Alzheimer's came to my door last night, and I let her in.
She was wearing pink flowered pajamas topped by a green V-neck sweater. She was standing at the end of my driveway, after ringing the doorbell at 1:30 a.m. From a distance, her blondish page boy hair reminded me of a friend.
"Pat?" I asked from the doorway.
"No," the woman replied, turning toward me, but remaining at the end of the drive. I walked out to meet her, tugging my bathrobe close against the cold.
She was frail, much shorter than my friend Pat, maybe five-foot-two. She said she'd been driving a friend home and had gotten confused. Her car had run out of gas and she'd been walking for a while around trying to find her way home.
I said we'd figure it out and led her inside. She said her feet were cold. I looked down and saw she was barefoot. I sat her down in the family room and went to get her a pair of socks -- a pair of thick, warm woolen ones. As she slowly tugged them on, I asked if her car was nearby. She didn't know. How about her address? She couldn't tell me. Anyone we could call to help? No answer. Her name? That she could tell me, so I looked her up in the phone book and found she lived just three blocks away.
My husband and I took her out to the car and drove a few blocks, then started looking for her address. She gave no sign of recognition, no "That's my house!" I got out with a flashlight so I could read the house numbers. According to the phone book, this was her house. There was one light on inside. I tried the door. Locked. I rang the bell. No response. A car parked on the street directly in front of the house was also locked.
I went back to the car. She was still sitting quietly in the back seat. What next?
"I think we should take her to the emergency room," my husband said. It was either that or call the police.
The emergency area was quiet. I asked her to take a seat in the waiting area while I talked to the admittance clerk, who had a hard time figuring out our relationship.
"No, I'm not related," I told him. "I think she lives in my neighborhood, but never met her until she rang my doorbell about half an hour ago."
Another young man -- a nurse, a doctor? -- came out and asked her some questions. Did she know what day of the week it was? Could she give him the name of a family member to call? Did she know what year it was? No, no and no.
"How old are you?" the young man asked.
"Umm ... 28?" she responded.
"I don't think so," he said. "I think we need to admit you."
She followed him without protest into the hospital, and my husband and I drove home.