Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.




Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Brrrrringing" in the New Year

As I mentioned previously, my mother now lives at the Village, an assisted living facility that specializes in the care of patients diagnosed with dementia.

This disease has caused my mother to perseverate on certain things. One of them is the telephone. Every day, my siblings and I would receive hundreds of phone calls from our mother. She would call, leave a message and then, one minute later, call again, since she would completely forget she had just called us. We all adapted to life with the constant ring, ring, ring of the telephone and our need to delete, delete, delete the hundreds of messages we received from her each day.

In a previous post entitled, "Brrrrring",  I explained how her phone privileges were revoked and the telephone removed from her room. The problem? She figured out how to call 911. Four times she called 911, and four times the cavalry came, only to find a small little old lady playing Scrabble; completely oblivious to the fact that she had just called them. In fact, the last time she called 911, she told them she was being held against her will. Only to smile when they arrived and ask why they were there.

Needless to say, for the good of the community, the phone was removed.

It seemed like a good solution at the time.

Unfortunately, it was not.

My mother, now in extreme anxiety since she could not reach any of us, proceeded to wreak havoc on the peaceful, little Village community. She wandered the hallway of the memory support unit searching for an accommodating fellow patient who still had a phone.

She entered the room of an elderly gentlemen getting dressed. She entered the room of a woman visiting with her children. She entered the room of anyone whose door was unlocked. The kind and patient staff of this elderly community were pushed to their limits, as they chased my poor mother and her walker from room to room. One unsuspecting dementia patient to the next had to endure my mother's repetitive questioning...

"Excuse me but do you have a phone I could use?" My mother would ask again and again and again.

I have discovered recently that being the parent of a child with special needs is all about acquiring an ability to solve unusual problems.

Well, I can tell you, without a doubt, that being the child of an adult diagnosed with dementia, is exactly the same thing! Creative problem solving becomes a necessity to those whose loved ones have been diagnosed with dementia.

After we received several phone calls from the Village, expressing concern over our mother's need to terrorize even the most passive of patients, while she searched continuously for a phone, my siblings and I decided we needed to think of something, and fast.

My brother, John, ironically a telecommunications professional, came up with a beauty of an idea. Why not get Mom a phone and glue down all the numbered buttons? Then we could program just our phone numbers on the speed dial buttons so that she could still contact us.

He quickly purchased the phone, glued down the buttons, programed the speed dials and reinstalled it into her room.

It worked like a charm.

Our mother's anxiety has been reduced, she no longer wanders the halls in search of that elusive phone.

Life at the Village has returned to its calm, peaceful routine. The patients, no longer threatened, enjoy their quiet games of Scrabble.

And once again the four of us siblings endure the sound of a telephone ringing and ringing.

"Brrrrrrrrrring"