Chapter Five: First Dark Clouds

In February 2007 we received a letter from the home informing us that the HD assisted living unit was being disbanded and that the residents were going to be relocated to rooms throughout the nursing home. The assisted living facility did not meet state minimum staffing requirements and had to be discontinued.  Allison was devastated. The family style meals around the big table would be no more, and the camaraderie of the HD residents would be fractured. Sally promised Allison a private room and delivered on her promise. Allison was relocated to a private room on the first floor next to the nurse’s station. She was living amongst the old folks, but her friend Alice was just down the hall. This was the first of many changes to be instituted after the home was sold by its private family ownership.

On the last day of March 2007 Allison and I drove down to Philadelphia to watch the Red Sox play the Phillies in the last exhibition game of the spring. We met Rob there and had a great time as their new pitcher from Japan, Dice-K beat the Phils. We drove back that same day and a few miles from the home I was stopped by a Massachusetts State Trooper. The speed limit on route 295 drops from 55 to 35 as you enter Massachusetts from New York. The cops have a field day writing tickets. The ticket was $285. It kind of spoiled the day.

Allison had developed a contentious relationship with a resident named Todd. Todd did not have HD. He had been injured in a serious accident and suffered brain damage and was confined to a wheelchair. He took a liking to Allison and started leaving flowers and other gifts at  her door. Eventually he started coming into her room uninvited. Allison did not appreciate this attention and a conflict began. One day I received a call that Allison had beaten Todd up in the community room and was being punished by being confined to her room. I protested that Allison was being punished and Todd was not. I asked that a greater effort be made to keep them apart. The sanctions on Allison were quickly lifted, but the tension persevered. I  repeatedly received nasty glares and foul words from Todd, who went out of his way to cross paths with me. Finally, I could not take it anymore and got in his face, telling him in no uncertain terms to knock it off. He steered clear of me after that. Thankfully, Todd was transferred to a facility in New York shortly thereafter.

One night in the spring of 2007 I received a call informing me that “Allison had eloped.”  I was bewildered by this as I doubted that she was interested in getting married. I learned that “eloped” is nursing home jargon for leaving the building without permission. I was told that the local police had been called and I drove to the home. Upon arrival I saw two policeman interrogating some youths in their car. It seems that they had come and taken Allison on a joyride. I was wrong when I thought that Allison could not get into trouble on the internet. She had met these hooligans on a social networking site and apparently they felt it would be cool to take Allison for a ride. The police sent them on their way with a stern warning never to contact Allison again. Allison promised never to do this again.

A couple of weeks later I received another call to inform me that Allison was missing again. I headed over to the home.  Allison had been found lying on the side of the road about a half mile south of the home. Thinking that she had been hit by a car, a good samaritan had stopped and notified the police.  It seems that Allison had set off on foot to go to Joe’s Diner. Joe’s was a local institution most famous for the Norman Rockwell painting of a cop and small boy sitting at its counter.  Allison had been there several times with folks from the home and very much enjoyed their seafood platter. The home was supposed to be a secure  facility. It had a touchpad by the front door, with a code to open the door. Unfortunately most of the residents who were capable knew the code.  Although I tended to blame Allison for these troubles, I had to remember that she had Huntington's Disease and was living in a nursing home to assure her safety. Unfortunately she was not always safe.

It was about this time that I had my first of many meetings with the home’s administrator. Unfortunately, because they changed administrators so often there was little continuity of management . Sally and her staff were great, but she ran the HD program and not the nursing home. She tried to address my concerns but was often powerless.