes. He got up when I came in, and we exited to greetings by name, while I reassured everyone that Steve would be coming back to have lunch after seeing the dentist. He's part of a very caring, if eccentric, community, and now I've become a fixture too. When a caregiver and I walked him through the alarmed door, Steve looked a little shaky (like Truman on "The Truman Show" who didn't pass the movie set boundary of his world until the very end of the movie). But Steve kept walking while we talked. He was very uncertain as to whether to proceed through the main lobby, maybe thinking he needed permission. Nevertheless, we exited to the Jeep successfully. After much urging and positioning, Steve remembered how to step up and into the passenger side and we were off.

He enjoyed the ride, but didn't register any recognition of the area between our neighborhood and the kids' middle and high schools, which route we drove regularly for years. We have friends there, too, and patronized the Petco in the shopping center. When I asked him to find one of his favorite things, a particular shape in the clouds, he didn't even bother looking up until I pointed out a helicopter. I need to keep Isaiah 43:18, which I quote often in connection with Steve's current mental condition, in mind:

Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.

At the dentist, I received assistance in getting Steve out of the car, and he was happily smiling on the way in. We sat down. I had time to show him a picture album such as I take with me often these days when he and I visit. When a loved one cannot talk, it helps to have ready subject matter like pictures to share with the. I enjoy seeing him pleasantly nod as he figures out who everyone is. 

Pretty soon, Steve was seated in the x-ray room, with quite a few instructions and having his legs moved onto the chair, and covered with the heavy draping. He had a very friendly, cheerful tech who kept him chuckling and compliant. So far, so good. Thank You, Lord, for providing just the right person! In every detail of my life' responsibilities, I know, as Hagar addressed God in Genesis  16:13, that

You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees .

Because Steve kept dozing off and wouldn't open his mouth, the dentist and the hygienist suggested Loma Linda Dental School, where other means, such as light anesthesia and propping his mouth open, could be employed for scraping the tartar off of his teeth. While I did ascertain that his dental plan would cover the same service in a different place, I had Steve pray with me that they could at least polish his teeth and make some headway against the buildup near his bottom front gums. And praise the Lord, Steve's teeth got thoroughly cleaned and some tartar buildup was removed by the tech. Steve struggled, but made it into the Jeep. Success!

I wish I could share a happy ending to our hours together, but we  then encountered another price of dementia. On the way back to Raincross, I asked Steve as we approached our house, "Did you ever walk the dogs over here?" He slightly nodded, but didn't perk up with nostalgia. Then I purposefully drove Steve around our busy corner, distinctive for the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park across the road, and slowed down right in front of our house. I asked him if he'd ever been there, and he didn't react as a person would who wanted to stop in, or return to the home that he's missed and stay there. He showed no sadness that I kept driving down our street, and didn't look to either side to pick up familiar sights. He was simply a man out for a drive on a beautiful day, nothing more, nothing less.

I should be grateful that I had no teary scenes to deal with, but I'm not. It reminds me of the way that I was grateful at the cheerful way Steve went into Raincross that first day, but wasn't truly happy about it, because the natural questions, objections, and anger that most residents have toward their families upon placement never materialized. My husband's thoughts and personality are buried deep inside him and increasingly harder to reach.

If it weren't for the Lord who dwells within him and sustains him in ways his loved ones cannot comprehend, Steve would be a lost, lost soul.

May our first outing not be our last!

1 comment:

  1. What great dentists you have to accommodate Steve!

    As you know, Dana, I keep learning from your Alzheimer's journey for our journey. I totally identify with going somewhere and hubby not being able to recognize the area.

    My husband has false teeth (actually about 6 lower teeth. He still is able to put his upper and lower teeth in, but I often have to bring them to him in the morning with the SeaBond used for sticking in the upper teeth and coax him to eat breakfast and have his pills.

    Hugs and prayers,