As I watch the series Outlander I don’t have to wonder what it would be like to suddenly find oneself in the same place but in a different time. The sad truth is I am living it every day with my Aunt. She is getting older and suffered a TIA almost two years ago. Since that time I have been her full time caregiver and I have watched as this strong, vibrant, intelligent woman has declined physically and mentally.

I’ve watched this slow decline over the last year and a half but it never hit me as hard as it did the other day. My Aunt enjoys spending time on the enclosed back porch. I clicked the security camera on and watched her shuffle back to her seat. She is no longer the woman who climbed Machu Pichu and the pyramids in Mexico. Instead what I saw was a thin, frail, woman hunched over a cane, holding on as she went. A lump formed in my throat as my chest knotted.

She is living with me here and now but not really. More often than not she looks at me and says she feels like she has woken up in another time. Inevitably this leads her to ask me when she will be going home. She bought the house we live in over 60 years ago and now she thinks she lives back in the apartment she grew up in. Each time she asks, I explain how we are home and retell the story of how and when she bought the house. A story she used to tell me with pride when I was growing up.

When I see something wrong, I want to fix it. I’ve always been this way. I can’t fix this. I can only take care of her, retell the story of her life to her and reassure her. It doesn’t seem to be near enough and I feel helpless and useless.

For my Aunt, huge parts of her life are missing. She has indeed gone to another time while in the same place, but there is no romance in her journey. It is one of fear and heartbreak. She knows what is happening to her. There are days she knows where and when she is and is terrified. She can’t stop what is happening, none of us can.