Recently I Read a Book on Dementia

Recently I read a book entitled – Dementia Reimagined by Tia Powell MD. It was a disappointment to me personally because I believe that I judged this book by its title. I was hoping for some sort of expert thoughts on how I can deal better with my personable anxiety, emotion and smoldering anger with Cheryl’s disease of Parkinson and her accompanying dementia. I was hoping for; when this comes up, do this. Life is not that easy but my engineer training wants to make it so.

Dr. Powell’s book is a good argument for changing the way government programs, insurance companies and the like perceive and fund help for those with dementia. I know that the funding albeit private or public is screwed up. A few months ago I met with a lawyer to discuss end of life issues especially since I felt certain that Cheryl’s chronic illness would eventually bear a heavy toll on our family finances. He asked why I still lived in Ohio.

All states are different.

No Help There

That does not really help me. These tips on dementia (copied from a website somewhere) do seem to be useful:

Always approach from the front.or do that as much as you can. When I first read this it was not meaningful to me but I have noticed that Cheryl startles easily. Her startle reflex shows itself at seemingly random moments. If we are traveling somewhere in our car, she will react to other drivers with jerky motions or a surprised little noise from her lips. I used to point that out to her and she reacted with both embarrassment and a little anger. I have learned to ignore these little things but it is hard for me to do.

She no longer drives a car having given up her license several years ago.

I have noticed that she will jump if approach her while working on something in her office which causes her to face away from the doorway so that she does not see me coming. I am not moving quietly when this has occurred but I may be mistaken about that idea. I may be more stealthy than I think myself to be. We are both older. Our hearing may not be as acute as in our youth.

Watch your body language and tone in addition to the words you use. – frustration or surprise at the immediate situation may easily be interpreted as anger. This is the hardest concept for me personally to deal with. I am concerned for Cheryl’s safety and I also hate to clean up messes. I apologize a lot and she apologizes a lot for making a mess even though I tell her that no apology is necessary.

I recognize that I am perceived as angry by her when one of these situations occurred. The aweshit reflex is strong in students and practitioners of engineering. So far I have been able to tone it down to oh-poop but it is a work in process with some small progress. I keep telling myself it is anger with this disease and what it has taken from her. I cannot tell you if there is truth to that statement but I keep repeating it to myself quietly at night when a combination of sun-downers and dreamy illusions and hallucinations creep into her perception of the world.

Sometimes I merely lose it, however. I can be mister cranky pants in the middle of the night.

Smile and wait until they acknowledge your presence before touching them. – Hugs are always welcome but Parkinson’s patients may be unsteady, so be prepared to steady her and accept some weight change. Hugs are always smoother from the front than from the rear. (see startles above)

Regardless of acknowledgment touching, hand holding, hugging are preferable to distance. The combination of Parkinson’s and dementia are frustrating, depressing and scary. Cheryl has expressed this to me often in moments of perfect lucidity. Those moments are still there. Savor them like fine wine or life as it used to be.

Validate their point when they are upset even if they are wrong. – and be aware that it is not important to correct anyone’s perception of things. Never start a response with; you are wrong, dear. … and continuing with the rest of it.

Let’s face the fact that “you are wrong” is a manifestly stupid way to start with no dementia present. Relax and take a deep breath and decide between two things, is it important to correct her perception or do you merely have a need to be right. Try, yes, that could be true… and go from there if concepts are way off and you want to help her find the way back. Or just ignore it, after all, her memory is not very good any more. She will not remember that you are right but she will remember that you angrily corrected her.

Say you are sorry at the first sign of their frustration to keep situations at a minimum. – I say I am sorry a lot because I am sorry that I tread on her heart. This disease is frustrating for us both.

Cheryl sees a nurse practitioner a couple times a year. Maureen is pretty practical when it comes to nuanced care partnering. These are her words;

I get lots of questions on how to deal with dementia. I could give you a list of resources to look up on the internet, workshops to attend, books to buy. All of that takes time which most of us have too little of. A great caregiver website,, offers these 5 tips for dealing with dementia.

PRACTICE PATIENCE – This can be incredibly difficult to do. Try to remember when you were dealing with your children when they were young, especially the toddlers. You probably had more patience then, than now. Remember those days of taking a deep breath before saying something. With practice, it will get easier.

PROMOTE PHYSICAL HEALTH – This is for both the care giver and the care receiver. The care receiver can benefit from practicing chair yoga, dancing, gentle stretching. Since the pandemic there are abundant resources on You Tube which can be helpful for both the care giver and the care receiver. A walk outside in the fresh air can help clear the mind for the care giver and give a person a brief respite.

USE PHYSICAL TOUCH – Touch is a powerful form of communication and connection. It can also be a valuable expression of reassurance particularly to someone living with dementia. All of us need a hug now and again. My own mother would remind me I forgot to kiss her good night!

FIND RESPITE – If you’re focusing most – if not all – of your time, energy, and resources on caring for a loved one with dementia, you may find you cannot sustain doing so over the long-term. With proper self-care, you can relax and recharge, manage caregiver stress, and become a better and more effective caregiver. Consider sitting on the porch and reading a book, a brisk walk, a cup of Starbucks, an ice cream cone, a massage, a warm bath with soothing scents. These things need to be done regularly in order to maintain your own health.

REDUCE WORKING HOURS – If you are still working full time, care giving becomes a second full time job. Consider scheduling a meeting with your human resources manager to propose temporarily working from home, flex-time opportunities, job sharing, and/or even paid leave due to your caregiving demands. You may be pleasantly surprised by the accommodations your employer is willing to make.

Maureen is a wonderful practical person. (I also wish she was not in our life because then there would be no disease of Parkinson or dementia.)

Carpe Diem.

Chores and other Things

Where do we get our

beliefs of simple things, such as, whose job is it to do this chore or that chore. Mowing the lawn, for example, is it a male or a female job? And why do most people grow grass around their property that is not native to their part of the continent? From my perspective it is a male chore to mow the lawn.

As a boy – it was mine

How do things like this get started? I have always – at least in my memory – thought of mowing the lawn as a man’s job, chore, duty. No doubt dating to my childhood when it was the chore I was assigned somewhere around the time my brother graduated high school and left for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I would have been about twelve years and certainly tall enough to push a lawn mower and not injure myself. I have no memory of whom in our family mowed the weeds before me. I assume it was my older brother but I have no memory of watching him do that task but he probably did. He is gone now and I cannot ask him.

It was my chore to keep the estate spiffy and shipshape. Did I like it? Indeed I did not.

As a man – I thought mine

Over time things get ingrained, ground in, always assumed. That is your job. Just do it. When we bought our first house I purchased or somehow obtained a ultra low end lawn mower. It was a tiny back yard and much was given up to english ivy. Why I ever decided to remove much of the ivy and turn it into lawn is beyond me now but at the time we had one child with another on the way so a place for the kids to play was probably the motivation. I also built some garden boxes, a sand box for the little people to play in and the neighborhood cats to crap in, a raised vegetable garden area, a strawberry bed, a swell picnic table and a rabbit hutch with rabbits. It was a busy six summers there. I was not yet thirty years old. We were fertile. We had three children when we moved to the big house.

I had my own schedule when it came to maintenance items such as mowing the lawn. Building the lawn is way more interesting and fun than mowing it. Occasionally she and I would argue until I discovered that she actually enjoyed mowing the lawn. She would mow it and I would assume incorrectly that she was trying to show me up. Our first lawn was tiny and I had an electric mower with a 100 foot long cord. She loved it and she could do it during nap time. It was quiet. I gave up the maintenance duty on the lawn.

As a father – my son’s job

When we moved to the new big house with the new big lawn and the mostly dead American elm in the back I bought another 100 foot long extension cord. This worked for awhile until it became too cumbersome and I gave in to purchase a low end gas powered mower from a big box store.

The elm was removed, another vegetable garden was installed and a cherry tree added to round out the crop yield. The kids were growing rapidly. She and I decided that it would be good for the kids to have some responsibilities around the homestead and its maintenance. Some jobs more important than making sure that the two freezers did not contain too much food. We gave our middle son the duty of mowing the lawn and he seemed to like it initially. I eventually gave in and bought a riding mower and he liked it even more. There are many fine stories to go with the riding lawnmower of questionable manufacture.

Household chores in our new life with PD

In our current life with this disease of Parkinson we try to avoid having it be the center of our life and rule over all that we do but some days that just seems impossible. Some days the distraction is insurmountable but over time we have come to grips with the fact that it is simply more efficient for me, the husband, the father, the care partner to assume most of the regular chores and Cheryl can do ones that she deems need doing and she is up to the task that particular day. Some days she does nothing other than survive. Some days she busies up her day with several little things which takes a toll on her physical well being and the following day is a survival day. I like routine so I have selected certain days for certain major chores.

I have developed three laundry group days. Monday is wash-the-bed-sheets day. Wednesday is wash-the-towels day. Friday is wash-the-clothes day. On Friday I split the wash into loads that make sense to me not her and we have sparred a bit about what is in each load but we do not any longer. I believe she has lost interest in laundry and its routine. On wash-the-clothes day I also look at the checking account to be assured that we are not getting too rich and do any book keeping and bill paying. Over time I have put many regular expenses on automatic.

On a daily basis there are a myriad of other little things that I do to keep things rolling along. It now seems trivial when I reminisce about my anger with her stealing my thunder and mowing the lawn without telling me. (Yes, that was the source of my once ill-placed anger.) These days I look forward to being with her and caring for her.

Morning routine includes dressing the bed. In our other younger life I never did this. In this life I have made some adjustments to suit me since it is principally my daily job. Evening routine includes making dinner and when I am out of gas or merely think we are isolating ourselves too much we go to a restaurant and let them make dinner.

Cheryl has had difficulty lately with an evening routine that allows her to wind down and sleep through the night. We have been adjusting the timing of her evening meds. Because she often complains of taking so many pills, we have adjusted her dosage slightly and on her nurse practitioner’s recommendation we have adjusted the timing of a med that is intended to help her sleep. She takes that about thirty minutes before she heads to bed.

These slight adaptations seem to be working for her, not always but for the most part. She seems to be sleeping better and generally through the night except for the occasional bathroom trip. In addition she occasionally makes the bed – well twice so far – because I think she feels good enough (rested enough) to do that little chore.

After the second time I thanked her for making the bed up and got push back in the form of, I know how to do it!

AHA – store the little victories away in your heart for later. Keep your mouth shut if you are unable to make your praise and thanks not sound demeaning. And do not take it personable when she snaps at you, for at that moment she is there as she always was before this disease of Parkinson.

And never raise your volume, she will think you to be angry whether you are or not.

Carpe Diem.

She Almost Fainted Today

Every morning at 7AM the extremely LOUD, BRIGHT AND ANNOYING alarm clock sounds its happy tune to remind us that it is time for Cheryl’s first dose of various meds. My job is to get up and find them. I get a glass of water and bring them back to the bathroom. All of this disturbance usually awakens Cheryl. I help her get up and shuffle into the bathroom to the toilet and then to the counter to take her meds.

Her fingers may not be working well in the right-after-get-up time. At 7AM and a little, she dropped one on the floor. I got her to take the rest of her meds and eased her back to bed. I laid down too after finding that the little white pill she dropped was to combat her orthostatic hypotension which is low blood pressure associated with Parkinson disease. I put this pill with her vitamins that she took later while eating breakfast.

She takes midodrine to combat the hypotension. Generally it seems to work. This morning when she took it separate from her other meds but with her vitamins and shredded wheat, she became lightheaded and fainty feeling. When one checks out the link I have provided, one finds a wearying array of side effects, all of which or none of which are associated with other meds that she takes.

This morning she fainted while I was talking to her. She was looking gray in the face at the time. I helped her to the floor and propped her legs up on a chair. I sat on the floor with her for a bit until she felt like she could sit up. I outweigh Cheryl by about a hundred pounds or so and to me she feels pretty light. I also forget that we are the same age and that means neither of use is twenty-two anymore. Nevertheless I help her up by positioning a chair nearby and she pulls herself up or I get behind her and lift her straight up with my legs. I probably should not lift her but she really does not weigh much in my mind.

While writing about these little happenstances in our life with PD I run across a world of information about what to do and who to call. This website ( is a wealth of information.

It has been awhile since Cheryl fainted while eating breakfast. A couple years ago it was sort of common and occurred maybe once every other week or so. It was so commonplace that I staged a pillow from our couch in one of the kitchen chairs to put under her head for a bit while she was laying on the kitchen floor recovering. Thinking back on it, it crept into our lives so gradually that the two old people living this Parkinson life thought little of it other than, oh crap another new thing to deal with.

A casual mention in conversation to the medical team in a visit a couple years ago caused Maureen to give me the “stink” eye look which said to me, when were you going to mention this? I realized fainting is not a good thing or even a thing that we should merely deal with over time. She gave Cheryl a prescription for midodrine and instructions to take two when you get up and two more during the day spread out. Later this was adjusted to one in the morning, one mid-day, one no later than three hours before bedtime. I now had a use for all seven boxes of our meds organizer.

I found this a couple years ago on Amazon. Ours has black lettering and I created a chart to stick inside the lid.

A pretty long story but in addition to this little blog of mine I have started a little log of anomalous activities and the surrounding circumstances. The doctors and nurses are not looking at Cheryl every day. That is on me.

Carpe Diem.

Too Much!

“I appreciate your help but sometimes I just want to be left alone”, she said to me today.

I suppose I do get too much like a helicopter parent.

She could have become more angry and told me to “Back off!” but she did not.

I stepped over a line that I am still looking for.

Carpe Diem and learn.

There is a subtle difference between caregiver and care partner. We seem to be on the cusp of that some days. So I felt it was necessary to find back Edie’s prayer modified by me and read it again.

… so much to learn and as I write this Pink Floyd is singing “Comfortably Numb” on Alexa nearby. Perhaps I have become numb or non-listening lately.

Seize the moment to listen.

Teasing. Do You Want Some Coffee?

Cheryl does not drink coffee. She never has. I do. When I make a pot of coffee I ask her in a teasing fashion, do you want some coffee? I made a pot. She says, nope. No coffee for me thanks. it is a conversation we have had for fifty plus years. I love her. Sometimes she will ask for something else; tea, juice, Coke and I will get that for her instead. She seems to be back in this time and place now. Earlier she was not.

This morning that seemingly innocent exchange stuck with me. Her early morning sun-downers syndrome was staying with her and the sometimes accompanying hallucination was staying with her. It made me nervous. I had purchased a couple apple strudels from Marx Bagels the day before and kept them aside for a breakfast treat. Lately she is only interested in doughnuts for breakfast. That part of the breakfast was okay but she kept offering some to someone named Tim. Tim who? I asked as I had not heard that name before. Tim Fiebbig, I go to school with him, she said.

She thought the strudel was okay but she was hoping for doughnuts. I told her that if she really wanted doughnuts I would get some but do not leave until I get back. I zipped out to a nearby UDF for a couple doughnuts and some coffee. Back in a record fifteen minutes with three doughnuts and fresh coffee. While I was gone she sat with Tim in her office to chat until the doughnut man returned. She broke one up into little pieces and offered it to Tim.

In an effort to understand where she was in her mind I quizzed the siblings. This was (is) an elaborate illusion for Cheryl to set up a chair in her office so that she could converse with Tim her imaginary friend from her childhood. She did not seem puzzled that he was in her office. I hoped that it would pass and left her to talk to Tim for a bit. After a conversation of several minutes she came back out and sat with me to watch the morning not-so-newsy news program on CBS.

It is later in the day as I write this and she is still struggling a bit with the images and memories. Those seem to be easing and she went to shower and put on clothes. She seems to be back.

Some is, no doubt, grief caused by family circumstances. Paul Welch, our son-in-law’s father passed away yesterday. He had Parkinson’s disease/ Lewy body dementia also. An incredibly aggressive version apparently because he was only diagnosed about two years ago.

As we head down this road of Parkinson, it is helpful for me to understand what she is remembering. I am often unsure of what to do with that information. Sometimes I turn it into a conversation about that time in her life and let her reminisce for a bit. Sometimes it works and she gently realizes that she is reliving a memory. Sometimes it does not work.

It is a twisty-turny journey. My training many years ago as an engineer has been poor preparation for this time in my career. Spiritually it is a challenge. Engineers want to fix things. This appears to need a total redesign by the Chief Designer.

Carpe Diem.

Rock Solid

This morning she dressed the bed. I went back to the bedroom after she announced that she intended to get cleaned up and get ready for exercise class. The bed was put together already. I was overwhelmed with emotion. She had slept solid most of the night.

My heart leapt for joy. She has not made the bed for a couple of years. Long enough ago that I have forgotten when the last time it was that she made the bed.

We had pancakes for breakfast but she wanted donuts. (Smiley face).

At about 4am after a trip to the bathroom she asked me, when is church? Three hours later she asked me if I had gotten donuts for breakfast. There is an association in her of church and donuts.

Previous donuts

Maybe I will stop and pick up some donuts from somewhere today so that we have them tomorrow morning.

Every day is a new day.

Carpe Diem.

I Often Read Maria Shriver

She writes uplifting and spiritual thoughts in a weekly email newsletter she calls “Sunday Paper”. Today she writes about changes in life. She struck a chord in me but probably not in the way that she intended.

This Parkinson thing is a dramatic change in our life. Maria uses as her focus a friend that is moving far away and talks of pivoting toward the future. What struck me is Cheryl is moving away inside. Not purposely of course but this morning the conversation centered on location and space. She believes inside her head that we are far away from home. She asked are we going home today?

Home is a concept different to everyone. I told Cheryl as I always do when she asks this, we are home. We live here. Sometimes I go into more detail and tell her when we moved. She has a puzzled look on her face when I tell her those things. Sometimes I regret moving out of our big old house in Pleasant Ridge when we have these conversations but I have no basis for regret. She is confused now and most likely would be if we were still living in the big old house.

To me home is not so much a place as a situation. If one “googles” home the famous web search returns thousands of pictures of various houses in various places but a building is not home. Those houses may or may not be home to others.

Cheryl is where I am home. Our life was unimaginable to me when we got married 51 years ago.

On this snowy slowly warming February Sunday I am reminiscing about life and home and the twisty turny path we all follow though life. And that is my concept of home.

She sometimes thinks that we are not home. I am as long as I am with her somewhere.

A boy, a fox, a mole and a horse – great book for meditation

Carpe Diem.

An Icy Day in February

The puzzle is completed. Hallelujah! Kill the fatted calf. The Christmas 2017 puzzle is complete. So, now the question is what to do with it? I suggested that she break it into the tiny little pieces she started with and pass them on to her sister Nancy. She is still thinking about it but that is probably what will happen.

Who knows maybe this is a new hobby. It certainly is an occupation once it starts. Cheryl seemed very content while this whole process was happening. Cindy is an enthusiastic cheerleader and champion during the activity. I was not gone for a long time but when I came home they were puzzling away.

I started dinner. I had been out in the rain that we had ahead of the icy wet snowy crap that came today. While out I decided it was a good day for stuff soup.

Stuff soup:

  • 2 small onions chopped
  • several (5) carrots pealed and chopped
  • several (4) small potatoes pealed and quartered
  • several (5) stalks of celery chopped
  • a head of broccoli chopped – the stems are good in soup the flowers tend to disintegrate like peas.
  • the end of the bag of frozen corn (maybe ½ C.)
  • half a cup or so of frozen peas.
  • ½ lb. of mystery beef – bought out of the get rid of it soon shelf at IGA – chopped int ½ in. cubes
  • some whole wheat pasta for health reasons.

In a dutch oven put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and dump in the onions. Stir them when they start to sizzle. Rinse the carrots and celery and when you are satisfied with the onions, let them brown a bit, dump in the beef. Brown the beef for awhile and enjoy the aroma. When the kitchen smells like a good diner, dump in the celery and carrots. Stir it up for a bit and put the lid on and give it a few minutes. This is a good time for a little salt and pepper to taste.

When you are ready dump in a box (32 oz.) of whatever broth you like. I used beef broth here. Bring it all to a boil and start the oven set to 300F.

Dump in the frozen peas, corn and chop the broccoli into small pieces. When it starts to boil again, dump in the broccoli and put the lid back on and stick in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

Add the healthy pasta at the end of 30 minutes and set the timer for 10 minutes more. Set the table and find some rye bread to go with everything. Put out the butter, bowls, silverware, etc.

Sit down in the kitchen to eat so that the puzzle can be viewed from afar. It is better to leave the dining table undisturbed. Speak to the small children attempting to mess with the puzzle even if you cannot see them.

Maybe I should look for the special table to build the puzzle on. I kind of liked having dinner at the dining table. We sat closer to the little apparition girls and I could chase them away as necessary while eating. The little girls seem to show up a lot at dinner time.

Everyone is smiles when the puzzle gets finished.

Carpe Diem.