Taking the Scenic Route Through Alzheimer’s

There goes that familiar yellow school bus again. Passing through my neighborhood, evoking a flash of the old song … the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, all day long. My mind drifted to the city bus Mom depended on, before she was able to drive. Remember this little tune?

If it wasn’t for that bus, she would’ve spent much of her adulthood home-bound except for outings with family and friends; getting a license came late in life. Now, Alzheimer’s, has taken her back in time, in more ways than one. She frequently asks me to take her to see her parents. “Let’s go upstate and see them!” I ride it out with her. “Okay, let’s plan it. What should we take and when should we go?” It would do no good to tell her my grandparents have been dead more than 20 years … or that I can’t get her in the car. It’s been nearly five months since Mom has been able to plant her feet on the ground. She makes no effort to stand and screams when moved. Is it Alzheimer’s progression? Is it fear? Is it the result of broken hips within a 6-week span? I suspect it’s an unfortunate combination of all of the above.

The answer really doesn’t matter. Mom is now wheel-chair bound. The care center MeMom
labeled her transfers a liability issue; no more assists by staff outside the building, except via their handicapped accessible van. We knew it was coming. The end of Sunday car rides for ice cream and scenic drives along the beach. Our last ride was to her grandson’s wedding, via a gracious friend’s handicapped van. In an Alzheimer’s Disease In-Depth Report, The New York Times noted, “as the disease progresses, patients become immobile, literally forgetting how to move. Eventually, they become almost entirely wheelchair-bound or bedridden.”

My mind couldn’t settle there on the impossible.
I wanted to turn things around. Surely we can at least call upon a handicapped accessible taxi. There’s got to be a way to keep 62-years of riding side-by-side intact for my parents. Rental companies, taxi services, shuttles … I called them all. I came up empty-handed. No accessible fee-based vehicles for leisure, pleasurable activities on The Emerald Coast. Lacking the physical stamina to transfer her ourselves, and knowing the safety risk, I turned to friends in the business of elder care. Two private-duty CNAs with proper mobility training can do what I cannot.

If only life afforded more u-turns …. away from the havoc of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

I envision a day when scenic rides, leisure outings, and community connection can be commonplace. MidAmerica Coach in Kansas City has been providing it for over a decade with the understanding that “we all fear the memory loss, dementia, slower mind, and aging that come with time. There’s no way to combat the inevitability, but there are absolutely methods to slow it and keep the seniors and ourselves feeling healthier and happier … over time.”

IMG_2071My community is making progress, given Magnolia Senior Day Care, long-term care and senior centers, and our monthly Neighborhood Memory Cafes, yet there’s much more to be done in becoming a dementia-friendly community. ACT on Alzheimer’s offers a dementia capable toolkit for creating a supportive environment for people with dementia and their families.
For now, I’m looking forward to getting out for a leisure ride along the beach this weekend – with Mom! Whether it’s a day in our collection of memories or a string of assisted-outings, it’s making huge outcomes possible as we take the scenic route through Alzheimer’s.

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