It’s a disease that is as painful for the loved ones witnessing it as it is for the person suffering from it. A person with Alzheimer’s can try to clench their memories in their fist so hard but no matter what they do, their memories slowly slip away until one day, their entire sense of reality is distorted. When one Kelsey Rae encountered an elderly man with Alzheimer’s, lost and distraught in a local supermarket, she felt compelled to share the heartache she felt that day.
Sharing her experience on Love What Matters, Kelsey writes, “When an older man turned a corner into the pasta aisle and put his hands on my shoulder. I jumped up. My first instinct was to get angry and ask him to please not touch me. Then I noticed something. The man was crying. He looked distraught and confused.”
“Suddenly, he asked, ‘Do you know where my wife is? I’ve been looking for her.'”
The woman, who is from North Carolina, said to the old man she didn’t know where his wife was, and suggested that he seek assistance at the storefront. She said, “I was thinking maybe he lost her in the aisles. Hasn’t everyone lost someone this way? I was wrong.”
But the emotional man with tears in his eyes, asked again, “Do you know where my wife is? I’ve been looking for her.”
Kelsey went on to write, “I told him once again that I was not sure and gestured to walk with him to the customer service counter where they could use the overhead speaker service to make an announcement for her. He obliged.”
The woman at the service counter asked the elderly man for his wife’s name but he just gave Kelsey a desperate look of confusion. “The woman half rolled her eyes and turned to me. ‘Miss. Do you have THE NAME?’ I explained he was a stranger and I had no other information than she did. ‘Is this a joke?’ she asked. By then, it became really clear to me that this man was very confused,” Kelsey said.
“Not just regular confused, but Alzheimer confused. Having had a grandpa with this condition, I knew it all too well.” And so Kelsey decided to take him to the food court where they sat down. Kelsey said “He was now shaking and crying softly. ‘Where is my love?’”
“I held his hands and I asked him if he had a cell phone,” the woman went on to write. “My heart was breaking for him. He said he wasn’t sure, so I asked if I could search his pockets. He obliged. I was careful. In it, I found a small flippy phone. I searched through his contacts and found one that read ‘Daughter Krissy’.”
Kelsey wasted no time and immediately called the number and within seconds, she heard a frantic voice on the other end that said “Hello?”
“I explained that I was with an older man who I assumed was her father,” Kelsey wrote. “That we were at the supermarket on Lane St and he was very distraught and upset. ‘On my way,’ she said. ‘Can you make sure he doesn’t wander off?’ She continued, ‘Thank you, thank you. I’m coming.'”
As she waited for the man’s daughter to arrive, Kelsey waited right by his side, wiping his tears and holding his hands. It didn’t matter to her that the man was a complete stranger.
“For 20-something minutes, I sat with a crying stranger. I held his hands. I wiped his tears. When he shivered, I layed my jacket down in his lap. I gave him answers he needed to hear in the moment. I kept him from trailing off. Because that’s the least I could have done,” Kelsey wrote.
“Suddenly, in walks this tall young woman who looked about 28 or 29. Long black hair and green eyes. We locked eyes and she came rushing over. ‘Thank you. THANK YOU,’ she said. ‘I had to leave for just an hour, and this happens. I knew I shouldn’t have left him. I’m SO sorry.'”
It was then that Kelsey learned about the old man’s, who she had been comforting all this while, sad reality. The distraught man was searching for his love, but he would never again be able to find her.
Kelsey wrote that the daughter “explained that he sometimes runs off and looks for his wife. That he lost her 13 years ago, but he never stops trying. She proceeded to help him out of his chair and thanked me once again. On their way out, I heard him say once more, ‘Where is my wife?’ My heart hurt, but I was so happy to see him with his family again.”
Kelsey went back home that day, touched by the encounter she had that day and urged people not to turn a blind eye to someone in need of help, even a stranger, who needs a bit of kindness.
“The majority of this world are strangers to you. I know that. But never forget that we all share this world together, and in it, we can share kindness. That is the only thing that can keep us going. If you see something, do something. You never know how big your impact can be on someone else’s life,” Kelsey wrote. “I don’t care that the shopping cart I accidentally left in the pasta aisle during the frenzy of this situation was unloaded and put away. That I had to re-find everything. I don’t care that I ate dinner a little later that night. That I went home and cried my eyes out in the kitchen for this sweet, poor man. Kindness costs nothing.”