Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 13: Curling Iron Burn Therapy


Burn, baby, burn!

That the curling iron would nail Pam this morning was next thing to a foregone conclusion. Her Alzheimer’s Disease was kicking hard…well, either that or her basic stubborn personality…let’s say it was both in combination. At any rate, she was in hyperdrive, listening neither to me nor to her hired companion. It had been that way from the moment our day started, likely exacerbated by the excitement and stress of knowing she had an appointment scheduled with her eye doctor for midafternoon.

Never mind that the eye appointment got rescheduled at the last minute. My redhead was on a roll, look out world, here she comes.

We’d had several topics to cover but had moved on to the really important stuff. I was working in-house, adding baseboard molding around the bottom edges of our kitchen base cabinets. Pam and her sidekick were getting ready to go whup the world, planning a stop at the bank, a bit of shopping for various home maintenance and/or decoration goodies, and of course lunch in addition to the not-yet-rescheduled eye exam. In fact they were just about done, ready to go, my wife all dolled up with her hair just right and sprayed stiff.

And then….

“Pam, that curling iron is still hot,” I heard our employee say.

Pam said something, but being a typical husband, I didn’t really catch the words. Besides, one particular finishing nail seemed intent on bending over instead of driving through the molding properly, so what are you gong to do? Ignore your wife, obviously. Besides, her companion was on it, and she’s very good at what she does. I had nothing to worry about.

“No, Pam, it’s still hot,” I heard again, followed by another incomprehensible reply. Pammie often accuses me of being a bit of a rotten sonofagun for refusing to go get hearing aids. (She also refuses to believe me when I tell her that it’s mostly only her I can’t understand well these days, but that’s another story.)

“It’s still hot, Pam.”

Then–finally–I did hear Pam’s response quite clearly.


Convinced that since the curling iron had “only been on for 30 seconds” it couldn’t still be hot no matter what anybody said, she had grabbed the iron by the barrel. She continued to yell, not exactly crying, but half-screaming like perhaps a seven year old. Not a thirteen year old; I clearly recall grabbing a nearly red hot bar of iron my Dad had just heated in our ranch forge when I was thirteen and am pretty sure I didn’t make that much noise.

Fortunately, I happened to be just a few feet away, and Pam was standing right there in front of the utility sink. She couldn’t seem to position her hand under the stream of cold water, though; I had to forcibly hold her wrist in position for a while. Red thumb, red some on fingers, first degree burns.

Not that any burn feels precisely wonderful; I’ll give you that much.

Hot!  Hot!

Hot! Hot!

Solarcaine spray with aloe and pain killer next, followed by a liberal slathering of pure 100% aloe vera gel, both of which sit atop my bedroom dresser at all times–and that dresser stands a mere six feet away from the utility sink. Within minutes, the redness was outa there and–

–and all of a sudden, with the pain dropped back to a manageable level, Pam smiled at her companion and cheerfully asked, “Are we ready to go?” Her voice said it all; the brief shot of trauma (followed of course by a bit of relief) had somehow given her dieseling brain a pattern interrupt, allowing the original, fully functioning Pam to resurface just like that.

Amazing. Absolutely a-may-zing.

Her friend (yes, her companion has become a very close friend) and I kind of twinkled at each other and said, “Wow!” in stereo. I don’t think either one of us had ever seen anything quite like it. The rest of Pam’s day, spent out on the town “doing stuff”, was by all reports functional and for the most part enjoyable.

Curling iron burn therapy. Don’t try this at home.