Tim’s physical therapist Dat was all set to discharge him. Dat had taught Tim leg-strengthening exercises and balancing exercises. He had taught him to use a cane and watched him walk around the house with it.
Then they went outside. Dat came in shaken, his Asian eyes round. “He’s not safe!” he told me right in front of Tim. “He has no concept of where he’s going or what he’s doing! He doesn’t lift his feet and several times he would have fallen if I hadn’t caught him! He doesn’t pay attention to whether he’s walking on a level surface or bumpy ground–and when he gets to a curb he doesn’t stop, he just keeps walking!”
So they ordered him a rolling walker (Rollator). Tim tried it, went back to the cane, wanted us to drop him off at the library and said he’d take the bus back. I managed not to say anything. He made it home okay.
The next time we drove him to the Senior Center, the door he usually goes in, near the elevator, was locked. His AA class is on the second floor at the opposite end of the building. Tim took off toward the outside stairs–climbing on a concrete outcropping, stepping onto the end of a metal grate that lifted to meet him, changed his mind about going further that way and turned, stepping out into thin air, landing upright on pavement a foot below–all while I was trying to catch up with him.
At the bottom of this staircase I said, “Tim. No!” The PT was worried about his crossing thresholds. How much rounder could Dat’s eyes get, how much shakier his voice, if he saw Tim start to climb those stairs?
Tim turned and pierced me with a look that shriveled, as if I were crazy. Then he headed up the stairs and I had no choice but to follow and hope I could catch him before one of his stumbles became a tumble. (Remember, he doesn’t lift his feet.)
At the top, I said, “When we come back for you, please wait for us at the top of the stairs.”
“I’ll wait for you at the bottom.”
“Please don’t. We’ll be here before you get out of the meeting, we’ll wait for you so you won’t have to wait for us.”
The whole situation was so scary to me I let Jerry go pick him up afterwards. I didn’t want to be around for the splat.
Don’t treat him like a child, Tim says and Jerry echoes. But there are two ways of treating someone like a child. One is to address attitude and behavior–instruct, correct, forbid. Boss. Scold. Criticize. Control. I can bite that back.
Another is to intervene to protect from danger. For the life of me, for the life of Tim, I can’t keep myself from doing that.
I have discovered that as long as I hide the cane, Tim uses the Rollator. Maybe it will limit him to ground floor doors and elevators.
Anyway, I’m sleeping better.