In A Pickle  

Care aides wear many hats while helping those with Alzheimer's disease

Dealing with dementia

“Get away from me or I’ll scream”, she bellowed.

I felt like a lowlife. The problem started minutes earlier when Rose announced she was going for a walk alone. I convinced her to wear a jacket and then followed her from a distance. Rose had home care 24/7 because of her advanced dementia.

Her community’s gated entrance was under repair, and so she wandered towards the busy road. She stopped a few times, glaring at me. At one point, Rose yelled, asking if I was following her.

A young couple stopped and stared. Embarrassed, I said Bill was coming over for lunch, to which she replied, “After my walk, I’ll eat, but you go home and if you keep following me, I will scream. Is that what you want?” I said no and stood there phoning my employer while she marched ahead.

The plan was to send someone to redirect Rose with a car ride. While waiting for my supervisor, I followed Rose down the sidewalk. She hid behind a power pole, so I ducked into the bushes. Rose booked it through an alley. Once again, she hid behind another power pole, so I concealed myself with the power pole she just finished using. It was a bizarre game of cat and mouse.

In her eyes, I was a stalker, but I played multiple roles as a bodyguard, care aide and sleuth. Secretly, I hoped someone watching would call the police, but that didn’t happen.

I maintained communication with the office, ensuring they were aware of our location. Rose darted down another alley and I ran to keep up and found her peeking around a tree. I asked her if she saw my dog run past and she said, “No, and are you looking for something besides a dog?”

I replied I was looking for her, too. With that, Rose went on a rant, accusing us of watching her every move and suggesting they might’ve bugged her clothes to track her.

She inquired about a loud conversation nearby. I told her it was a radio station.

"Aha!" exclaimed Rose. "I knew it. You're with the CIA and are tailing me!”

I clarified I was a care aide, not CSIS or CIA, and I was there to assist her. She protested she didn’t need help. I further explained the voices she heard were not from walkie talkies, but it was of a disc jockey. Nevertheless, she didn't trust me and said, "They're planning to murder me and steal my money, but I've already left my wealth to (in her mind only), my lover, Bill."

In reality, her love interest was only allowed to talk to her on the phone. I comforted her, assuring everything was alright.

We walked side by side as I called the secretary to say where we were. Rose became irate, saying we were all part of a conspiracy.

Not a moment too soon, my supervisor pulled up and hopped out of her car, offering Rose a ride home. Rose grinned at Cheryl and told me to buzz off.

A few weeks later, Rose kicked me out of her house late at night. After requesting something from the kitchen, I swiftly grabbed a house key and my coat before leaving. I spent the next half hour flattening myself up against the exterior walls to avoid setting off the motion detector lights.

Rose heard the door unlatch and locked it again. Finally, she stopped making the rounds. So I unlocked the door and, with a knock, asked if we could have coffee together as I hadn’t seen her in ages. Delighted, Rose invited me in, but started arguing with someone only she could see.

Her behaviour worsened with time because of the progression of the disease. I couldn’t cope with Rose’s conduct any longer and so I got a new client. Three years later, I felt sad when I read her obituary.

People with dementia behave differently because of changes in their brains. It is essential to stay calm and patient, while avoiding arguing about their reality, such as when they have visual hallucinations and saying “I didn’t see that” and move on.

It is important to acknowledge their feelings and offer comfort with a gentle touch, if it’s safe to do so, all the while stating you’re there to protect them.

Check the environment for noises, shadows or objects that could trigger fearful reactions and remove them if possible. It will make both your lives more peaceful, at least until the next episode.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Visiting Alberta's 'Buckets of Blood Hotel'

Haunted hotel

“Did you see the curtains move?” I asked.

Crystal snickered and rolled her eyes.

“Oh Mom, you're hilarious!” she replied.

“Seriously though, I can’t shake the feeling we’re being watched. My goose bumps aren’t just from being out here in -30 C,” I insisted.

We stood there, shivering outside the infamous Rose Deer Hotel looking up at the windows, in Wayne, Alberta. They dubbed the inn “Buckets of Blood Hotel” because of its violent history. There were bar fights between the coal miners in the early 1900s in its Last Chance Saloon. The cryptic warning was your last chance to get out alive.

The good ol’ soot-covered boys weren’t afraid, they had liquid courage and were civilized enough to take their drunken disputes outside, where the blood flowed as fast as the whiskey.

The mine’s managers promised the immigrant workers good housing and nutritious meals at the camp, but instead the workers were on the menu. Bedbugs and lice chewed the guys up and they lived in squalid, overcrowded conditions with revolting food. It was an age-old problem of profits over people, which made those fellows a tad volatile.

When the men finished work, they painted the town red, at the nearby watering hole. Back in its heyday, it was hailed as a place where angels feared to tread, along with the police. The latter weren’t likely to survive, so the town policed itself. Murder and mayhem were the norm.

A double homicide took place on the third floor of the Rose Deer. The victims were of Ukrainian and Russian descent. They worked alongside others to get the mines unionized. The company owners hired the Klu Klux Klan to rough them up and shut them up. Alas, the two men died. The Klan also burned crosses in the hills behind the hotel to further terrorize any dissidents.

Since then, the floor where the men met their demise has been closed to the public. The unnamed martyrs are believed to haunt the place. However, the dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), so there must be something far more insidious going on there.

To this day, the barmaids and other staff often hear their names being called in empty rooms and when they investigate, there’s no one there. Ethereal images allegedly float about the place giving regulars the heebie-jeebies.

However, those ghoulish encounters didn’t spook a horse named Tinker Belle. The mare frequented the joint for a pint of beer until the health inspector barred her from the premises. She was probably underage anyway.
A bartender in the 1970s would’ve made Clint Eastwood proud by firing off his .45 at non-paying patrons. Those lucky punks scrambled out of there, probably wishing they had worn Depends.

The marksman carefully aimed above their heads, giving them a good scare. Afterwards, they lovingly framed the bullets embedded in the walls, using them as a warning for anyone who would drink and dash.

The place has become a popular spot for ghost hunters who want to experience the paranormal and create documentaries. The hotel has appeared in movies, like Running Brave, In Cold Blood, and Shanghai Noon. I think (horror writer) Stephen King would feel at home filming and staying at the Rose Deer.

The hotel is open seasonally and, if you’re into dark tourism, this facility should be on your bucket list. Most of the rooms have a theme, such as The Titanic, The Golf Room, and The Harley. It is complete with a honeymoon suite appropriate for Goths.

On the pub walls hang many taxidermies of wild animals, some of which are wearing party hats and other bizarre accessories.

Down the road is a staged crowbar hotel advertising free room and board. Near the town’s campsite is a creepy weather-beaten plaster sculpture of a pioneer woman and her child dressed in terry cloth togas. I thought I heard faint maniacal laughter coming from them. It reminded me of the 1959 Bucket of Blood horror movie, where a guy kills people to make statues. Maybe these were two of his victims.

My mind was playing tricks on me and it was brutally cold in early February, so off we went ,back to our original historic miner’s shack Airbnb in Drumheller, where we slept with the lights on.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Avian rescue is for the birds

Rescuing injured birds

A sickening thud echoed throughout the room. It was sound I recognize well, when a bird hits a window.

It was Aug. 3, in mid-afternoon. Reluctantly, I walked onto the balcony and looked below but saw nothing. Afterwards, I drove around the corner and a hunch-backed bird hopped across the road in front of me. The injured bird couldn’t fly. I opened up a cloth grocery bag and scooped up the bird and brought it home.

I put the birds in a Sunkist oranges box and covered the top with a small towel. My feathered friend snapped out of his stupor, hammered on the cardboard and shuffled about. Unnerved by the racket, I wondered if he’d find an escape hatch and wreak poopy-havoc in the office. Frantically, I searched the internet for a wild life rehabilitation place as the bird rat-a-tat-tatted in Morse code, calling for his parents to spring him.

Wild Things Rehab came up on my Google search along with Wild Kingdom, a love shop. The rehab's address didn’t exist, but the love shop's address and phone number kept appearing. I wasn’t looking to enhance my love life. That ship sailed and sunk many moons ago.

No contact information for the rehab society was disheartening. After several calls, a reporter provided me with a lead. I got Sydney Platz’s phone number from a local veterinary clinic. The receptionist said the bird could only be euthanized if I brought it in, but Platz would provide guidance on caring for the animal. However, the rehab’s doors weren’t open yet.

I tried emailing and leaving messages for several agencies before texting Platz, but none responded. Platz recommended setting the bird free after a few out hours of rest and that’s what we did. The juvenile Hairy Woodpecker was still unable to fly, so I brought the youngster back inside and waited two more hours.

The poor little guy was distressed and attempted to poke his way out. We took him outside, removed the lid and he ran up a tree. I photographed the bird at the top of the bush and looked for him the next morning. However, junior was gone and several robins had taken over the shrub.

I hoped he had a sprained wing, not a broken one, and he just flew away. If the robins killed him, I would have found his body.

Had the Wild Things Rehab been open, I’d have taken the woodpecker there for proper medical attention, food and rest. The feisty escape artist had a strong will to live. Sadly, the nearest wild life hospital is in Oliver and is only for raptors, I discovered.

In 2016, I searched for a Kelowna area wildlife sanctuary because of a window strike by another bird, a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker.

(The cartoon character )Yosemite Sam used the bird’s name as an insult, but that yellow belly was no coward. He slammed headlong into the window and knocked himself out. I found him lying on the sidewalk with his feet curled up. His beady little eyes watched me suspiciously as he softly chirped. Maybe he told me to “get lost”, but I didn’t want to leave him at the mercy of our roaming barn cat.

I walked inside the house and donned a pair of thick ski gloves and grabbed a cardboard box. The bird lay there limp and helpless but suddenly the angry avian came back to life and went berserk pecking at my gloves. He would have punched holes in my hands had I had not covered them with the thick padding.

I put the bird in the box and he stomped, shrieked and gave me the stink eye.I found myself in a pickle. What should I do? I asked myself. I had an idea to back away and retrieve the phone book and a camera. Scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds flashed through my mind. That crazed critter got louder and louder, sounding a battle cry for his buddies to come and attack.

Carefully I walked backwards into the farmhouse and collected the items I needed and when I came back outside, I discovered the box open and the woodpecker was gone. What a relief.

It turns out, woodpeckers can take a good wallop to the old noggin, which explained how he survived. Woodpeckers peck with a force between 1,200 to 1,400 Gs (g-force), and while doing so, they wrap their tongue saround their heads to protect them.

Our creator gave woodpeckers’ specialized skulls, beaks, and bones that allow them to peck with immense force and not suffer injuries to the brain. They tear off tree bark and drill to get at the ants within.

Comparing the two woodpeckers, I’m fortunate Hairy was a gentle rescuee, otherwise things may not have ended well for me. Yikes!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Hard decisions made in the face of an oncoming wildfire

To flee or not to flee?

I was terrified, feeling like a sitting duck when the authorities shut down the highways.

On Aug. 18, we stayed glued to CBC radio, listening for updates and instructions, all-the-while taking turns looking at the surreal scene of a flaming sky. The fire was close, only a mile away, and ashes landed on our doorstep.

A retired firefighter told us to remove any welcome mats by the doors and our patio furniture, as those items would block the exits if ignited. Good advice, as the embers may have set those things ablaze.

A wildfire can spread 10 miles per hour or more, depending on the wind conditions and type of fuel it’s burning. The Glenmore landfill was on fire, and it spewed toxic smoke into the air, adding to the danger.

On the Saturday morning, I learned one of our relatives and her firefighter boyfriend lost their house. She was distraught and her partner had to carry on, working some 36 hours straight. She worried for him and mourned their loss. The home they recently shared was now rubble.

The resident firefighters' dedication to the community was admirable. They fought to save other people’s homes as 13 of their own places burned. It's difficult for me to fathom the horror they and others faced with nothing left. Some Kelownians had no insurance and fled only in the clothes they wore.

I could barely hold it together. The idea of breaching the barricades crossed my mind. While a few people actually did so. The front-line workers endured verbal abuse while performing their duties and some equipment went missing. The reprehensible act of thievery floored me, and if caught, I think they should do life in prison for their malicious behaviour. People's true nature comes out in catastrophes like this.

During the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre “Twin Towers” in New York City in 2001, an employee announced on the PA system her coworkers could stay or go. Many people returned to their workstations and died. Similar situations happened in other calamities. Sometimes we should follow our instincts instead of waiting for orders or approval. I tried my best not to panic as I packed up crucial documents and photographs.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my sister, Pat Anderson, left her Sorrento residence for Calgary and stopped at a parking lot in Salmon Arm to sleep in her car. Her husband, Kent, and a former firefighter stayed briefly to set up sprinkler hoses around the area. It saved all the structures.

My response to the imminent danger was to run, but my husband remained calm. The fight or flight mode kicks in, depending on the type of goliath I’m facing. Thankfully, we’d made plans to leave on holiday long before the wildfire.

My husband and I, accompanied by a friend, left for a church camp meeting in the Cariboo on Aug. 20. We brought our camping gear in both vehicles, together with some evacuation supplies, keepsakes and important papers. The police stopped motorists from entering Kelowna, not exiting. Perfect timing to get away and forget our troubles.

We enjoyed several days of sunshine, mostly clear skies and refreshing rain. The international Christian speakers were inspirational, providing hope for a better future “as this world waxes old like a garment.” (Isaiah 51:6).

Many Christians view the world's climate change and disasters as labour pains for the planet. All these happenings will intensify, causing the inhabitants to witness a time of trouble that they have never experienced before. Christ's return will end this calamity. A new earth will be birthed.

(Revelation 1:7, Contemporary English Version)

“Look! He is coming with the clouds. Everyone will see him, even the ones who stuck a sword through him. Everyone on earth will weep because of him.” Yes, it will happen! Amen.

I joyfully expect His return. How about you?

If you’d like to share your experience with me, please write to me at [email protected]

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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