Rodger came to live with us 2002. Frail and with growing memory problems, he kept us on our toes as he struggled to navigate through a world that refused to make sense. Routine was vitally important; without it he wound down into confusion so complete all movement came to a halt. He was stuck somewhere in time.
We would come upon him staring into space, mumbling softly about a missed appointment made fifty years ago or reliving a day in the life of a long ago soldier.
Sometimes with pity, always with patience, I would gently bring him back. “Orienting him to time and place,” as the doctor said.
His favorite room was the kitchen. Small and bright with sunshine, it opens onto a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hills he called them, telling me about the fabulous peaks he once climbed in the mountain ranges of Italy. For a short time his memory was as sharp and clear as the cold mountain air of days gone by.
A charming boyish smile crossed his face as he spoke of his mother making polenta before going to church each day. Of rolling up the rugs and dancing on Saturday night in a kitchen glowing with firelight and youthful dreams.
In the kitchen, with no need of persistent voices orienting him to time and place, he was able to move. He was home again.
Caregivers, do ever have to orient your loved one to time and place? Does he or she have a favorite room or place that brings comfort? If so, please share your story in the comment section. It may help another caregiver to read about it.