The Locked Doors
Imagine not being allowed to leave your home when you want to. Are you a prisoner? Do you no longer have freedom of choice?
It is now 6:30 AM on a Monday morning. I actually had to look at my cellphone to be sure – yes, it is Monday and it is morning. I know that because the sun is streaming into our living room after close to twelve hours of darkness. The Old City walls of Jerusalem are now glowing in their golden splendor.
Hubby came to visit my room four times in the night; each time trying to open the locked door which leads to our patio. Each time I ordered him out of the room as he had interrupted my deep sleep and I was becoming increasingly irritable with each visit. Violet heard our inter-change and came to the rescue. She spoke softly with him and sat with him throughout the night.
We had scheduled a home visit from a nurse to take blood from Hubby and they promised to arrive between 6:30 and 7:30 AM. After Hubby’s 6 AM entrance, there was little reason to go back to sleep for such a short interval. I came out of my bedroom to find Hubby and Violet sitting on the living room sofa as the sun was rising. They were talking softly to each other as Violet was trying to explain (for the umpteenth time) to Hubby why the doors were locked. He was very angry that she would not let him leave the house in the middle of the night. This happens a few times a week. I began to analyze why he feels the need to escape.
There are times when Hubby sees people in the house at night… often lots of people. When I try to tell that they are not there, he gets furious. He sees them. They exist. Usually, the people are men and Hubby wants to get away from them. Their presence implies danger, and one reasonably attempts to escape danger. Hence the need to flee and get out of the locked doors. It is a classic syndrome that people suffering from Dementia will try to get out of their homes in the dark of night. It is not that they fancy a nighttime stroll.
Actually, dementia sufferers often will want to exit their home, perhaps in search of someone, or thinking that they want to return home, when they are actually already in their own home. It is one of the many reasons that they cannot be left alone.
It is extremely difficult to think like Hubby. All we can try to tell him is that he is “safe” and no harm will come to him. When I am awake, I try to distract his brain with music. It sometimes works.
When I joined the pair at 6 AM, Hubby was insulting her, as only he can:
“This stupid girl will not let me leave the house!”
I smiled at her and my lips moved saying “I am so sorry”. We found hubby’s morning meds and gave them to him to calm him. He had to be exhausted from a night of virtually no sleep. We certainly were.
I sent his aide, Violet, to her room to catch some shut-eye and sat with Hubby until he calmed down. The meds take about an hour to do their magic. While horizontal in his bed he was staring at the ceiling and saw something that he was afraid would fall on me. He was transfixed by it. There was nothing there. I reassured him that “it” would not fall onto me. Slowly the meds calmed him and he finally closed his eyes. I pulled the wonderfully soft pink blanket up under his chin and placed his hands on the velvety surface. It is much like stroking a child’s furry stuffed animal. I have the identical blanket. It calms me and I presume it does the same for Hubby. He will now sleep for many hours and the next 24 hours will be once again turned upside down.
Hubby generally does not hallucinate during the daytime. There is much to distract the brain when others are around. I would never have believed that our brains could be so convoluted in a consistent sort of way. Understanding helps, although sleep deprivation trumps philosophical or psychological analysis.
I am trying to think of something absolutely brilliant to add, but my own pink furry blanket is beckoning to me. I can only hear the sound of birds chirping in our back yard. Blessed be the silence.