My mother jokes that she and my father have a game they play every day called ‘lost and found.’ It seems like just a few months ago, trying to find misplaced items used to stress them both out, but that’s changed. They now see it as a game, and spend minutes, hours, sometimes even days and weeks trying to figure out where something is ‘hiding.’
“Where are my sunglasses?” my father asked this morning as they prepared to head out for their walk.
“You must have left them in Lois’ car,” my mother replies.
Hearing my name, I jump in, “but we didn’t go anywhere in the car yesterday, and I believe you had your glasses on yesterday afternoon.”
Without missing a beat, “thank goodness it’s cloudy,” my mother says to my father, “you don’t need them today.” Brilliant move.
A few hours later, I see my mother in the kitchen and she informs me my father found an envelope with cash inside, tucked under their mattress. She has no idea how it got there, surmising my father was trying to put it somewhere for safekeeping and just now discovered it. The search for his sunglasses still hasn’t resulted in finding that item, “but I did find another pair of his, so we’ll be fine.”
Last week, we had our favorite Chinese food from Peter’s Chinese in Denver’s Congress Park, and the fortune my father opened is pinned on my bulletin board:
He laughed so hard when he read it, pointing out that this gives him plenty of time to find anything he misplaces. On that day it was his pen that had gone missing. He found that pen two days later, under the sofa.
In a great online resource, www.dementiaguide.com, I’m reminded that when healthy people misplace or lose an object…we are able to go into the past to have an idea of when we last used it or where we put it. While that doesn’t always mean we’ll find the object, we have mental tools that do assist us. People with memory problems don’t have this ability. That’s because as more and more neurological pathways are damaged, recalling sequence is very challenging. My dad might be able to remember using his sunglasses, but he has no recollection of where he might have placed them. The goal for us caregivers is to try to make sure those we care about don’t get frustrated in their search for missing items, because if they do they might think someone else hid it or stole it and then become suspicious of people around them. When someone gets that frustrated and/or suspicious, they have no idea how to even go about looking for that missing thing.
I am so blessed. The way my parents find humor in losing possessions, and make a game out of finding them, reminds me to not be so hard on myself right now as I simply cannot remember where I stored some very important papers. I know I re-filed them when I reorganized my office, and for whatever reason, their whereabouts remain unknown to me even now. This, by the way, gives my mother great pleasure. “See, it’s not only us that can’t find what we’re looking for!” she smiles. Giving up on relocating them isn’t an option either, so I will be diligent, but maybe I need to just go back to that fortune in my dad’s fortune cookie and rest assured that my lost possession will be found…within the month.
I am not alone. In chronicling the physical changes in memory and language, The Dementia Guide says some common signs of misplacing or losing objects include: frequently misplaces common items, like glasses; wanders off with items and leaves them in uncommon places, like under the mattress; puts things away in the wrong place; always looking for something; forgets what is lost while they are looking for an item.