Apr 16, 2010

Reader Asks if Dotty is on a Walker -- Others Wonder Why Not?

"Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?" 
-- Robert F. Kennedy

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Is Dotty on a Walker?

Reader Asks if Dotty is on a Walker

If it was up to the judgement and observations of others, Mom would have been on a walker years ago. Believe it or not, I had three readers email me in the past and more or less "yell" at me and tell me my mother should be on a walker.

Complete strangers have come up to me while I was walking with my mother and said to me, she should be on a walker. Two doctors asked me if I wanted a walker for my mother.

My mother, Dorothy, is not on a walker. Dotty will be 94 in two months.

I could have put my mother on a walker years ago. I have no way of knowing if it would have improved her ability to "get around". I am confident when I say this, if I had put her on a walker she would be unable to walk now. This is my belief.

Mom walks like a snail. Ask anyone. Oddly, people are most amazed by the fact that I can walk that slow with her. It isn't easy for me to do, I had to practice. When I say practice, I mean practice. I had to learn to do it.

Whenever someone decides they will walk with my mother for the first time, I tell them how hard it is going to be to walk that slow. You should see the look on their face after they do it. They are amazed that I can do it. They are kind and generous. They don't tell me to get her a walker. They smile when they tell me they are amazed I can do it. Its like a pat on the back, not a slap on the head.

Dotty has a very difficult time walking. She will hold on to the wall or furniture when walking around the house. I hold her hand all the time while walking.

When I walk with Dotty she is always behind me. It appears that I am pulling her. People don't like this when they see it. They don't know that I can better judge Dotty's stability from that position. I know when to stop and when to keep going. Sometimes Dotty says stop pulling me. This always interests me. Why? Because it would be more correct to say that Dotty is holding my hand. Her hand is wrapped around mine, not the other way around. I can tell you this -- she holds on tight.

Here is what you really need to know. Dotty does not fall. She doesn't fall. I think this is because I still get her to walk on a treadmill and I still let her walk without a walker. I am convinced this is what has kept her off the walker. She is ok on the treadmill because she can hold on and I am right there as she walks. She walks very very slowly on the treadmill. Walking on a treadmill improved her balance.

Some of you might read this and think this is about me. About me being pig headed. Its not. But think what you might.

When I first came to Delray Beach, Dotty was falling all the time. Fell and broke her finger. I could have put her on the walker right then and right there. Instead, I decided to put her on a diet and on a treadmill to strengthen her legs.

I noticed while we were in the gym that Dotty would sit down and try and work on the exercise machines whenever she could. One day she was trying to do the shoulder machine all by herself. I went over and started doing it with her. Assisting her. I can't tell you why she loved it. I can tell you she hates the treadmill, and loves the weight machines.

Soon I started putting Dotty on some other weight machines. I moved her to the leg press machine. She didn't like it. We kept at it. Her legs got stronger -- fast. She didn't walk any faster as a result of the treadmill and leg press machine. But something important did happen, she could walk a longer distance without stopping.

This actually allowed us to make a few trips on to the beach. Prior to the gym and the treadmill there is no possible way Dotty would have made it on to the beach. No way she would have been able to walk in the sand.

There are a couple of important points I can make here.

First, I received some very good advice near the beginning. Our doctor encouraged and advised me to let Dotty do whatever she could do. To let her do it for herself. This did not actually pertain to the exercise in the gym. However, I made up my mind when I received this advice to let Dotty do anything and everything she could do.

They say success breeds success. The success I had with the exercise spilled over into all kinds of decisions over the the years. If you have been here for a while you know what I am talking about.

The advice I received and the positive reinforcement from the exercise program led to a second important development. I knew Dotty had Alzheimer's. I learned by allowing her to do things that her life was not over. This lead to another important decision -- that we would start living our life as we always had. Yes, her memory was going, but it didn't mean that she could no longer do anything. I learned to separate out Alzheimer's from the rest of Dotty. I learned that Dotty was capable of doing all kinds of things that I could never have imagined if I had decided to do everything for her.

This might sound harsh. If I had not learned to let Dotty do everything she could do, she would be a vegetable by now. This is my belief.

I often get asked why? Why do you do it? Why do you try so hard? Why bother, the eventual outcome is inevitable? Why not put Dotty is a nursing home, wouldn't that be better for her? What do you expect to gain by doing what you are doing?

I could give a very long answer to each of those questions but I won't.

I made a decision near the beginning to go the distance -- this is my simple answer. Because I know where I am going -- the distance -- I don't need to spend much of my time thinking about those questions.

As far as what do I expect to get out of this? I have no real expectation right now. I believe the answer, the reason, will come to me someday.

I do believe I am here in this situation for a reason. Sooner or later, I'll know why. I don't know if the reason and understanding will come to me in a flash. Or, as a result of an event.

Maybe the answer is this blog? Or maybe a more simple reason. Maybe I needed to learn something.

I suspect there is another different reason. When it is revealed I'll know why.

In the meantime, I intend to go the distance.

I'll put Dotty on a walker if she starts falling.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,600 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room