I’ve spoken of my neighbor K before. K is probably in her early 70’s and used to belong to our building book club. She had a wonderful career and after her retirement she started clicking things off her bucket list, and up until two years ago she led a vibrant active life. Two years. What a difference two years makes.
At first you almost didn’t notice the slips, the odd things that she would say or do. It was east to write it off as senioritis, one of those silly slips that unfortunately accompany age. But the odd behavior escalated, the things that she said and did became worse over time. Her dementia growing each passing day.
Her children got her an aide. And they have since upped it to full time care, a series of aides. This is not always helpful as she likes certain aides more than others. Sometimes, she doesn’t let the aides in the apartment, so they sit in the lobby of our building, waiting and hoping they will be able to do their job. Sometimes she forcibly ejects them from her apartment. And sometimes she calls the police on them. Yes, there have been multiple occasions where you enter our apartment lobby to see a few police officers standing in the lobby. In some cases it’s a very good thing that she called the police: last month after she kicked out her aide and called the police, the police realized that she had left the gas on in her oven….
Her behavior and things she says to others has become increasingly bizarre. I will say hello to her and ask how she is when I see her. A few months ago she would go in and out of lucid behavior so there was a 50/50 chance that she would recognize me and greet me. Last week I said “Hi” to her as I entered the elevator. As I pushed my floor button she looked at me and said “Three. Only evil people live on three. You must be evil. Why are you evil?” Her aide just looked at me and made the face of someone who has no idea what to do. I just smiled and said something non committal and luckily got off quickly. I’m an adult and I get that she’s not all there any more. But what if a kid had been in the elevator?
So we have a situation where she doesn’t let her helpers in, leaves the gas on, and 95% of the time she has absolutely no idea what is going on. As neighbors in an apartment building, what do we do?
Management has tried reaching out to her children, of which she has three. Messages have been left, but no calls have been returned. We clearly have a situation that could become dangerous, but are adult children supposed to be responsible for their parents? They’ve hired help, but what happens when that help is not enough?
I have considered calling social services, yet I feel slightly bad about that. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess it’s sort of “one day that could be me” scenario. Is this a case to reach out to authorities? Would authorities even care? Where would crazy senior women fall on their over burdened list of priorities?
What is one to do when faced with a neighbor clearly falling victim to dementia?