Thursday, July 08, 2010

Phone outside the box

This wouldn't be a major telecommunication breakthrough for most people, but Dad called me from out in the corridor tonight. Yes, he is out in the hall, and amazed the miracle of his cordless phone extends that far from its mothership.

Dad has lost the social filters that keep him from blurting out whatever he is thinking. He uses his nightly news hour phone calls as a megaphone for insulting his roommate, the roommate's visitors, and the care facility staff. I'm embarrassed 650 miles away. I'm often insult fodder myself. Tonight the dynamic was a bit better.

The time just before and after supper is difficult for elderly people. Dad usually feels compelled to call me during this time, and I am most likely to be able to talk with him then. Dad is irritable, anxious, and truly obnoxious. Unfortunately, people converge in his room at this time to watch "Wheel of Fortune" and coax his Alzheimer's roommate to eat supper. This is a powder keg situation.

Phoning from outside his room is a good step for Dad, even if he misses the tv news and weather report. Thanks to the trained staff for helping other residents and families understand the characteristics of Dad's dementia. Thanks to so many for kindness and patience.

Out in the hallway, Dad won't insult his roommate's family. He will still announce his uncanny estimates for the weight of every staff member who walks down the hall. "Hush, Dad," I say. "You don't need to say that out loud!" You won't win a giant teddy bear for guessing weight and fortune.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

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