“Your mother has Alzheimer’s.” Who wants to hear those words from a doctor living 4500 km away?
Pat, a daughter in her mid-40s, pounced into action. Living on a small island on the West Coast of Canada meant she had to be creative if she planned to look after her mother.
Pat flew across Canada to the home in Kitchener, Ontario where her brother and she had been raised and where her mother, now widowed, still lived. Once there, after discussions with the doctor and her brother, Pat went upstairs and explored the attic. She was on a mission that paid off handsomely. She found the original blueprints to the family home.
Pat never has followed a conventional lifestyle. She also has never displayed a conventional heart. Whenever she could be of help to others, she showed up. She dabbled in various types of work, including being a prospector of a claim that had to be worked to be kept. By hereself, she would hike into her secret location in the wilds of our province and do whatever was necessary to keep title to her claim. When she was on the Island, she worked as a labourer on various construction projects.
Pat has spent the majority of her life as a single woman. One wonders if the men she loved realized the caliber of human being they had as a partner. Perhaps they did and were afraid they could not live up to her standards.
Obviously Pat would become her mother’s caregiver, advocate and companion. The challenge was how she would complete those roles without having to return to Kitchener. City life was longer her forté. Recognizing that change is the biggest enemy for any Alzheimer’s patient, Pat made a decision. Mother would continue living in her house, but on Pat’s Island.
She took the blueprints, flew back home to her Island, borrowed a piece of land on a temporary basis, and hired a builder. With construction underway and with emphasis on exactitude, Pat returned to Kitchener. Thus began the next phase of her plan.
In Kitchener, Pat made notes of exact heights of everything including the light switches. She recorded the types of handles and knobs on anything that would open and close. She listed where everything was kept in drawers, cupboards, closets and cabinets. She recorded the colours in each room. She drew little diagrams of the placement of everything.
Pat decided her mother would need to arrive at her new-old home on the West Coast at night and be so tired that she would gladly fall into bed and sleep soundly. Pat’s friends would have set up the bedroom, bathroom and a bit of the kitchen as close as possible to the Kitchener home. This would tide them over until the movers arrived with the furnishings.
During the first night, the friends would quickly unpack the cartons that would arrive with them. These items would get mother through her morning ablutions with familiarity and ease.
Therefore, while still in Kitchener and while her mother slept, Pat practiced packing her mother’s bedroom, bathroom and kitchen articles on numerous occasions. Finally, the contents, amounting to her mother’s needs for a typical morning, fit into the maximum number of cartons allowed to travel with them on their flight to Western Canada.
Confident that the house construction on the West Coast was on schedule, it was time to contact the movers. Once they understood the critical nature of their task, both from a timing and a positioning point of view, they set a date. Pat assured them of a floor plan showing the exact placement of all the furnishings when they arrived on the West Coast.
Finally, Pat booked their flight.