Blog 36: Yea though I walk (pt 2)

Though walking may have helped Bill stay out of the nursing home, it certainly did not “stave off dementia” (c.f. BLOG  35).  Maybe it did and will for others but for Bill, that beast just kept on advancing, gobbling up his brain as it went, chunk by chunk.  This was noticeable in many areas, but particularly in the area of walking.  Bill just could not walk far any more.  Those swollen legs, the result of lack of elevation, made the activity difficult and I think that there were times when Bill felt that he was walking on sponges.  But that didn’t stop Bill moving and, using a chair for support, he would walk from room to room and round and round the inside of the house, day in and day out.  At one time, I found one of the dining room chairs out in the middle of the road.  Bill had made it that far while I wasn’t looking but, on finding the pushing difficult, had dumped the chair and taken himself off down to the corner on his own two legs.

When I discovered that Bill had gone and went out the open front door looking for him, this is what I saw:

Blog 036 Image 1

Then, towards the end of 2011, a friend donated Bill a walker.  This wonderful contraption, a walking frame on wheels, gave Bill a new lease of life.  I had to move all the downstairs furniture to make pathways for him so that he could tootle around on his new toy.  Sometimes you would swear that he was mowing the lawn as the walker went back and forth on the rug.  At other times, it seemed that he was driving a car as, with skill and care, he pushed through narrow passageways and around corners.  He loved that walker and manoeuvred it, this way and that, over his couple of night-time waking hours and for many of those in the day.

The OzCare workers, too, were happy with that walker.  They would pick Bill up each morning and, walker in boot, would head off for a certain park in the next suburb.  The nurses had very early discovered that, once Bill was on that walker, you couldn’t turn him around.  That man was going somewhere and that somewhere was always forward and, if you tried to turn him around, you could be thumped for your pains.  So, these very concerned and caring nurses found this particular park that contained a long, circular pathway.  Though I have never seen it, I imagine that it looked something like this:

Blog 036 Image 2

Artist’s impression of the park that Bill walked around each morning with his carers.

 The nurses found that, at this park, they could back into the car park, right near the entrance, put Bill on the walker, walk the circuit with him and then veer him towards the car boot.  Bill was always fairly tired after the walk so, getting him off the walker and getting both into the car, though never struggle-free, was not more than the nurses could handle.

Back in 2006, when I was still teaching and, at the time, on playground duty, I decided to do a lunchbox check before letting children go to play.

“Good,” Jessie, I was saying.  “You’ve eaten most of your lunch.  You may go….. And you, Peter …. And you, Nick.”

But suddenly, I was interrupted in my task by a worried child  tugging anxiously at my arm.

“Mrs J, Mrs J”, young Lucas cried.  “Two have escaped.  They ran around the corner and they’ve gone off without showing you their lunch boxes.”

It was much the same with Bill. Bill “escaped” on several occasions on that walker.  With its help, it was amazing how far he could get down that road.  But he was not like my friend’s mother, who took off in the middle of the night, handbag on her forearm, tea towel around her waist, towing the shopping trolley.  That mother knew exactly where she was going. Bill, when he took off, had no such purpose in mind.  His only goal, as he walked down that street, as far as I could see, was to follow the edge of the road.  With surgical precision, he would guide that walker along that paved edge, always making sure that he kept the wheels beside the concrete strip.  He was fixated on that task and that task entirely.

After the arrival of the walker, I had to start deadlocking the doors. Sometimes, though, I would forget and Bill would be out.  I was so lucky that I had neighbours who were only too willing to help me.  They helped me look for him, took their cars out of their garages to speed up the search and phoned when they spotted him out in the cul-de-sac without me.

I have said that the exercise of walking was a major factor in helping me look after Bill at home.  But, of course, many things helped me:  OzCare and Blue Care and the friend who donated the walker.  But I can never forget those kind and concerned neighbours who made it their business to be constantly mindful of the drama that was being played out next door to them and down the road.

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a blog about my dementia journey


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