“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.” – Stephen King, The Dark Tower
Leaving her there that first night was hard. She was doing her best to be brave but who wouldn't be scared, with or without dementia? She wanted to lock her door but she couldn’t figure it out. Neither could the previous resident since someone had taken red nail polish and marked where the locked position was on the door. We practiced it over and over until she felt comfortable. It took her a while to get such a simple move; turn the lever left or right. I think her anxiety was just getting in the way.
The bathroom was a whole other rodeo. There were two doors, one on each end, so it could be shared by the four people occupying the two apartments. I explained to her that she could lock the door that led from her room to the bathroom but she could not lock the door that led from the bathroom to the other apartment. She was starting to obsess about the door and it was becoming a problem. I finally wised up and told her if she locked the other door the resident from the other apartment would have to walk through her bedroom to get to the bathroom. Bingo. No longer a problem.
I got her cleaned up and ready for bed. She was exhausted - it had been a long day and there had been so many changes. She kept asking me where the TV was. In-room televisions were allowed, but not encouraged because they didn’t want the residents in memory care to hang out in their rooms alone all day. They wanted them to come out to socialize and watch TV with the others which I thought was a good idea. But I knew she liked to have it on for noise and the silence in her room was making her anxious; I was going to have to give the in-room TV some more thought. I had bought a CD player and radio for her so we plugged it in and found a station she liked while I unpacked her suitcase and put her things away.
We didn’t really talk; it was mostly her asking questions and me answering the same questions over and over in the most positive way I could: “Are we in Illinois?” No, we’re in Oklahoma; “Am I going back to Illinois?” No, you moved here so that we can be together more and I can take care of you; “Are my friends coming to visit?” I’m sure they will when they can; “Are my friends here?” No, mom, they live in Illinois. You live in Oklahoma now and you’re going to make lots of new friends. Yuck. Who in the world wants to move away from where they’ve lived for over 30 years and make new friends at the age of 75? Who would want to do that to their parent? Yet, here we were.