Saturday, July 18, 2015

Who Stole My Blue Shoes?!!!!!!

I recently received a call from Joan's care center. Alex the receptionist has become adept at knowing my mothers quirks. This time however, she had him stumped. He started his conversation with me by saying that he had Joan at his desk and that she was worried that someone had stolen her blue shoes. Puzzled I replied that she owns four pairs of shoes, a pair of white and a pair of black tennis shoes, a pair of leopard slippers and a dress pair of Mary Jane like shoes, but no blue shoes. Alex agreed and asked me to talk to Joan to get more clues, so together we could figure out what blue shoes she was talking about.

Alzheimer's steals so many things from the person suffering from its random hits. One day the suffering person knows the name of every pet they've ever owned and another day, they can't remember the name of their best friend of the past 40 years. First it steals the memory, then dignity, then eventually life itself. A thief with a name everyone knows, but tactics and strategy that no one can anticipate. It steals our word power, then moves on to the big ticket items like taste and smell, and then ultimately removes from us our priceless memories.

After chatting with Mother for a few minutes, she frustratingly gave me the following clues:
  1. You know my little blue shoes!
  2. They go with me when I walk!
  3. On the floor!
  4. Larry made then!
  5. They aren't there!
  6. Oh! You know!
Then the aha! moment struck me...she's talking about the plastic skis on the base of her walker that are shaped in the form of little blue converse shoes. Larry bought them for her from the local medical supply store, knowing full well that folks would comment on how cute they are (thus stroking Mother's need for flattery.)  Somehow/someway they were no longer a part of her walker, which launched a second mystery that needed solving. I assured Mother that we would find her blue shoes and asked her to hand the phone back to the receptionist so we could begin the search.

It didn't take Alex and me long to realize that the therapy staff at Darby Glenn had removed them from her walker. You see, Mother walks around the facility all day every day. In the good weather she ventures outdoors onto the concrete patio, moving back and forth for hours. The skies on her walker had become nubs, causing the staff great concern that she might catch them on a transition strip found in every doorway, or catch on the carpet and become a fall hazard.

Wait, there is more. As Paul Harvey used to say, "The Rest of the Story." A quick chat with the physical therapist revealed that they had removed the shoes and replaced them with a newly engineered plastic ski that resists even a jack-hammer tearing it apart. They quickly realized that Joan was extremely unhappy about her blue shoes being removed. She walked in and out of the therapy room (on and off all day long) muttering, "someone stole my blue shoes." Alzheimer's patients often get stuck on one thing and repeat it over and over like a broken record. (I know because as a caregiver, it's one of the most frustrating indicators of this disease.)

But alas, a quick thinking and compassionate therapist came up with a plan - he drilled a hole in the blue shoe ski, affixed it with a screw on to the new non-destructive ski and re-attached it all to her walker. Final result? The new ski is in its proper place and allows for her safety, but when Joan looks down at the floor she sees only her blue shoes that Larry made for her. A win/win for all of us!

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