It is quite an eye opening experience when you have to walk up to a stranger and say "I think I lost my mother, can you help me?"
Today Mom and I went to Jo Ann Fabrics, a large craft store. This is a store she knows well so when she said she was going to the restroom a few aisles away and she did not want me to come help her, I said ok. Clearly that was a bad idea.
Mom went to the restroom, I put something in my cart, and then I went right over to the bathroom to help her, only to find the bathroom empty. I then checked the men's bathroom and looked all around the aisles and could not find her. I started to panic. I had lost my mother.
I went to ask a sales associate who was helping another customer if she saw a woman in a long yellow coat with white hair. When she said no I told her and the customer, "I think I lost my mother, can you help me?" The sales associate was mid-aged, and just seemed to think I was weird. The customer was a little older, and immediatly said "Does your mother tend to wander off?" She understood right away that I was serious and Mom must have dementia. The customer was immediatly ready to help me search the store, when I saw Mom walk across the aisles so I ran over to get her.
For a slow lady with Parkinson's who needs a handicapped tag for the car, apparently she can be surprisingly fast at times. When I got to the aisle, I couldn't find her again!
A few aisles down I found Mom and all was well. She had gotten lost trying to find the bathroom. We finally got to the restroom and laughed hysterically at how I had lost her.
It is funny now, but in the moment it was really scary. I thought I might have to ask the store to go in lock-down like they do when a child goes missing. I had heard of this happening to people, and even Dad had mentioned that Mom has a tendency to wander off when he is getting something off the shelf in the grocery store. However, I figured it would not happen to me because I am faster than Mom and could keep an eye on her. I was so wrong!
When Mom first said she was going to the bathroom, I said I would go with her, but she said she didn't want me to. I really wanted to let her maintain some of her independence and since this is a store she knows, I figured I could let her get to the bathroom. I would then just follow a minute later so if she needed me I would be there.
It is hard for me to think of needing to care for Mom in the same way I need to care for my child. Actually, I no longer need to dress my son, but I do need to dress Mom. I have no idea where the line is between caring for her so much that I take away what independence she has left, and not caring for her enough so things like this happen.
Clearly I need to adjust my idea of how much independence Mom can have and care for her more like a young child. I hate admitting that because it can sound condescending or belittling, but I need to keep her safe.
This was another day of change and learning what phase of dementia we are now in.