There is no agony and worry like that of a missing family member. We raise our kids hoping to keep them safe and teaching them to keep themselves from harm. We never expect that as we get older, our roles may change from that of child to parent of our parents. That’s what dementia does to a family, it reverses the roles of child and parent.
“Have you seen my father? The service said they dropped him off one hour ago, but he’s not here.” Her voice is filled with stress, worry and a little panic.
The neighborhood search begins as she calls 911.
The onset of dementia is a slow process, one filled with its own worries, for it takes about six months for a correct diagnosis. The confusion sets in and memory starts to fail. Where would an elderly man on foot go? What precautions might he take in this heat?
While the police arrived and asked questions, two neighbors fanned out in vehicles to scour the neighborhood. At mid day in hot weather, nobody is out. Everyone is inside in their air conditioning. Everyone that is except for one man, sitting at a patio table set with the umbrella up providing shade.
“Hi. Are you visiting?”
“Are you Chris’s dad?”
“Yes. She’s not home and I’m waiting for her.”
“This is the neighbor’s house. Chris is around the corner and looking for you. Let me take you there.”
“Oh, good Lord. Okay.”
Walking down the street towards home, Chris is standing in the street talking with the police. I call her phone. “We’re walking down the street.” She waves and I wave back. Her dad just keeps walking along and greets her as if nothing has happened, maybe wondering why she wasn’t home.
After a few inquiries, it appears the service dropped him off at the wrong house. He didn’t know it was the wrong one, and so he was waiting for someone to come home. He raised the umbrella on the patio table for some shade.
It was a good outcome … this time.