Are Birthday Cards Gone?

Anna was looking for ideas about what to get her mom for her birthday in May of 2022. I suggested a box of blank cards to send for any reason. Cheryl has always kept greeting cards that are sent through the mail for fund raising purposes from various religious and chronic illness organizations. Some would be sent to her mom when Elaine was still alive. Some of these are still in residence in Cheryl’s office.

There is a small green box shaped like an old country mailbox near the phone in which these cards used to reside. They are no longer there but are spread here and there amongst other paper and chaff in her office. I had hoped that Anna’s present would take up residence in the mail box topped box but that did not happen.

In mid-April of 2022, I suggested that she should make a list of the May birthdays and we would make a trip to the store to get some cards to send. The idea of making a list is hers. She readily agrees with this idea but as her Parkinson took hold of her cognitive centers she is unable to do this.

A few months back her engineer husband suggested that rather than a list she should write each name on a post-it note and as she selected cards in the store, she could put the post-it note inside and she would know who the card was for. Later when she wrote the card and addressed the envelope she could note what date she wanted to mail it and stick it to the front when she sealed the envelope. That solution met resistance because of the NIH factor. (not invented here) But over time she adapted it to her way and used it for awhile.

In April I helped her make a stack of post-it notes with names and we went to the store for cards. Few of those cards were ever mailed to anyone.

In May I waited to see if there would be a panic mailing of cards. May came and went.

Our daughter-in-law Mavis’s birthday is the 1st of May. Hers was the only May birthday card sent. How do I know? In a previous month there was panic as Cheryl realized she had forgotten where she had put the stamps. I now keep track of the stamps. I often have written about her punding. Sometimes she will pund stuff into obscure places. We all do this – not punding – but set things down in obscure places. With PD it is merely harder to find out where it was parked. The stamps turned back up a week or so later after I had bought a new roll.

Cheryl’s birthday is in May also and her brothers and sisters often gather for a “sibs” dinner to celebrate such an event. These pictures are from that gathering at Gabbey’s cafe.

The birthday cards acknowledgement of the family birthdays seems to have been forgotten. It is probably another nuance to he loss of sense of time, calendar, day, week. Our son Scott’s birthday is the 6th of June. We were at our daughter Anna’s house on his birthday. Anna asked her mom whose birthday was today. Cheryl looked at her with a confused look.

I felt sad about several things. I have been writing significant events on a white board that I put on the table each morning so that Cheryl knows what is happening this day. I have not been writing down birthdays. She forgot Scott’s birthday. Of the few cards that I think she should send we forgot to send one to our son. A few other sad thoughts drifted through my head. But most of all I realized that she had lost the birthday card duty. She had forgotten it. This is a long time thing that she did for our family and her mother while Elaine was alive. This is a longtime activity for her. Her short term memory has been off or fading for sometime. I had gotten used to the fact that it is necessary for me to remind her of events constantly. (It is annoying but over time one gets used to it.)

Christmas, birthday, invitation, funeral cards are all gone. An actual paper card with a USPS stamp is how Cheryl learned to acknowledge things. She never adopted Facebook or any other social media platform for those.

Parkinson is a series of small setbacks. Sometimes it is so gradual it merely seems like life going by. It is easy to attribute all behavior changes to Parkinson, after all, he entered our lives about a dozen years ago and has made dramatic changes to how we now do things. Lot’s of older folks develop an apathy for life. They do not need Parkinson’s disease to help them. It is a kind of disinterest in life. Doctor’s have recently discovered this. Geriatric doctors ask specific questions about it when visited by their patients.

This topic about the birthday cards occurred to me in early May when no panic mailing of birthday cards or frantic searching of the black book or of the old address books that we had in our old house or her mom’s address book. It was a sudden occurrence in her behavior.

Could I be watching apathy creep out from behind the curtain? I will have to be alert to this behavior. So far Cheryl does not seem apathetic. She does have a fading memory. Are they the same?

Carpe Diem.

Helpful Folks – Thanks

Cheryl Hughes posted this article in her blog which made me think about the helpful folks around us.

Last evening we had dinner with Cheryl’s sister Nancy. We have been doing this more and more. It is helpful to me in a couple ways that Nancy might not think about. Nancy, firstly, is not dealing with any dementia. Her conversation seems to go in a straight line. That fact by itself often provides relief to me. Over the course of my working career I traveled to other countries and many of these did not have english as their base language. It was always a great relief to hear American english from the people around you waiting for an airplane back to the states. Cheryl’s mingled conversation is much like trying to make sense of a foreign language with little preparation.

The second thing is that when Nancy talks to Cheryl she is accepting of whatever Cheryl might say. Cheryl tells her about the children in our house, their sister Janice and other thoughts as they occur. Nancy does not correct or suggest anything different. Sometimes she will ask for clarification if Cheryl has mixed up names or dates. Cheryl recognizes that she does mix things up but she does not have the stress of keeping the story straight. That is stressful to her, saying the right thing; giving the right answer; not offending anyone. She learned those from her mother and they are deeply ingrained in her personality. When talking to Nancy she relaxes. (Thanks, Nancy.)

Cheryl’s cousin’s wife Cindy began coming over to sit with Cheryl or take her to one of her exercise classes once a week for a couple hours. I am free to do whatever. (Thanks, Cindy.) These days in the warm summer Ohio air, I often go ride my bike somewhere. Cindy surprised me last Fall by asking me what I did for exercise after a discussion about Cheryl’s exercise classes. One of Cheryl’s instructors was a friend of Cindy’s. Cindy spontaneously offered to come and be with Cheryl while I did something else other than care give. It took me several weeks to figure out what to do with my new found freedom and now I look forward to it.

My son David and his wife Melissa have a wonderful patio and a big green backyard. Many times with little warning I have asked to come visit for a bit with Cheryl. Cheryl likes to visit her children and see how they are doing. Sitting on their patio in the sun brightens her mood. It gets us out of our little condo and does not require a lot of preparation by me. It is a sort of little day trip for her and I can chat with my son who is a fellow engineer. (smiley face)

They have always responded with yes. (One time they were out of town on a spontaneous getaway weekend.) Thanks, David and Melissa.

My son Scott sits with his mom while I go to my stock-club meeting once a month. (Thanks, Scott.) In 1984 several of us engineers decided to make ourselves rich by speculating in the stock market. We started meeting in March of that year. The markets have soared and ebbed. We languished through “black Friday”. We bought gold mining companies. We sold gold mining companies. We drank a lot of beer discussing and criticizing corporate management. We have won big (ABBV) and lost big (F). Good friends and lots of beer with dinner in the back room of the bar makes for a fun evening. (Thanks again, Scott.)

I have also parked Cheryl at Scott and Mavis’s house near us so that I could ride my new ebike around our old neighborhood. Cheryl could see Zachary – the newest grandchild – run around while I was riding. (Thanks, Zachary.)

My daughter Anna visit’s with her mom and in the summertime when her high school is on break takes her mom to exercise class. Last summer Anna stayed with her mom for a week while I went to visit my sister on the west coast and we attended my nephew’s wedding. Jeff and Stephanie have a new baby girl. (Thanks, Anna.)

Our next door neighbor, Jane, comes on Mondays typically to sit with Cheryl for a bit while I go ride my bike around somewhere. Cheryl sometimes walks across the hallway to visit with Jane. She is a good friend and close. Often Jane goes with us on “anything goes pizza Tuesday”. She reacts to Cheryl’s discussion much like Nancy does. Over the years Jane has had issues with her health and Cheryl’s first thought is to see how Jane is doing. Jane has pointed out things to me that she notices about Cheryl and has suggested solutions for those without any judgement. (Thanks, Jane.)

My cousin’s widow, Linda sits with Cheryl while I go do something else. Most recently I signed myself up for a caregiver’s class to find out about other services that were available. Linda came over fairly early in the morning so that I could attend this class. I found the class itself very useful. It was primarily oriented towards care partner health and well-being. (Thanks, Linda.)

I appreciate everyone’s help whether it is a small thing or a big thing. Sometimes it is a phone call. Sometimes it is merely joining us for dinner after church. Sometimes it is taking the roll of care partner for a couple hours. Sometimes it is staying with mom while dad goes somewhere for an hour or a week. I love you all. Thanks so much for helping.

Carpe Diem.

PT Goals

Ten meter walk – How fast does it take to go 10 meters? (36 sec) The metric system is everywhere except in American society.

This U-Step is  a great walker. Why don’t you use it inside? It is a great question from the physical therapist. When I first brought it into the condo it merely sat next to the dining room table until we went somewhere but in Cheryl’s defense there are a lot of close by things, chairs, tables, half walls, door handles and grab bars that she ignores the walkers during the day unless she is feeling very unsteady. We have had a standard looking walker for quite some time. She worries about bumping into things.

We do use it when we go anywhere away from home. The wheels track in what ever they got pushed through elsewhere. I do not care about that. It is old carpet on the floor. It cleans up good when the carpet cleaner folks show up. It is just another maintenance item for the budget. I can encourage her but usually it sits by the dining room table. – This goal is use the walker more for safety.

Sit to stand – scooch forward, lean forward… like a rocket ship… push up off the arms of the chair. Stand to sit – lean forward and reach back, hold the chair and sit. The PT person provided this as a recipe for standing up. I have helped her with this at home but when we start it from a sitting position I can she her become anxious about making a mistake and “getting up wrong.” I am unsure about how to help her past this feeling.

Balance 7/56 — I took this note but I am unsure of its meaning now. I think it is intended to mean that of several tests for balance (56) Cheryl has a poopy score for balance. She has to think about balance. In most of us it is an autonomous function.

Difficulties with balance and walking are linked to the brain changes that take place with PD. For people who don’t have PD, balance is automatic, a reflex. But Parkinson’s affects the basal ganglia (a part of the brain essential to balance). To compensate, the brain assigns another brain area — an area used for thinking — to take over. The thinking part of the brain, mainly the frontal cortex, can’t control balance automatically. The result: for many people with PD, balance becomes less automatic.

https://www.parkinson.org/blog/research/Walking-with-Parkinsons-Freezing-Balance-and-Falls

more exercises

Stretch – lay like a T shape raised knees over to one side back to middle – one side then the other.

Sit on a chair – Reach up open the chest – bring arms to horizontal – twist trunk to one side and then the other with arms outstretched.

Carpe Diem and many trips to the PT experts. Next up – Occupational Therapy.

I Want to go Home

A recurring theme in Cheryl’s head is “when are we going home?” I try at first to answer this by saying that’s good because we are already there. This rarely works. Sometimes it merely makes her angry with me.

The conversation is confusing when we reach this point. I can say to her, okay put on some clothes and we will get some lunch and come home. So, how would you find clothes for you in a place where you did not live? This is the first confusion but she accepts the fact that she has all her clothes here without accepting the truth of “home”. Even I am confused.

Later today, she is dressing now, we will go find some lunch somewhere and come home again.

Physical therapy is on the schedule for later this afternoon. Hopefully she will be tired after this activity.

Carpe Diem.

A Haunted Condo

Recently one of the older residents of our condo complex passed away suddenly from a cardiac arrest at dinner. This was very sad news indeed for her family and shocking news to our HOA and those who knew her.

Today as we got into the car to go to exercise class, Cheryl described seeing a “blond or gray-haired woman” zipping down the hallway in a hurry. She did not look around or wave as she went by but I asked a couple of questions about her sighting and Cheryl’s description of the woman could have described the resident who had died a few days ago.

Could we be haunted?

Cheryl often describes to me a woman she sees in our condo sitting in the bay window seat of our bedroom. When she awakens in the morning she sees this person. She tells me that the woman in charge of the school… (Cheryl will add some description). I cannot resist pointing out that only we live here but perhaps like the actress in “Ghosts” only she can see them. Maybe I should emulate the husband ask more questions about who she sees. After all I am the chef these days.

Something to think about.

Carpe Diem.

Another way to think about it….

Ugh… Another sleepless night

She was up and down until about three AM.

And then she fell asleep.

Pretty soon she will awaken. In a few minutes it will be eight hours of uninterrupted slumber for her. The LOUD AND ANNOYING ALARM clock is set for 11:30 AM.

PST — again

I must be getting used to this sleep or lack there of activity. I got up with the first alarm at 7 AM as I always do to get her meds. I reset it to lay down for awhile. Cheryl did not stir.

It is summer time so even though the blinds are closed the bright summer sun brightens the room to, for me, unsleepable conditions. I got up and brought in the trash bins and fetched the paper.

I feel refreshed. My old man’s bladder didn’t disturb me from 3 until 7 AM. Sweet.

Carpe Diem and a new day begins.

Last Night She Slept

Nice. But she has slept for about ten hours so far. I know that everyone sleeps for different amounts of time and Cheryl has been struggling to sleep well the past two days but I worry about the changes in her sleep pattern.

And at the same time when I look inside my own self and think about it, I cannot change how she feels. I cannot change how the disease progresses in her metabolism. I can make her comfortable.

Recently Cheryl Hughes wrote about quality of life and what that means to her and her husband while he was still alive. She makes some good points but I ponder about my view of quality of life is something that I have projected onto Cheryl.

Perhaps on some days she needs twelve hours of sleep. Perhaps on other days she will need a mere four hours. (Those days will be tough.) As her care partner I hope that I can understand that nuance and help her rather than being angry. Angry is a label I place on feelings of anxiety, worry, concern, and empathy for her as her body deals with this debilitating debacle.

It may be all for naught. Recently we got our second covid booster. Perhaps she is reacting to that shot. Neither she nor I had any real reaction other than a sore arm with any of the shots so far. It is simply not understandable what is Parkinson and what is not. It is easy to blame the parkinson when most things are simply old age. Her sometimes in and out dementia inhibits how she tells me what she is feeling. I attempt to be patient and understanding. Sometimes my attempts fall sort.

Are you gonna help me sing?

Some people live their dreams
Some people close their eyes
Some people’s destiny
Passes by

There are no guarantees
There are no alibis
That’s how our love must be
Don’t ask why

— Toto

She is slowly waking up in the bedroom. A new day dawns. I have Alexa playing music by Toto. They were on CBS Sunday Morning today. Perhaps I will get to ride my bike today.

Carpe Diem.

Tonight it is Chicken Fried Rice

I did not know that fried rice recipes are intended to use up left over rice from the previous day or two until I looked for recipes for (something) fried rice to make tonight for dinner.

Yesterday when Cheryl was making me nervous in the kitchen that is what she kept talking about, fried rice. So last night after I apologized profusely I told her tonight we would make fried rice together. We did. She did some of the chopping and egg scrambling. I did the frying over the hot part of the stove. It worked and it was pretty darn good.

In preparation last night I cooked some rice and put into the fridge. I took some frozen chicken out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw. Tonight we chopped and fried and stirred and cooked.

The general activity:

  • 1 chicken breast – pounded, salt and peppered, chopped into thin strips
  • 3 large eggs – scrambled with a little water
  • 1 C. frozen mixed veggies, pick out the big green beans and chop them smaller. My package has peas, carrots, corn and green beans
  • 1 medium size yellow onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic pepper. I was out of garlic cloves. I usually have some. Use two if you have some.
  • 2-3 tsp. of sesame oil
  • 2-3 tsp of soy sauce (plain old LaChoy)
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for frying

I don’t own a wok. I used to own a wok. I am more familiar with a 12 inch cast iron skillet that I own. It works fine for this kind of stuff. We have had it for fifty years or so so it is well seasoned.

Fry the eggs after Cheryl turns them into scrambled mix. I add a little water to them like the Frugal Gourmet taught me years ago. (Remember him? Sad. He has some good recipes though. I kept his books.) Fry the eggs with about a tsp. of vegetable oil. remove them to a plate and chop them into pieces you will add them back later. After marinating the chicken chopped into thin strips for a bit in sesame oil and salt and pepper (I also pounded it out into a flat shape as though I was going to make chicken-fried-chicken ala Cracker Barrel) add a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in the skillet and cook the chicken to golden brown. (Gently you can go too far.) Toss in the onion and garlic. Keep frying. Toss in the frozen veggies. (At some point you may feel the need to add more vegetable oil. Be careful.) Keep frying. Dump in the pre-cooked rice. Keep frying. Add a little sesame oil and taste it. Keep frying. when you are ready add the soy sauce. I guessed two tablespoons or so, but I do not measure at this point. I taste. It might need a little salt or more soy sauce. — Probably 30 minutes from beginning to the end and eating.

I should have taken a picture but we ate most of it before I thought to do that. I gotta get more Tik Tok. I rarely think to photograph foods that I am preparing unless I have impressed myself.

Carpe Diem.

She wants to Cook

Cheryl wants to cook something and I am afraid that she will harm herself. I cannot get past that.

Yesterday after our doctor appointment in the early afternoon, we stopped at Dewey’s pizza for a late lunch. Somehow the white pizza showed up with red sauce on it but mistakes happen and the pizza was good, just not what we had ordered. (That is the second time in a week that the incorrect pizza showed up at our table. Perhaps we need to expand our cuisine. ) Nevertheless, lunch was good and we returned home to do nothing for a bit. Cheryl lapsed into one of her punding/do something modes and began futzing with making something in the kitchen for dinner at 3 in the afternoon.

It made me nervous and I suppose what I should have done was sit in the kitchen to read my book and keep an eye on things. But I did not. I just popped in to check occasionally and point out that we did not need dinner for awhile as we had had lunch at 2:30 pm.

Family dynamics are hard to break. Before Parkinson she did most of the cooking and I stuck to my baking hobby out of the way at the other end of the kitchen. I stayed out of the way when she was cooking. My opinion was not solicited nor encouraged in our old house. Cheryl was a good cook and in my new duties as cook among other things I have tried to duplicate many of our old favorite recipes. Sometimes I would botch them up but most times they turned out the same. (Thanks, Betty Crocker.) These days when she gets in a mood to cook, things can turn out badly, but, more importantly, she has fallen in the kitchen as often as anywhere else and I worry that she will put her hand on a burner or fall into the hot oven.

When I could not gently steer her away from her “cooking” – she was boiling two eggs – I became angry and upset and tried to explain the danger to someone who sees none.

And last night she slept poorly. I blame me for that. Lot’s of emotion swirling around in her head as she tried to sleep left her fidgety and awake until almost four am. Even the big new bed did not help.

Carpe sad Diem. An opportunity to make a memory was lost to anxiety and anger. But tonight we will make something together. I will do better this time.

She is sleeping late today.

Carpe Diem … again.