Caring for someone with dementia is even harder when your infrastructure is knocked out. Fortunately, this week my mom was in Philadelphia where Hurricane Sandy was less violent. But last year, during Hurricane Irene, she was with me in the Poconos where I struggled to create normal supports for her after we lost electricity and water. By chance we had one of the most fun days I’ve ever spent with my mother.
During the weekend of Irene I had to make an emergency trip away from the house. A short-term caregiver came to stay with mom while I got a contractor to attend to a leaky roof. By the time I got back to Mom, the power had gone out, leaving us with no more than a large pot full of water for washing dishes and hands. Since I couldn’t use our electric stove to cook for my always hungry mom, I took her out to one of the few local spots that hadn’t lost power. There, a group of very happy young women caught sight of me helping my mom up the restaurant steps. They were tipsy nurses toasting a member of their group who was about to get married.
The ladies were in fine form wearing Tinkerbell wings made of wire hangers, glitter and green panty hose. While mom and I ate in the atrium and recharged the phone batteries, the nurses moved their party onto the dance floor near the jukebox. My mother’s form of dementia has never stolen her love of music. So when the ladies played some fifties rock and roll, Mom was ready to jitterbug.
Once she was out on the floor, one of the nurses put a pair of green wings on my tiny, hopping mom. She spent the rest of her day dancing with the bride-to-be, the maid of honor, a waitress, the bartender, me, and a few other people who just wanted to join the fun. Mom was ecstatic.
When we got home, I lit my mom’s room with a solar light, put her to bed, and crossed my fingers that we’d wake to find the power restored by morning. Her fairy wings hung from the bedroom mirror as a souvenir of our crazy afternoon.
The next day, when I mentioned our dance party with the nurses, she didn’t remember a thing. Oh caregivers! — you know how sharp that knife of pain can cut when your loved one forgets a happy time they just had. But then I pointed out the fairy wings on her mirror and told her again how happily she’d danced. The sight of those wings made her laugh and for me that was sufficient. Those nurses took a lot of pictures of us and someday I’d love to find those ladies again. Just thinking of them makes me smile over memories of Hurricane Irene, who seemed so much nicer than her nasty cousin Sandy.