I was upstairs in the lounge yesterday when I heard lots of barking. I heard Hubby getting up and going to our flat’s private entrance and opening the door. The door closed after a few moments, and then I heard Hubby mounting the stairs. A minute later he was next to me. Dressed in his outer gear, he said he was going out.
An elderly lady had appeared at our door and told Hubby she could not find where she was staying because it was dark outside. (It was 8:30 p.m.) So Hubby was going to help her find her way to her lodgings, which she said were close by. He had a taken a torch along with him in order that the old lady might be able to see her house.
Approximately half an hour later and Hubby opened the lounge door to present me with Joan, the elderly lady. She had not been able identify her house and had begun to tell Hubby that her mother would be worried about her being late home. Moreover, she also announced that she was 50 years old when she looked patently older. (We found out later that she is 87 years old.) Having had experience with my mum who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, Hubby put two and two together and brought her back to our house so that he could phone the police to help get Joan home.
Joan stayed for a cup of tea whilst I sat with her. She talked about herself as if she were a young child and mentioned that her mother would be sending for the police to scour the area for her because of her lateness especially because it was so dark outside. I asked her where she was staying and it became apparent that she was actually living in a Windermere care home. Joan was able to remember the name of the care home but when I rang them, the call went to answer phone. The care home’s website did state that the phone was manned between 9-5, but I thought I would try ringing them any way because there was no other emergency number listed.
It was obvious that Joan, whilst bright and cheery, had very little lucidity, although she was certainly fit. She had left the home on a cold December night with only a jumper and summer canvas flats. No jacket, hat, gloves, proper shoes, etc. that one would expect an elderly lady who is taking a walkabout under a dark Winter sky would wear. Hubby and I felt really indignant on her behalf: Joan was only dressed for staying at home, and she could have stumbled and fallen or gotten lost in the fields and woods behind our house when she was out walking. She could also have been knocked down by passing traffic whilst walking from the mile-long main Lake Road from Windermere to our hilltop guest house in Bowness-on-Windermere.
Hubby phoned the police who arrived some 30 minutes later. A worker from the care home arrived 45 minutes later. By this time, Joan would have been missing for at least 2 or more hours, and anything could have happened to her. I never saw any identification tags on her, but the care worker had tracked her using her electronic tag, so she must have been wearing one. Nonetheless, the tracking certainly took a long time! And, more importantly, anything could have happened to Joan during the time she had gone AWOL.
The policeman who arrived to pick her up said he had once found Joan on her lonesome near the top of Kirkstone Pass, the highest mountain pass open to traffic in the Lake District. Kirkstone Pass may be accessed from Blenheim Lodge within about 5 minutes’ drive. However, for Joan to have walked from Windermere and up wild narrow windy inclines with no pedestrian footpaths on her own must have been something of a feat – except she should never have been allowed to wander off like that from a care home in the first place!
Care for people with Alzheimer’s is really difficult because one needs to have eyes at the back of one’s head as well as the front. Indeed, one needs to be constantly alert. It is like looking after a small child where everything and anything can hold potential danger. Unfortunately, unlike caring for a child who grows and blossoms, Alzheimer’s patients deteriorate and fade away in more ways than one. Joan’s visit reminded Hubby and me of how precariously she and other dementia sufferers live each day of their lives.
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