It was Donovan who – back in the 1967 – sang: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” If Mom had a tie-dyed thing going on right now, she might be singing: “First there is an anklet, then there is no anklet, then there is.”
The anklet, of course, is the security precaution affixed to Mom’s left leg: the WanderGuard ID Departure Alert System. You win one of these little prizes if you are deemed a “walking risk.” A walking risk is someone who might one day up and walk out of Piedmont Place. That would be a touch embarrassing for the facility, and more than a little dangerous for the expeditionary patient.
Mom’s adventures with the anklet have been documented in this blog before: here, here, and here. Having one means that any time you get near an exterior door, the door locks shut, and an 80-decibel shriek alerts staff that an inmate is making a break for it. (Just kidding about the “inmate.”) It’s on you 24/7, and only a specialized tool can remove it.
“It’s an abomination,” Mom says of her WanderGuard. She’s had one for months followed by a few blessed weeks without, followed by months again with, and so on. It was last removed about a month ago. Only a week later, it was on again.
I tracked down the RN responsible for this device to ask what’s up. It turns out that the facility’s policy is to not require an anklet for its patients. Every quarter, certain key staffers meet and evaluate each patient’s potential for walking out of the place. In the last meeting, a staffer noted that Mom had to ask for directions back to her room once in recent days. This lapse of memory was an indicator that she had the potential for exiting the premises. Such is dementia. On went the anklet.
I have influenced the judgment of medical professionals before; like when the handicap walker was prescribed for someone with a falling risk. That made no sense to me. I presented my case to the doctor and won. Mom is again scoring frequent-walking points. Or the closely-supervised shower. I hatched a plan, advocated with the Occupational Therapist, and won. Mom is again a happy daily showerer.
I have not attempted to influence professional judgment regarding the WanderGuard. I don’t have a strong-enough case, and they could be right. So Mom continues to suffer the indignity and inconvenience of wearing the thing.
When I visited her yesterday, Mom gave me the usual short list of needed things. Among them, more clear cellophane tape. I promised to bring it tomorrow. She then proceeded to explain what she needed it for; an explanation I didn’t understand. So she showed me. Hiking up her pant leg, she revealed the WanderGuard taped to her skin high above the ankle. It was an odd sight, but one that smacked of genius.
Mom explained that when she walks, the device bounces against her ankle causing chafing and irritation. Taped up this way, the bouncing problem was solved. But she had run out of tape.
I found myself complimenting her on the cleverness of this solution. At the same time, I allowed myself — for a moment — to doubt the diagnosis of dementia. Only a spot-on person could come up with this. Reality returned. I called in the nurse who called in the social worker. They tried to develop some kind of fix that didn’t involve adhesives clogging up pores. Tomorrow, they’ll try some more.
In the meantime, I’ll purchase a wrist sweatband. I’ll suggest that Mom slip it over her foot onto her ankle, and let the WanderGuard rest on it. I think the irritation will be eliminated.
Of the genius-ity of my idea: like mother, like son.