By Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy
I have found that scheduling an extra 45 minutes to an hour for appointment travel time reduces frustration for my parents and me. I used to time it perfectly, giving me just long enough to drive up, run in, grab them and speed off to the appointment. That strategy rarely worked and made me rush them. I had to adjust because I didn’t like how that disrupted their normally calm dispositions.
Momma and daddy’s memories are not what they used to be, and frankly, neither is mine. (Daddy takes great pleasure in reminding me that I soon will be 50 years old.) Because of their dementia, I tell them about appointments several days in advance, ask them to repeat what I told them about the appointment and remind them the night before and the morning of the appointment. That usually works, but every now and then, they still forget. I think on those days, they deliberately forget because they really don’t want to go. Getting them to move on those days is like pouring molasses on a cold winter day — S-L-O-W!!!
For this appointment day, momma was dressed on time, as we agreed, but had no shoes on. Her hair was only partially combed. She couldn’t find THE jacket. She hadn’t taken her medicine and had walked out to the car without her trusty cane. I often tell her, as I did on this day, that she must not need the cane if she goes without it so often. She chuckled while not even attempting to look for it.
I ran back to the house and unlocked it to search for the cane. I gave momma the cane, waited for her to enter the car safely and put the key in the ignition only to realize she wasn’t wearing her glasses. I jumped out of the car to unlock the house again to locate them, discovering that she’d also left her cellphone. Now that she had everything, I tried cranking up and pulling off again. Her pleasant expression showed that she wasn’t worried as I ran back and forth for the important items.
On these days, the extra time I’ve learned to allot also gives me a chance to drive more slowly so momma can see those things she rarely sees because she seldom leaves our street. I also do this with daddy, even though he routinely drives the neighborhood in his antique truck. Every now and then, I pick momma up in “her” car. When I do, she nods in approval and smiles as she remembers things she did and places she frequented when she still drove.
I’ve learned to slow down and be grateful for these moments.
Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy is director of technology for Gulfport School District, as well as an author, caregiver, educator and educational technology leader. Reach her at email@example.com.