“By golly, I was turned around out there” stated a black angus rancher with a twinkle in his eye as he buttoned the pearl snaps of an oil stained, striped, western shirt. His hands calloused and wrinkled from hours of hard work in the sunshine, his story of confusion continued with each button. “I went to check heifers and ended up nowhere close to where I should have been.” I held his calloused hands in mine as he told this story twice more, with no recollection of the time before.
The Alzheimer’s Association reported that in 2019 there were 21,000 individuals in Montana over the age of 65 years who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. With a population just over 1 million in Montana in 2019, this is a large percentage of our residents and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer's Association, 2019).
“I need to get home and check those heifers” he repeated daily. The distress it caused him to be away from his ranch was heart wrenching. “I will just call my daughter if I get confused” he stated with total desperation in his voice, like that of a child begging his or her parents to get a puppy with promises of complete responsibility. But would he remember to call? Would he remember to call when venturing out in a frigid snow storm with little to no clothes on. Would he remember to call when he was traveling down a dusty road that he did not recognize, three wrong turns away from the direction he was supposed to be headed in. Would he remember to call when he fell in his living room after tripping over a rug? He didn’t remember a week ago, and that is how he ended up here in this hospital bed, desperate to return to his home, his animals, his land, and his life. Moments like these are the rainy days of healthcare that we desperately wish for a falling star in our pocket.
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