My father-in-law came to live with us back in the 1990s. He was suffering from dementia. My brother-in-law had threatened to place him in a nursing home if we didn't make the five-plus hour trip to come get him after his girlfriend dumped him back at the family's home where the brother-in-law was staying. Her cash cow had run dry?
We took time off work to make the five hour trip to bring him home with us. First and foremost, it's not always a good idea to remove a person suffering with dementia from familiar surroundings. Our mistake. We didn't know any better at the time.
I'd warned the hubby to please put away any sharp gardening tools, kitchen knives etc. because I'd attended classes on aging/alzheimer's and dementia when my own father had been stricken with dementia years before. The hubby was in denial of the seriousness of the issue. Often I found myself running behind him to put tools away out of my father-in-law's reach and sight.
I'm a very lite sleeper, thank goodness. Even as a child I slept lite. The least small movement, noise etc. I'm suddenly wide awake.
One morning I heard my youngest son's voice calling softly but urgently and desperately, "Mama come get _________." I sensed the urgency and fear in his voice. He and my oldest son shared a room with bunk beds. Again thank goodness my son didn't panic and shout out loud or it would have startled ________, and who knows what could have happened.
I suddenly jumped out of bed and sprung to my feet--instinct tell me I had to remain calm. I came upon my father-in-law heading into my sons' room with a set of long gardening sheers. Again instinct told me don't shout. Remain calm.
I was behind him with his back to me when I saw the sheers. Realizing any sudden loud noise or panic in my voice could cause him to turn around and possibly attack me with the sheers, I calmly and softly called out to ______ and said, "Baby are you going to trim the hedges today for us?" He then looked down at the sheers as if he didn't even realize they were in his hands. I then calmly and softly told him "Why don't you hand me those sheers and we'll go out and trim the hedges together--after breakfast (he love to eat. So I felt mentioning food would help). Mentioning food worked. He handed me the sheers and walked into the kitchen, sat at the table, waiting for me to cook breakfast. Whew! I said to myself, "we just missed a bullet--this time."
But I let the hubby have it with both barrels---and reminded him to PLEASE! PLEASE! Never leave sharp objects or anything that could possibly be used as a weapon lying around.
In another incident, nearly thirty years later, I still have the scar on my arm, though faded, as a reminder when he dug his nails so deep into my arm, it felt like all the way to the bone, the tear refused to drop from the corner of my eye. But I knew any sudden movement, panic or shouting and flesh would have been ripped, because when I looked into his eyes NO ONE WAS THERE. So again, I calmly and softly said, "Papa, I need you to let go of my arm." ___I'd come up behind him and startled him while he was, of all things, peeing in the driveway right when a school bus was passing by with students on it. All I could think of was someone calling the police and reporting an old many exposing himself to school children and the police coming out and possibly arresting him. Not fully knowing or understanding elderly and dementia. Today, hopefully police are usually better trained.
My father-in-law was as slim, but very strong 80+ year old who'd grown up farming and later worked at a distillery where it was common for workers to hoist barrels on their shoulders like hoisting a loaf of bread. At 80 years of age, although his face may have had wrinkles, his body was as taut, smooth and strong as a twenty year old active athlete.