Exit Seeking Leads to Emergency Move
Dorothy, 86, moved to Portland to be near her daughter. She had lived alone in her own home for the last 10 years since her husband passed but was in Eastern Washington and her daughter worried about her being so far away. Her daughter on her own found her a very nice apartment in an independent living community. Dorothy had a full kitchen so she could continue to cook for herself if she wanted but three meals a day were provided in the dining room. It was the perfect scenario for Dorothy to remain independent but have the support from the community and her daughter when needed.
What her daughter didn’t realize was Dorothy had severe memory impairment. Dorothy was able to have very nice conversations with her daughter on the phone and she was fine for short visits. The ability to mask memory impairment short term is common. Family often doesn’t realize how severe the issues are until something dangerous happens.
In this case Dorothy started leaving the building during the night. One morning the nurse found her outside in her pajamas. She had fallen but fortunately wasn’t injured beyond a few scrapes. She wasn’t able to get back in the building though as it was before hours and the doors were still locked and she didn’t know the code to get in. Another day her friends couldn’t find her at lunch time so everybody searched the building for her. They found her 2 miles down the very busy street trying to go home. It was obvious Dorothy needed a secure memory care building or her safety would be highly at risk.
Dorothy’s daughter and I toured memory care buildings in the area. We were under pressure to find a place that had a vacancy and was near the daughter. We were able to find a room for her in a building three miles from where she had lived so her friends could still visit. The building is secure, she cannot get outside on her own. It’s a smaller area so she doesn’t get lost trying to find her room or the dining room. There are caregivers there all the time so they can help queue her on what to do and where to go. They let her do as much as she can so she still feels independent but they’re there to help as needed. There are activities planned throughout the day that are geared to her cognitive abilities. They keep her busy and challenged.
It’s hard for her daughter to accept that her mom needs memory care but she’s glad her mom is safe now and can’t leave the building without assistance.