It is February

February is a melancholy month. Thinking back to childhood, it is the coldest month. In four weeks it will be March. March is the first happy month. The world is waking from winter.

February is like the early morning. The care partner gets up quietly so as to not disturb the early morning peace. He stretches and puts on a sweater. He makes coffee. He opens the shades to see the sunrise. (Shifting person lets me step outside of myself.)

Cheryl is sleeping late. Early in the day yesterday she was showing signs of her impostor delusion so I got her out of the condo.

She is upset with the passing of her cousin Gerry. Janet, Gerry’s sister, called yesterday to report the news of his passing. We talked on the phone for a little while. I put the phone on speaker so Cheryl could hear and participate. All of us reminisced for a bit. After Janet hung up, Cheryl got up to get dressed. In that interval she became the person in charge of Gerry’s celebration of life. She decided she needed to pack for the trip. I helped her for a bit.

On the fly I conjured a tour of the countryside. I was not sure of where other than simply out. I sent a big long text to her brothers and sisters so they would be aware of her mental state if she abruptly called them.

We visited her mother’s grave. We had talked of this for a couple weeks. She often loses the fact that her mother has passed away. I struggle with ways to gently help her understand that I cannot take her to see her mother. For a moment yesterday she seemed surprised to read her mother’s name on the stone. It broke my heart to realize that this is the thing she cannot remember, her mother’s death. Cheryl and her Mom were very close. Her dementia was at the very beginning about five years ago when her mother passed away. I suppose I did not realize at the time that she had shoved this knowledge into a place where it was not easily retrieved. Gerry’s stay in Hospice and our visits to see him bought back a flood of childhood memories.

The written world and its words are a jumble to her. She told me that Mom would stay here until she is cremated. I drove her to another part of the cemetery where our niche is located waiting for our cremains. I do not think she understood that she had become her mom in her thoughts.

I let that go. I decided I was trying to fix an impression that did not need correcting. Often in her conversation she is a child, her mother, my wife and mother to our children and occasionally I become Dan, David, Scott or, in the very early morning, Janice all within the same five minutes of conversation. She wondered aloud if the cemetery office would know where Gerry was to be buried. I replied that Gerry was going to be cremated per his request and his remains interred in the parish cemetery in Kentucky. Oh she replied.

I started a conversation about where to go for a walk when we left the graveyard. She said we could go to Mom’s house and then corrected herself to say, “where Mom used to live.” Internally I smiled. It seemed to me there was hope. It is February and we are in Ohio.

I suggested lunch first, so, we discussed various places nearby. We landed at one of Ohio’s claims to fame, Bob Evans’s Farm Restaurant. There are a bunch. One was close by and it was the one she would take her mom to occasionally. While waiting for our food we chatted about various topics. I sent a text to my son David and asked if he would be home in the afternoon. We had forgotten our pie plate and the carrier and I thought to retrieve it. He lives far enough from us that Cheryl would get a sense of “going home” from his house.

When we arrived at David’s house a neighbor’s garage was on fire. It was several yards and a street away but it added a certain amount of urgency to getting in David’s driveway and added a discussion of events totally unrelated to Gerry’s death. Melissa made fajitas for dinner.

It was a good outing. Cheryl was exhausted when we got home. Later this week I may probe her memory of her mother. (or not.) This was a long rambling story about a day that made me anxious about her mental state which seems to be deteriorating quickly some days and some days not.

On this morning, the day afterward, she did not open an eye until I awakened her at ten o’clock. She had not changed position from when I got her into bed at just before ten the previous evening. She did not stir when I came to bed an hour or so later. She did not stir overnight when I made my usual couple trips to the bathroom. It seems as though she sleeps more lately but sometime she is agitated about something in the evening and when I ask she is unable to vocalize her thoughts.

Dementia and Parkinson’s are miserable companion diseases. (And they both suck.)

Carpe Diem.

It’s Just Laundry

It used to bug me a little bit if Cheryl leaked out over night. But one day I said to myself what is the big deal. It’s just laundry.

It is now another mantra for me. Much like Carpe Diem (seize the day or seize the moment) after repeatedly saying mottoes like this out loud or not, it changes your mind about whatever is bugging you. Out loud is better.

Psychiatrists and psychologists call this cognitive talk therapy. It works for many situations. The important part is to keep doing it even if you do not think it is working for you. Eventually you will convince yourself.

After I wrote the initial thoughts I had on this topic of changing your attitude to be positive, I tripped over this article by Rachel Feintzeig in the Monday Jan 23 edition of the WSJ. It intrigued me. Naturally there is an app for that. I used to think that it was better to be a pessimist and be surprised by events than to be an optimist and be disappointed by events. This is summed up by the dismissive and sometimes arrogant, we’ll see comment that is spoken by pessimistic personalities.

An added bonus to reading Ms. Feintzeig’s article is that I learned a new albeit made up word: pronoid. A friend of her’s made it up and explained it to be the opposite of paranoid. He believed the world to be conspiring in his favor.

Pronoid – a situation where your surrounding friends and environment join forces to make your existence better than at first perceived. (I like it.)

Overnight urinary incontinence can be really inconsistent and inconvenient but in the end a load of laundry solves it. Cheryl lately is losing interest in her exercise classes that she used to like, I try to bump her into some other physical activity. Take a walk, go shopping which is also a walk, or something. Outside is best but sometimes the weather does not cooperate. Carpe the moment. I try to read her mood and find something that is not in our condo.

It does not always work but activity is best. Sedentary is less than best.

And Carpe the laundry diem.

Women’s Restrooms

Women’s restrooms are never handicapped accessible even when you think they are and the provider thinks they are.

The Ladies room at Through the Garden restaurant (which we go to often) is a pretty good one. Cheryl did not get trapped with her walker last night. The door hinges into the restroom and it is nice and wide.

The Silverton Cafe which is a wonderful old pub that we have gone to for decades has a sucky-wucky ladies room. Cheryl got trapped in the stall. A coat-hanger would have been good.

The public restroom on the first floor lobby area south in St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas has a really swell feature. I has a handicap wave pad that opens the door mechanically when you wave your hand at it. It also has motion sensitive lights which turn on when you shove your walker in but waits a few minutes and turns them off leaving you sitting in an inside room without windows or any other lighting which makes it blacker than the inside of a cow which is also not not nice. Almost a great idea though. Needs a little tweaking.

As we travel the road of parkie dilemmas I have visited a lot of women’s restrooms lately. I am not shy about shouting “doing okay?” through the door and opening the door which usually interferes with the walker coming out. Often you will see me hovering near the ladies room door when we leave the restaurant or pub for the evening. I try to not look creepy.

Most seem to hinge inward but the door is conveniently (for the builder) located in a corner so that you cannot be off to the side with the walker to open the door.

A few designers are thinking here and there. It is sporatic though. Old buildings are the worst. Restrooms do not make any money for pubs. All guys need is a bush.

Carpe the restroom Diem.

Inspiration in Song and Poetry

I often find hope and inspiration in song and poetry. Today while reading blogs of others I tripped over this from Filosofa’s Word. Kermit and his rainbow song.

To me and I suppose many, poetry and song are the same thing. A song with a melody that is catchy enables a poor poem to live. A sweet expressive poem often needs no accompaniment. Sometimes the music is first and inspires the poem. Sometimes the poem is first and inspires the melody.

A favorite poem Desiderata sort of sums up life. It has no metre. It follows a prose format. I find it to be calming to my heart. I have not read it for a while but reading Jill’s blog page about caused me to do that today.

Carpe Diem and keep connected to everyone around you.

New Year’s Day

We had a great visit from all the kids and many of the grandkids. On New Year’s Eve I spontaneously asked our children if they had anything special planned for New Year’s Day. I asked if not would they like to gather around our table for a meal in the afternoon. I suggested about 4-ish. They all said yes.

I stole this idea from Frank C. Church. Thank you, Frank for a spontaneously good time.

Who can tell? Maybe a new family tradition? Traditions have to start somewhere. They are kept up if everyone has a good time participating. Zachary certainly had a good time. He had not seen grandma’s marble race before so Mom and Gavin helped him put it together.

Most importantly Cheryl got to have everyone at her house. She smiled and laughed at the conversation and activity. It was simply wonderful to see her smile.

Her smile and laughter are less as we head on our journey of Parkinson. Yesterday was very special to her and to me.

Carpe Diem. And don’t forget to connect!

Don’t Be An Asshat

Asshat is one of my favorite terms for “stinker”. When I read it in a book it makes me giggle internally.

Today I was an asshat. Cheryl had a rough night. She spent a long time feeling something in her bowel that would not happen. Sadly one of the often not talked about symptoms of Parkinson is constipation. This condition is treated with various devices, more veggies, extra fiber, fiber enhanced foods, docusate sodium (stool softener), Miralax, psyllium husk powder, and others. The result of many of these maybe all is an emergency. And sometimes a declogging device. We have been down this road many times.

Why I did not recognize it last night at 3 AM is beyond me. Maybe not.

I was an asshat. Today I am trying to recover from my overnight asshattedness.

Happy New Year! My One Word is CONNECT

Carpe diem – Get up! Connect! Move!

Recurring Themes

There are days, and this may be one of them, when I wish for Cheryl’s physical Parkinson’s symptoms to be worse and her mental Parkinson to be less. She actually moves quite well with the C/L in her system during the day. If in the middle of the night she might get up to toilet once or twice she moves pretty well then too. She might be slow and slightly disoriented but at 3 AM I am too.

Late Autumn and Winter is the worst for her mentally. Last evening she stayed up very late; frantically organizing and reorganizing her papers and cards in her office. She eventually allowed me to help her to bed about 11:30 PM. I heard the clock strike midnight before she succumbed to sleep. She had been talking gibberish about the kids.

five repetitive themes

She is often confused as to who I am. I am that other Paul. I am Dad (as I was last night encouraging her to get rest before our big outing with Marilyn.) Some times I am Scott but if not she will ask, “Did Scott go home? Or, Is Scott here?” Some of this is simply aphasia and she cannot find a name in her head. (Me too, occasionally.) If I cause stress in her by insisting on something she will be very anxious about me being around. Insisting is always a bad idea but I often forget that. I try to hedge and let her decide she wants to – go to bed, eat dinner, have a cookie, have cereal for breakfast, etc. Often that works, often it does not. It can be frustrating when you are also tired.

“I want to go home now.” – She believes for a time often late at night that she is not home and wants to go home. Sometimes this delusion is overpowering and I help her find shoes and a coat and I drive her around a four mile circle and home. I reinforce the we are home thought by saying plainly, “we’re home now. I’m glad to be here finally.” That will reset her brain and she starts to think we are home. Sometimes it works only partially and she thinks – wow, this is neat. How did they get all our stuff here so fast?

Recently she has asked how we will get all our stuff home? Do we need to get some movers? I merely replied yes, I will call them tomorrow and set it up. — I wonder how long the “I will take care of that tomorrow” ploy will last. For now it does. She has not yet asked when I was going to call the movers in the morning while I am organizing breakfast.

“We are in Detroit” When Cheryl went to high school she was following the prescribed path to become a Franciscan nun. I met her originally in the summer between her junior and senior years in high school. When she was a freshman, a teacher she had realized she may have some potential in english or journalism and arranged for Cheryl and a couple of her classmates to attend a journalism workshop in Detroit for a couple weeks between her first and second years in high school. It made a deep impression on her. In many ways, when she talks about it, it was as though she traveled to a foreign land. And she thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. Her favorite TV show and the only one she really watches is a show called Bob (<3) Abishola which is set in Detroit. Watching the the show, she will tell me stories about Detroit but mostly I think she looks at the screen because some views will spark a memory.

“When are we going home?” Is her theme some evenings when she is sure we are in Detroit. I did not realize at first where she thought we were. I discovered this later through conversation. — I can respond, “We are staying here tonight and going home in the morning. Is that okay with you? It is late and would rather drive home in the morning.” Most times traveling along with this theme she responds with, “Yes that is a good ideas. We should rest first.” Once in awhile the Detroit delusion lingers until morning. It is often gone at breakfast.

It is time for office work — is usually a physical activity. In our second bedroom that became her office when we bought this condo she will spend time organizing. Or doing nothing. It is her version of punding. If she starts doing it at 9 or 10 PM there is no easy fix to getting her to be interested in sleep even when it is obvious to me that she is very tired. She takes a prescription to help her sleep as well as melatonin to help her fall asleep but her will is strong when she decides to – get this stuff organized. It breaks my heart to see her do this mindless activity. Last night I sat with her because the later she stays up the wobblier she gets but her confused mind will not let her see this in herself. In her brain she is a 35-year-old computer database analyst and the deadline is tomorrow.

These behaviors generally occur late in the evening. I sometimes succeed in not being Mr. Cranky Pants. This part of His plan sucks for sure. It is hard to be calm when the Plan has dumped on you and the previous night was smooth and uneventful.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot comes to mind.

Carpe Diem.

Merry Christmas

In this season of happy and family and celebration, after I have gotten through all the wrapping and cookie making and other organizational tasks, I slow to take stock of the year. Good things happened and not so good things happened but mostly this year was. It is in the past now.

Throughout this year Facebook is a personal source of joy, amusement, interest, empathy and puzzlement. When some political whiny rant appears, I am puzzled by the things total strangers will say to others that they would not say in person. I am filled with joy at the pictures of children both young and old. I am amused by the various MEME cards that folks post, sometimes without thinking. I am interested in other care giver’s thoughts as they travel down their road of Parkinson. And I am empathetic to their particular struggles. In this collage of pictures selected in no particular sequence are pictures of things, people and MEMEs that appeared on Facebook during the past year and I downloaded to my tablet as I watched the TV news and waited for Cheryl to wake up.

The good things

  • The joy in Zachary’s face. He always makes me smile.
  • Luke’s artistic muses in photography
  • Family
  • family gatherings
  • Max is off to Miami University — I am class of ’72
  • Laurencia is 21!
  • Cindy Smith
  • Linda Weisgerber
  • Kathy Mellen
  • Mary Jo Horton
  • Jane Pohlman
  • Parkinson Community Fitness
  • UC Health
  • Jeff and Stephanie’s ELFie – Elizabeth Laura Fisher
  • Zane and Charlotte
  • Lydia (think songs from the Music man)
  • Anniversaries
  • Anna’s 50th birthday (I love you)
  • trips and vacations
  • New people in our lives
  • Looking back and memories
  • Learning how to make cookies
  • Sr. Carren and Nancy Strapp
  • Visits from friends of Cheryl
  • Phone calls to Cheryl from her friends
  • Special friends
  • small faces and their happiness
  • Jana Ann
  • The class I took on being a good care partner (Linda stayed with Cheryl so I could go.)
  • A new found interest in cookies and muffins
  • Finding out that adjusting meds, schedules and eating has reduced Cheryl’s upset stomach to non-existent almost. (and the neurologist MDS says bravo.)
  • Lunch with Marilyn

The not so good things

  • Constant reminder of Parkinson
  • Anna’s Fiftieth birthday (wow, I am old.)
  • Cheryl’s lost memory
  • Learning how to make cookies (there have been disasters.)
  • Cheryl’s worsening confusion in the evening
  • dementia in all its forms – delusion, hallucination, Capgras, sundowner, showtime
  • frost on the window (I have never been a big fan of winter)
  • avocados
  • Cheryl wanting to talk (call) to her mother in the evening (which worries me – I think – unnecessarily.)
  • Late night punding in her office

These are both incomplete lists. However the good list is already way longer than the not so good list. (And a couple of those are tongue-in-cheek jokes.) I constantly try to turn away from letting Parkinson and dementia drive our life.

I will probably add to these lists during the holiday down time.

Carpe Merry Christmas Diem.

More on Parkie Time

There is lots of discussion about apathy and Parkinson. This morning I decided that Parkinson merely enabled Cheryl’s brain with a different sense of urgency or importance. Perhaps I needed to embrace that.

Last night as I coaxed her to bed her impostor syndrome was strong. We drove around for a few minutes and looked at the Christmas decorations while we “drove home”. It usually works and she thinks she is home. It did not work completely that night but she seemed to accept the fact that she was very tired and needed to rest. She went to bed with pajamas on the bottom and her normal daytime shirt on the top (just in case).

In the morning she slept late. When I woke her and got her going I pointed out that she had about two hours until her exercise class started, so she had to move it along unless she did not want to go. She refused to be speeded up and responded that I have been late before. She thinks exercise is important and wants to do it and enjoys it once she gets started. I know that it helps her too. But my sense of urgency and lateness is much different than hers.

I shifted my schedule to agree with her parkie time. My urgency evaporated along with my stress associated with getting her moving.

Small adjustments reduce stress

Carpe late Diem.