Excerpted from “STOP!”
The hand-lettered sign hanging on the barrier across the door to Deloris’s room contained only a single word: STOP! An electric eye about eight inches from the floor triggered an alarm whenever anyone crossed the threshold. Apparently, moving Deloris within eyesight of the nurses’ station was not enough.
“What’s all this about?” I asked the duty nurse.
She explained that Deloris had demonstrated increased mobility in her new room and this had encouraged the nurses to give her the run of the place. Taking full advantage of this new freedom, Deloris had wandered all over the floor, going in and out of other patients’ rooms. “Yesterday we found her on the floor in some else’s bathroom,” the nurse said. Apparently, having finished her business and trying to stand, Deloris had fallen. She’d hurt her face, but it was nothing serious, “this time,” the nurse added.
“We are encouraged by her increased mobility and sense of balance,” she said. “Even a week ago, she wouldn’t have been capable of roaming like this. But she doesn’t realize how dangerous this is for her. And she had no idea she was in someone else’s room. She thought it was her own room.”
The nurses decided to use technology to minimize the danger of Deloris’s hurting herself, giving her full freedom to move around within the confines of her room and having her ask permission whenever she wants to leave the room.
“How’s that working out?” I asked.
“Could be better,” the nurse said with a laugh. “Last night we found her on the floor. She was on her back, one leg was sticking out of the door under the electric eye beam.”
Either she was practicing for a limbo contest or she was trying to figure out how to get out of the room by crawling under the beam. The attempt reminded me of the some years before when I had a goat who would stand in front of the electric fence and time the surges. At least that was what she appeared to be doing. Then, in between the current surges, she would dash through the fence in order to eat the grass on the other side. That there was no difference in the quality of the food was unimportant; the grass is always greener. “Impressive,” I said, my pride at Deloris’s agility and determination mixed in equal proportion with apprehension for her safety. The nurse agreed. That these antics were also potentially dangerous and a major inconvenience for the nursing staff went unspoken but was mutually understood.
Title: Learning to Float
Author: Allan Ament
Allan and Deloris Ament’s lives take a dramatic turn when Deloris suffers a debilitating stroke. No longer an equal partner in marriage, Allan becomes Deloris’s primary caregiver, responsible for maintaining their household and her well-being. Learning to Float describes Allan’s transformation from a criminal defense attorney to a compassionate, emotionally vulnerable caregiver. Drawing on contemporaneously written emails and private journal entries, Ament unflinchingly exposes his emotional, mental, and physical ups and downs, consistently focusing on the love, humor, and opportunities for personal and spiritual growth he experiences on this journey. Anyone with the possibility of becoming a caregiver for a loved one, now or in the future, will benefit from the insights Ament shares. Everyone will be buoyed by the love Allan and Deloris experience as they face their new normal.
After successful careers as a criminal defense attorney, higher education administrator and instructor, and day spa manager, Allan Ament now enjoys retirement with his wife, an award-winning journalist and author, and their semi-neurotic cat (are there other kinds?) They live on an island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, where, in addition to writing and being his wife’s primary caregiver, Ament serves as board chair for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (nila.edu). His work has previously appeared in academic, professional, and literary journals, and is included in an upcoming anthology, Being: What Makes a Man. Learning to Float is his first book-length work.
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