Geraldine has lived with worsening dementia for several years. Her family struggled to keep her in her own home much longer than was good for her. But how do you know?
They hired home care nurses to manage her medications and Geraldine chased them out with her fists and rake. She hid the pill bottles or took half the pills at one time. When her family discovered she was hiding her bills under her mattress and not paying them, they changed her mail delivery to their address. When they took over her banking, they learned she hadn’t cashed a pension or social security check in two years.
The family could no longer cover for her when Geraldine’s neighbors called at 2 AM complaining that she was pounding on their door asking for a ride to her house “miles away.” She did have the sense to call 911 after turning on all the gas burners of her stove.
“What happened?” she often asks us. “I worked hard all my life and I can’t even live in my own home. This isn’t fair.”
In her mind Geraldine is 40 or maybe even 50 years old. She kept a clean house and worked outside through rain and cold to manicure a yard the envy of the neighborhood. In her mind that is still the case.
Geraldine loved to weed and could reach the ground without bending her knees. Since a series of small TIAs she has been unable to walk more than 40 steps without a walker and assistance. In her mind she needs to get going and “do some stuff.”
Unable to raise herself out of her wheelchair she whispers conspiratorially, “How do I get out of this place?”
Her nephews and nieces come to visit but she doesn’t recognize these adult people. In her mind they should look like teenagers with long, unruly hair.
Geraldine lives in her own reality, sometimes joining ours and sometimes resisting. What happened is immaterial. What gives her pleasure and joy does matter.