That’s right. Not Where’s Waldo? Where’s Fred? My wife’s Alzheimer’s Disease remained hidden from most observers pretty darned well for a long, long time–more than a decade–before casual acquaintances were able to pick up on it a bit. In the home, however, Pam brought up a problem topic a year or two ago. During the day, she often found herself unable to remember where I’d said I was going, whether it was across the property to fire up the well pump to fill our off grid water storage tank or into town for groceries.
This scared her, not knowing where I was.
Additionally, she had no idea when I might have gone to bed (usually after midnight but sometimes close to sunrise), whether there was enough juice in our solar generator’s battery bank to allow her to safely fire up her bedroom light, TV, and computer, or what the outside temperature was when I retired for the night.
Okay. No Problem. For many months, we used a crude system. Each night (well, early morning, really) I used a heavy black marker to print a note on a piece of copy paper which was propped up in the seat of her recliner. When she got up, all she had to do was read the data. If I needed to get up early for some reason, such as chasing to Sierra Vista to pick up one or another of her med refills or being ready to receive an important phone call or whatever, I’d add the time for which I’d set my alarm clock, and that information would also calm her.
After she told me about needing help figuring out where she was in the mornings, and why (see Chapter 2: Panties Halfway Down), I got to thinking. That old paper-in-the-chair habit was…getting old. We needed to upgrade.
So I went to Walmart, bought an erasable white board and some markers, and mounted the white board on her bedroom door. Curiously enough, the board came with a pair of multicolored round magnets. We had no idea what they were originally intended to do–hold an occasional Post-it note in place, maybe–but it was pretty obvious how they were going to be used at our house. At the top of the board, I printed the legend, “WHERE’S FRED?” Below that, a rough self portrait sketch, using the colorful magnets as eyeballs. That much stays in place, day after day.
Less permanent status reports on my whereabouts are posted regularly. Here’s a look at what Pam saw this morning when she first got up for the day.
The new white board system is working well…as long as I remember to update the board every time I take off on a new heading. When I forget, the results are sometimes–well, here’s what happened today. The Where’s Fred? board said I was HOME AND AWAKE…but around 4:15 p.m., I let Pam know I needed to make a quick run over to Bisbee and back. The federal judicial system had been kind enough to send me a FEDERAL JURY SUMMONS–RESPONSE REQUIRED. The enclosed questionnaire had to be filled out in #2 pencil and nothing else, and believe it or not, we had a dozen pens in the house (or more) but could not locate a single pencil. Except for one red pencil, go figure, but the court wasn’t going to go for that.
That’s right. I had to make a 30 mile round trip to buy a freaking pencil. Are we having fun yet?
Pam wished me well, waved me out the door, and promptly forgot where I’d gone or even that I’d told her I was going. It didn’t hit her for a while, thankfully, and my total time away from home was no more than 45 minutes max, but a few minutes before I got back home, she began to wonder where I was. I’d forgotten to update the Where’s Fred board before I left, and my Pammie paid the price. Unable to locate me–the board still said HOME AND AWAKE–she called her daughter in Utah to find out where I was.
“Mom,” Amy said, “how would I know where Fred is?”
She was still on the phone with Amy when I walked in the door.
With luck–and something tells me I’ll need it–the guilt factor will help me remember to update the Where’s Fred? status appropriately from now on. Otherwise, she may end up calling her brother in Oregon to find out where I might be.