I was in my dentist’s office the other day awaiting my turn to be seen. I decided I’d watch “Orange is the new Black” on my cell phone while I waited. No one else was in the waiting room so I was all clear to listen to it. Suddenly a women appeared at the entrance door. She walked over to the reception window and asked to use the bathroom, then she immediately sat down. I thought this was curious but continued to watch and listen to my cell phone. One of the characters could be heard saying something totally inappropriate. Just as I decided, “maybe I should shut this off”, the women spoke on the vulgarity of the statement she had just overheard. I replied “oh, you heard that”? The woman said yes and it was vulgar. After a minute or so, I turned it off with a sigh. The woman chose that time to actually go to the bathroom. When she returned to her seat, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was a patient or was she just trying to get warm. Soon thereafter, an older woman appeared from inside, heading toward the waiting room. The younger woman stood up and greeted her then began raising her voice demanding to know where she got her pocketbook. The conversation turned into a heated one and I learned the two were mother and daughter. Apparently, the mother had misplaced her bag earlier and neglected to mention that she had found it. The daughter was obviously disturbed about this and mentioned that she should be put into a nursing home. The old women retaliated, yelling “don’t mention nursing home to me. This is the last time I’ll depend on you to take me anywhere, I can manage by myself”. The daughter then said, you don’t even know your address. The mother retorted, I get along just fine. I’d do better if you didn’t keep hiding my things. I know you hid my bag, but I found it!
Right away I knew the older woman was suffering from dementia. I knew because last year my mother died at the ripe old age of 103 and accused my dad of the same thing. My mom use to accuse my dad of switching her clothes with a mystery woman’s clothes, always claiming “these are not my coats, suits, dresses, etc.” Even when her initials were engraved in the lining she claimed the mystery woman exchanged the lining. I found myself feeling bad for both mother and daughter. The argument got pretty heated and the daughter walked out. About 10 minutes later the mother’s cell phone rang and I could hear the daughter saying that she had gone shopping. The mother maintained that she didn’t need her and again accused her daughter of hiding things from her. The mother hung up and sat there, wiggling in her chair — which meant she was uncomfortable because she really didn’t know what to do. Her daughter said that she couldn’t be seen by the dentist for a couple of hours and asked her mother if she wanted to wait. The reply was okay, I’ll wait and this was before the daughter walked out. I kept wondering if her daughter was really coming back and if she was going to make her mother sit there all alone without knowing the outcome. A few minutes later the cell phone rang again and a very agitated mother answered in a soft voice. She hung up, still with no resolution, except I heard her say, “I will take the bus”. By that time I was called into the dentist’s office. I was quite annoyed because I was alarmed that this woman might go out and try to take a bus home, not knowing where she was going. Did I mention this was in New York City?
I explained the situation to the dentist who told me the mother did indeed have dementia and the daughter (who is well into her 50s) wasn’t too stable herself. She was a retired Corrections Officer who was on disability. He told me the mother said she had come on the bus, which he was not too sure about but hearing that made me feel a little more at ease. I spent 45 minutes with him and when I left, the mother was still sitting there with no sign of her daughter. So I ask, should I have gotten involved? If I tried to give her a ride home, would she be able to find her home? Considering I live over 130 miles from there, how much time would be demanded of me to solve the situation? What would you have done?