Sep 25, 2011

I Think I’ll Just Wear a Different One!

“Do you want it back?” I asked my daughter.

By Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld

My mom, affectionately known as Nanny Polly, lived with my family for 14 years. For the last six years, Alzheimer’s lived with us, too.

Before we reached the point at which we could no longer safely care for her, Nanny Polly, like most Alzheimer’s sufferers, did some pretty bizarre things. For my family, some of these provided great comic relief. After all, if you can’t laugh about some of these odd behaviors, they will make you cry.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room

One strange behavior, which has followed her to the Alzheimer’s facility at which she now resides, is her penchant for taking other people’s clothing. In her new home, she sometimes takes items she likes from the laundry room, and when I visit I go through her closet and return them.

In our house, my mom’s bedroom was across the hall from my teenaged daughter’s room. Like any typical teen, she often had piles of clothing in her room, and each night before bed she would lay out her outfit for the following day on the rug. Often during the night, Nanny Polly would roam the hall, coming into our bedroom or one of the children’s in search of the bathroom.

One morning my daughter ran downstairs in a panic. Her bra was missing. “What do you mean?” I asked. After all, who (in their right mind) would take a pink-and-white polka dot bra? After searching around for a few minutes, I had a strange thought. I walked into Nanny Polly’s room, where she sat on her bed trying to do a puzzle. I peeked down her sweater, and there, sure enough, were pink and white polka dots.

“Do you want it back?” I asked my daughter.

“Um, I think I’ll just wear a different one!,” she yelled back, as we both fought back tears of laughter. Nanny Polly, of course, staunchly denied taking anyone’s bra, insisting it had been in her drawer all along.

Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief for CenterWatch, a global source of clinical trials information and publications. Previously, Cheryl was Assistant Business Editor/Special Sections Editor at The Boston Globe and Assistant Business Editor at the Boston Herald. She holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was the primary caregiver for her mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, for six years.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld, the Alzheimer's Reading Room