The Sandwich Purse

Jane MarksGuest post by Jane Marks,
Certified Dementia Practioner, Speaker, Trainer and Caregiver

I recently listened to the late Nora Ephron’s “I Hate My Neck” book on tape.  I do not hate my neck…yet, but her piece on “The Perfect Purse” was so “me.” She discussed that huge dark cavern where all things are, but you can’t find any of them. She commented that a flashlight would be helpful, but if she put a flashlight in her purse, that too would be lost in the cavern. She talked about her quest to find the perfect purse, one with enough pockets but not too many as to be confusing; one that would go with everything and was big enough, stylish enough, yet affordable. I even purchased one of those handy inserts that supposedly would hold all your essentials and would slip down inside most purses so you could then easily transfer it from purse to purse. Didn’t work. Didn’t hold all my stuff, and I can’t remember in which purse I last placed it.

Now I have had a new revelation – the “Sandwich Purse.” My mother doesn’t carry a purse very often. I want her to have one; she has always had one, and I hope it helps her to feel “normal.” In her purse, which we keep in the drawer of the nightstand at the assisted living facility, she has her wallet, but of course, I removed all pertinent cards and most money. I leave about ten dollars in there, so she can feel as though she has some independence, but even that has been stolen twice at the assisted living facility. Several tissues, her plastic rain scarf, and a tube of lipstick round out the contents of her purse. But when we do go out, her purse is just one more thing I have to juggle as I load Mom and her wheelchair into the car. And then she must hold it in her lap when she is in the wheelchair, and usually, she just hands it to me. If we use her walker, she can’t hold the purse. Sometimes I hang it on the walker, but it falls off, so then I have to carry it, as well as mine. So we now rarely take her purse when we go out.

purse contentsOn the other hand, MINE is now more crammed than ever. Along with my own wallet which is full  of necessary things – like my adult kids’ social security numbers that I actually needed just last week – I have: sunglasses; a pair of regular glasses (sometimes I am forced to remove my contacts for various reasons); old receipts; a dried-up  tube of lip gloss; a list of things-to-do from three months ago; a comb; some Dramamine from the last trip I took; the plastic  bag with the three ounce bottles of lotion and contact cleanser (I keep them in the bag, in my purse so I don’t have to remember to do it next time I travel); the charger to my camera; tissues (hard to discern if used or unused); old business cards; a slip of paper with someone’s phone number (wonder whose?); mints in a container; more mints that have escaped the container; loose change; and various other interesting but at-one-time necessary things. Recently, it has become necessary to add a few more items.

Now, in my new role as a grandmother, I have my Grandma Photo Album!! And as a Sandwich Caregiver, I have: extra photos of the baby to place in my Mom’s photo album; an adult “brief” (just in case Mom has an accident when we are out); Mom’s checkbook and credit cards; her insurance cards; list of her medications; a bottle of headache medicine (I seem to have them more frequently nowadays);  a bottle of antacid pills (again – for me, not Mom); the latest invoice from the assisted living facility; the envelope with the check for the assisted living that I forgot to give them yesterday when I stopped by; an envelope with cash to pay the private caregivers; a key to the mausoleum where my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Carl are “resting”(they had no children; I am now in charge of all cemetery flowers  as that used to be Mom’s job); a small umbrella; and coupons for fifty cents off my next purchase of adult “briefs.”

I am pondering whether I should ignore Nora’s advice to NOT add a flashlight. It actually might come in handy. I really need to find that headache medicine. I know it is in here somewhere, and I think it will help my aching shoulder.

Jane Marks  is a wife, mother, daughter, pet owner, grandmother, and all around busy person. Like many of you she is juggling as fast as she can. She recently retired from her long-standing position as Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, WV Chapter. Jane is still committed, however, to the cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Learn more about Jane at

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