Previously on The Great Escape: Anusha overhears two elderly residents in the dementia care unit discussing their grand escape.
But rather than frantically intervening and striving to dissuade them, the staff and I allow Norbert and Catherine to continue their discussion in peace. To this, you might say, “Wait. What? You guys want them to escape?”
My response? Of course not! We just know…they can’t. Because the Community department of the center is in the same building as the Village, or dementia care facility, we have several security code door locks between them.
In order to escape, either Catherine or Norbert would have to memorize and key in the code, something that both of them are incapable of doing because of their dementia.
We also allow their scheming because it’s also good to have the residents interact with each other. Usually they’re too caught up in their own fragmented worlds of past and present to engage in any conversation.
After I consider Norbert and Catherine’s predicament for a couple of moments, I sympathetically shake my head and go back to my daily duties.
While I’m doing Grace’s nails, Norbert lightly taps my shoulder, and I turn to see his questioning gaze.
“Can I have my car keys?” he asks me plainly.
Way to conceal your intentions, Norbert, I think to myself before saying, “You gave them to your son several months ago, remember? He thought it would be easier since you’re staying with us.”
Looking convinced, Norbert quickly nods before going to sit back down with Catherine.
A few moments later, I see Norbert with his Yankees hat and light rain jacket on.
“Going somewhere, Norbert?” I ask him kindly.
He smiles at me in response and jerks his thumb over to Catherine, who’s standing a few feet away from us.
“We’re going to her house. Do we have to sign some papers or something to leave this place?”
Helpless, I turn to the nearest nurse for some help. As if this isn’t the first time this has happened, she replies, “Yes, I’m afraid it’ll be a lot of paperwork. Maybe you two can help us with these flower arrangements while I go get the documents?”
She hands them a bunch of fake, brightly colored flowers and plastic vases. And as they’re busy experimenting with all of the possible color combinations, it hits me that they will never escape.
Even if I were to punch in the security code and yell, “Leave, my friends! Be free!!” all while gesturing to the exit, Norbert and Catherine might take a few steps outside before asking, “Now where do we go?”
Because even though Norbert and Catherine have the physical capability of walking out the building, they lack the foresight to form a viable escape plan.
I can just imagine Catherine stepping into a taxi.
Catherine: I need to go home.
Taxi Driver: Where’s that?
Catherine: I don’t know the exact address! But I’m sure it has a big oak next to it. And I’m so confused and I’m not sure why or how I got here.
It hurts because I want them to have the satisfaction of obtaining freedom, but without the pitiful disorientation and fear that would surely ensue.
And while Catherine and Norbert ardently try to escape the facility, I know that they’re really trapped in the chaotic labyrinths of their own minds.