Another blog inspired me to write this entry. It’s amazing how I haven’t thought about this aspect of my mom’s illness in a while. Reading entries about Alzheimers patients and phones made me remember and want to comment…my comment looked way too long so it ended up becoming an entry on my own blog.
In the first 10 years of my mom’s illness, the phone sometimes played quite a role. In the early years, she'd call me and my siblings up to 15-20 times per day combined (not kidding). This was despite the fact that we’d regularly call her during the day to check in. We had a large-print phone list of important numbers beside the phone for her, including emergency for fire/police/ambulance. Thank G*D she never had to use and never abused that number.
One of my siblings finally got so fed up with the calls that he took a black marker and crossed out his work number. I could kind of understand the frustration he was feeling but at the same time, I felt that was pretty harsh as he was the one she most trusted. My mom was still living at home so she was completely on her own all day and needed these lifelines as she strongly rejected any sort of help/visitors we tried to bring in.
At the time (the early 90's), I was at school full time and only had a pager (cell phones were still rare & expensive). My mom would call my pager and leave a message and I'd have to retrieve the message and then call her back using a pay phone. My pager had the option of just inputting a number for call-back but my mom couldn’t understand that so she left messages. I should have bought a coin dispenser to wear with the number of pages I got/calls I had to make. Fellow students must have thought I was a drug dealer.
The calls were like the weather; somedays were good, other days were terrible. On good days, my mom might call once or twice and be happy to hear that I’d be home soon to make her dinner. On bad days, she’d call many, many times and be quite confused, angry and upset.
Then, there were the days when she wouldn’t call at all (which were almost more alarming) and there would be no answer when I’d call her. Quite often, she’d be chatting with one of the neighbours (whom she still recognized and loved to chat with) or at the local store which wasn’t far (those were very early days when she could still venture that far and not get lost). The worst were days when she didn’t answer and it would be a snowstorm outside…I’d start panicking. If I couldn’t reach her for a few hours, I’d leave school to go home and 9 out of 10 times, I’d find her at home. She would have no recollection of the phone ringing or where she’d been. There were a few times though that she wasn’t home and had wandered off and that was a big part of the reason we finally had to decide to put her in care.
While still living at home, my mom forgot our home address and phone number at some point and I thought that was information that would be lost forever. I found it amazing that she could forget information that was the exact same for 40 years. However, one day, months after we had placed mom in care, she called our home phone number (it was still operating for a few months while we decided what to do with the house/etc). It was both sad and haunting to hear her talk into the answering machine. She just kept saying “hello” and then hung up. I wonder what she called for.