Party... Panic?

My grandma has recently started getting home care, where health care aides come and remind her to take her pills and help her shower twice a week. It was something I was advocating for a while, but nobody listens to the grandkid, am I right?

Well, it was a bit of a rocky start, but after the adjustment, it's been great for everyone — probably most so for my grandma, who gets proper visits from us now. Friendly scheduled calls instead of, "Did you take your pills?" And she gets to see a couple more friendly faces each day!

An unexpected call

Of course, when my mom's phone rang this morning from the home care worker saying, "She's not answering her door, and she's not at breakfast." It was a bit of an ah, what? moment.

My mom called again a half-hour later, and my grandma answered, sounding fine, saying she just had her shower — no mention of home care. But oh well, we went along with our day and didn't ask questions until early afternoon. My mom called to tell her we were coming over, and repeatedly, again, there was no answer!

Where did she go?

When my grandma moved into her apartment, most of the activities were not running due to COVID. So she got into a habit of not going to activities. Which means she's usually in her apartment if she's not down at breakfast or supper.

So, of course, her not answering the phone at 12:30 in the afternoon is a bit concerning! As my mom said, "She's not getting any younger."

So, we packed up the cookie dough we were going to bake at her place today and headed out the door to go see what was going on. My mom predicted she may have misplaced all her phones in her apartment and they are dead, which has happened in the past.

A moment of panic

We arrived at her building which felt abnormally quiet to me. Often there are tenants hanging out in the lobby or milling about the halls, but nobody was around. I sensed it immediately when we walked in - the vibe was just weird.

We got upstairs to her suite and knocked. She usually yells, "Coming!" So of course this is where the moment of panic begins.

I have this thing called inappropriate sinus tachycardia which just means my heart rate overreacts to every little thing, so after climbing the stairs and her not answering the door, my heart rate spent a good 20 minutes at 185 beats per minute according to my Apple Watch.

Grandma is not a wanderer

While I'm trying to stop my heart from exploding and catch my breath, my mom is figuring out how to get the key from the lockbox on the wall. She finally gets it open, unlocks the door, and yells, "Hello?!" As we stick our heads into the apartment to no answer.

My mom is about to turn around, but I walked right in and scanned the rooms and the (dark) closet and nope, she was definitely not there.

This is where I started to calm down at least in my head a bit because my grandma has dementia, but she is not, at this point, a wanderer.

She's been claiming she goes for walks outside, but we don't think this is actually happening since she also hasn't been going to activities.

On an adventure

So now we are on an adventure to figure out where, exactly, my grandma went!

We take the stairs back down and check the activity board, and that's where we see it: March birthday party. My grandma's birthday was this month, so that's where all the pieces started clicking together.

Unexpected routine changes

Her showers are usually around 12:30 PM. The fact that they came so early this morning was confusing because they usually stick to their schedule unless the client isn't there. Then they will come back after they have seen a few others.

That's what the pill home care person did when my grandma "wasn't there" — she was just in the shower. The assisted living staff must have told home care to see her early, and they probably sent someone to get her and ensure she went to the birthday lunch!

Spotted! At the party

We did go to the area where the party was being held to stick our heads in, but we were so happy she was there we didn't want her to notice us. I mostly just saw a dozen rollators and walkers lined up against the wall!

A couple of times when my grandma has gone to activities, she's been a bit overwhelmed and disoriented when she got back from the stimulation and change in routine. But our phone rang this afternoon, and she was just fine.

My mom said she sounded like she had a good time. Grandma even said, "I just came back and sat down for a bit until I got my head sorted out, and now I'm fine." Impressive!

Panic party of two

The party panic was all ours — my grandma, on the other hand, was having a great time. Maybe we can even get her to try the April birthday party now?

How do you encourage your loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia to participate in recreational activities? Tell us in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

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