Phone call this evening with Elderly Parent:
EP: My leg is doing so much better. I went on a big long walk.
Mel: A big long walk? what does that mean exactly? (EP had a fracture and months of rehab; now walks with a cane when outside her house, doesn't use it in her house)
EP: oh I just went round and round. I went to see my neighbor Alice down the street. And then I went the wrong way and didn't know how to get back to my house. So I went on a longer walk than I had planned.
This is not the first such tale I've heard. I'm not sure if it's better or worse that she was on foot this time -- last year I heard a couple of stories from her about getting lost driving to familiar places like her hair salon. And in recent months as some of her acquaintances (including her hairdresser) have realized that I'm aware of her cognitive losses, they've been more forthcoming in telling me other such stories. EP has clearly not been telling me all such stories -- so at some level she realizes this is not normal behavior.
But I can remember only one occasion when she admitted to being nervous or frightened at being lost. Most of the time she acts as though it's no big deal.
And that's what's really, really hard to respond to. I know the generous, kind thing to do would be to say "oh your leg must be doing so much better" since that's what she is focusing on. But all I can hear is her saying that she got lost walking back to her house from down the block.
And when I hang up the phone and turn on the computer, there's an email from her caretaker telling me the same story again. With the added dig that EP was upset because of an earlier conversation with me when I suggested it might not be a good idea for her to fly alone to a professional meeting that she used to attend yearly (even though she's retired). I have heard the stories from last year when she went to the meeting accompanied by two friends who wound up acting as caretaker/nurses for her. She can't travel alone and until we can actually have a conversation about why I have to keep emphasizing her physical limitations (the leg).
EP has lived in the Land of Denial for most of her adult life so the fact that she denies that anything is wrong in her melting brain isn't that surprising. But it's hard to figure out how to break through. So I'm not really trying to yet.