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Younger, stronger wanderers

December 13, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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After being at this facility for a few months, the only wanderer I encountered was an elderly female resident with dementia who wants to find an empty bed to sleep in. Usually she is harmless and therefore I thought that wanderers would not be an issue here. That all changed when a 55-year-old man with dementia was admitted one week ago.

Since he was a marathon runner, I will refer to him as Marathon Man. On his first day he was quiet. He just stood outside resident doorways or walked around in the hallway. But later that evening he started coming in and out of my room while I was in bed watching TV. The staff could not keep him out, so they had to close my door, which deterred him somewhat.

That night, Marathon Man developed a fascination with my room and the next room, which are connected by an adjoining bathroom. In the morning, he walked out of my bathroom and out my door. I had told my nurse the day before that it was only a matter of time before Marathon Man came into my room and startled me out of a sound sleep. The nurse agreed and said there was nothing much that could be done to prevent it.

That night I woke to find Marathon Man standing in front of my closet. My clock read 10 p.m. and I knew some residents would be outside for their last smoke break. I put my call light on and wondered when it would be answered.

I tried to calmly talk Marathon Man into leaving my room, redirecting him to the door. I told him that someone needed him in the hallway. But he opened the door, looked out, and said no one was there.

After several minutes he started getting into my things. He was moving things on my dresser and rumpling the covers on the other bed. I had Christmas presents in bags there and I was concerned, so I started calling for the nurse.

I continued talking calmly to Marathon Man, but when he picked up my computer keyboard, I became alarmed. He was pulling on it and I was afraid he might hurt himself or break the keyboard. So I strongly told him I needed the nurse.

As I watched Marathon Man, my chest tightened and perspiration formed on my forehead. Several minutes had gone by and no one came to my aid. I began to yell and broke down in tears. Marathon Man did not like the noise I was making and I hoped he would leave. Instead, he stood beside my bed and rubbed my shoulders. I struggled to remain calm as thoughts raced through my mind.

As Marathon Man moved away from me and toward the door, the nurse came in. She tried to take Marathon Man out but he would not go. So she gently pushed him out the door and closed it. I was shaking and in tears.

Five minutes later two aides came in. They got me a drink of water and helped me settle down. They told me they would keep an eye on him and make sure that the night shift aides did the same.

So far Marathon Man has made fewer trips to my room during the night. But in the daytime he is still totally fascinated with it.

Marathon Man's room is now in a different place, but he is always on the move.

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...