Familiar Strangers

It almost seems as though my mother has a list of specific “Dementia To-Do” items she must accomplish. At first it was leaving the gas on all night and now we’ve moved onto inviting strangers into her house.

The event happened in a small window of time when my mother’s care taker went home (aka next door) to take care of some business. When she returned my mother informed her she had invited a man in. Panicked, her caretaker texted me immediately and asked me to review the tapes to see if she was telling the truth or if it was a delusion.

I immediately went to the ring app and followed the trail of recordings to see that she was telling her the truth.

When I questioned her about it the following day, she told me that she thought it was my “friend Josh.” I just let it go because I could tell she understood the gravity of what she had done. I also think she would have gotten upset if I had pressed her further, so I let the subject die. Hopefully this is a fluke, but I’m certain it will happen again.

As I review her response a few things pop into my mind. The number one thought is, is she lying to me? For someone who was so honest before her disease took over (so much so that she told me when I was 4 that there was no Santa Clause, cause she hated lying to me), she has become the polar opposite of that. She has no qualms with bending the truth or flat out denying things to me now. She will send them out without any remorse because the ultimate goal (in her mind) is to preserve her presence in her home. Any negative action on her part threatens that. And quite frankly it does.

The reason I think it was a lie is because when I reviewed the recordings she never once made any cues that she thought he was my boyfriend. She just offered to let him sit on her porch and read his book while he waited for his friend, who was at the neighbors house. Then when he followed her up the walk she (without hesitation) invited him inside. Once inside he asks her if she’s ever read the book “Fight Club.” The video ends and five minutes later the next one begins with him leaving and rejoining his buddy out front. She stands intent at the kitchen sink doing something (I know it’s not dishes because she only rinses utensil and plates and puts them back in the drawer.)

The other thought that has been percolating in my mushy gray is, did she really believe that it was him? And if so, did she really believe he was just hanging out in front of her house, hoping she would come outside and invite him in? Did she really believe that this short Latino man looked like my tall German-mixed boyfriend? If she did, does that mean her visual recognition for faces is starting to wane?

My mother has a telephone made specifically for those with dementia. There is a grid of 9 faces that when one of them is pressed it will dial that person. On Sunday, she said she was trying to call my cousin but instead called me. She seemed genuinely flustered on the phone when I answered so I don’t think it was her trying to “con me” into feeling bad for her, but a genuine accident. As I mulled that incident in my mind, I started to wonder if it is in fact the beginnings of my mother losing her ability to recognize faces. However, that is hinged on her believing this stranger was Josh.

Regardless of the correct answer, it is very apparent that my mother is quickly becoming a danger to herself. The only logical step from here is to put her into a group home. She needs constant attention and care, of which I cannot provide. Not to the level that is required.

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