Dad was always a by-the-book kind of guy. As far as I know, he never had so much as a parking ticket, and the worst expletive I ever heard him say was good honk. That’s why I was surprised when he and Mom moved into assisted living and he started causing trouble.
After the residents retired to their apartments, a staff member checked on them every couple of hours during the night. When they tried to check on Mom and Dad the first night, they couldn’t get in. The doors don’t have locks, but Dad had wedged his four-legged cane under the door knob. The next night when he went to bed they put his cane in a closet, but he pushed a chair against the door. Pretty resourceful for an old guy with dementia! His paranoia was short-lived, though, and he soon gave up trying to bar the door.
Then he started to wander. An hour or two after bed time, he was often seen, dressed in his PJs, wandering the halls. At first the aides were afraid he was trying to make a break for it, but he couldn’t walk very fast or very far, so they didn’t worry too much. They kept an eye out for him, and when he took his nightly stroll, one of the aides met him in the hall and escorted him to the common area where there were couches, chairs, and the staff work area with a desk, phone, and intercom. Dad wasn’t very lucid, and maybe not even fully awake, but they visited with him until he was ready to go back to bed.
After a few evenings of this, they realized he was talking about the post office and thought he was at work. For a good bit of his career, he worked nights. He slept on a split shift, napping for a few hours in the afternoon before the rest of the family got home and then catching another hour or two before going to work. Apparently he was reverting to those days, waking up after a couple hours of sleep, ready to go sort some mail.
Because of his nightly wanderings, and because they needed more lock down space anyway, locks were installed on the doors from Dad’s wing into the rest of the facility. A keypad was installed, and a code was required to unlock the door. Since he couldn’t remember the code even if someone gave it to him, Dad was free to wander at will. With both his paranoia and his wanderlust under control, Dad was off the bad boy list. Then along came John.
John moved into an apartment at the opposite end of the hall where Mom and Dad lived. John was very confused and very vocal, and he was definitely a flight risk. He roamed the halls in his wheelchair voicing his complaints.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“Can you open that door for me?”
“Where is my car?”
“How did I get here?”
“When is my daughter coming?”
One night his roaming and Dad’s wandering crossed paths, and John thought he had found an accomplice. The aide returned from doing a room check and found both of them in the common area. John was sitting behind the desk with his wallet open and a $5 bill in his hand. Dad was standing in front of the desk in his pajamas, listening attentively.
“I’ll pay you to open that door for me,” said John,
If only the aide hadn’t shown up, they might have made it over the wall!