Cheryl told me she is scared to be on her brother’s boat.
Recently Cheryl’s youngest brother invited her and the rest of her living clan and clan-in-laws for an evening ride on his pontoon boat that he moors in a small man made lake near his home in southern Indiana. I am always on the hunt for things to do with her that let her socialize a bit out of and away from our little condominium living situation.
Since Ken’s text message came to me on the family text chat, I told her what he proposed. Cheryl responded with, “I will think about it.” This is a phrase that she learned from her mother as a small child and she has used throughout our fifty years of marriage and many times during our child rearing years. Roughly translated it means “NO” or “no thank you.” But being the polite person that she is, she does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, she rarely says no directly. (She also learned this from her mom.)
Cheryl has a lot of her mother’s traits. She does not want to put anyone out. She does not want to offend anyone. She can be angry with me as could her mother when she thinks that is appropriate, as when I am being pushy. She does not want anyone to stifle their good time by worrying about her welfare. She is okay with isolating herself to (her perception) benefit others. She enjoys the presence of small children even if the small children are unsatisfied and complaining about it. She enjoys the presence of big children and wants to be a part of their life even if the big children are uninterested in letting her in. She likes big family gatherings.
Most recently she has a new special Parkinson’s patient walker to help her move around with steadiness. After her appointment with her MDS neurologist on her birthday several days ago, I ordered this for her. In the picture is her new U-Step. I should have gained my AHA here since I just ordered this over the phone three days ago. (I am buying her a stabilized walker and suggesting we go on a boat that will wobble every time someone moves.)
But, getting back on track, she said to me that she is scared to be on Ken’s boat. That is the first time she has ever expressed that to me.
AHA MOMENT – Occasionally these pop up and I cannot always understand her needs. Prescience is not a strong trait of mine. But imagine for a minute, here is a person with balance issues and I am promoting going on to a less stable surface than she is used to. She can lose her balance and fall backwards when changing positions in our living room. Our building is built on a slab. It is hard to get a more stable surface. AHA (you moron).
Ken caught on pretty quick and proposed dinner tonight on the deck at Willie’s restaurant next to the puddle (his term for the man made lake.) Tonight is anything goes pizza Tuesday. Willie’s fits into the anything goes part of pizza Tuesday.
We will go tonight and take the new walker for practice and hopefully greater stability.
There is absolutely nothing that goes fast in our life anymore. Do I miss it? My immediate reaction is NOT.
I like how the young people emphasize comments by using ALL CAPS. That enables their fast comments about most anything that strikes them.
FAST however is gone from our life with Parkinson. Planning and thoughtfulness and SLOW are the current buzz words in our life.
I have noticed as I get older (I am Old) and drive my wife with PD to various exercise or other social activities that many drivers – not necessarily young drivers – move through traffic fast. What is their hurry?
Even when I am feeling as though I am late for something, I ponder what will be the result if I am later than I expected to the destination – mass, restaurant, exercise, whatever. The end result is similar to removing one’s arm from a bucket of water.
This company wants me to buy a device that pretty much tells me I am not dead yet. I already know that. I run to the store and run to the library and run to the doctor fairly often. I am pretty sure I am still running okay and not dead.
Many people, probably most, spend a great deal of time running here and there. It is ingrained in us. We chide each other if we are not active. But instead of running what if we took a deep breath and stopped to look around at God’s wonder of Spring and the renewal of life. It happens every year. It is truly amazing.
Breathe and notice the world. Run for exercise and health but do it outside where He can show you His wonder.
This morning after a remarkably good sleep, Cheryl got up and took a shower. She spent a lot of time getting cleaned up. She finally came into the kitchen looking for breakfast about 10am just as her alarm went off signalling the next dose. I asked her if she wanted cereal or something else to eat. She asked, Are there any donuts? (I have to start making some and experimenting with freezing them so they are readily available for breakfast.)
I got donuts from the UDF store about a mile away. She likes their “kettle danish.” Two have been enough in times past so I purchased two. She is generous with food and offered the second on to me but I did not accept it.
I signed her up her April PCF classes and noticed the hands class teacher is back from Florida. She wants to go to “hands” class. This class has been on line while the instructor has been in Florida for several weeks. That style class really does not work for Cheryl.
Where does “April Fool” come from? I like this explanation I stole from India.com. It is not hard for me, a catholic, to believe some past pope guy started this nonsense.
It is believed that Pope Gregory XIII was the one to be blamed. He ruled the new calendar to start from January 1, instead of the previous celebration of the new year at the end of March or April 1. Though, the change in the annual calendar was brought into practice by France. But across Europe, the people continued to follow the Julian calendar. And those who failed to register the use of a new date and ended up celebrating New Year in April have been marked as ‘Fools’. Hence, a particular day for fools came into being.
She asks me if we are staying here tonight. It is a repetitive theme in her thinking and confusion. Not knowing any better I try to answer her honestly and without any teasing (which she does not understand anyway). Looking at my old notebooks and blog posts it seems that this particular confusion and some others, who I am, for example, have a cyclic appearance.
That was last night. This morning she wants to pack a suitcase for college. The idea that she needs to get ready to go off to college is totally new. The college she wants to go to happens to be the one I am a graduate of and our grandson has been accepted into for the Fall semester. These facts are probably all tumbled up in her head and sort of explain her confusion.
Another interesting nuance is conversing with me as though I am an acquaintance, someone she has not spoken with for some time. We are catching up. We spent most the of the day talking in the third person as though acquaintances. It was a warm late winter early spring sunny day so we took a walk in the park. We talked about many things. We talked about the weather of course. We talked about how far you used to be able to see across the little creek we were walking next to. On the other side of the creek is a concrete and asphalt reclamation business with mountains of paving to crush and recycle. It once was a smaller pile of refuse.
We talked about children. She told me about hers and asked me about mine. She was amazed and intrigued by the fact that our children had the same names. It seemed that the only difference was that her children were in their teens and twenties and my children were middle aged. (smiley face here) It was unimportant to her that these teenagers had children which were her grand children. These conversations were hard to follow but I was able to ask questions and find out more like any good friend would. Most of the time I was able to keep the tears out of my eyes as we created a memory of a good day for her.
She suddenly switched topics and talked about what to do about Thanksgiving dinner. I gently pointed out that it was barely March and Thanksgiving day plans were several months away. Undaunted she replied that it would be here quicker than you think. There is a lot of truth to that last comment. I have noticed as I get older the year goes by quicker.
I promised to get right onto organization of who does what. I fired off a text message to our family text-party line and got positive responses from everyone. Our daughter volunteered to host.
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, caregiving.com, 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.)
Recently (yesterday) I convinced Cheryl to go to a chair yoga class. I thought it would be good for her. In my sometimes helicopter care partner mode it seemed to me that I might be able to find something for her to go to most everyday at PCF. She often wants to get different things that she uses in class so that she can do the exercises at home. But lately she does nothing at home that looks like exercise. There is nothing unique in that, many people to not.
Today when I talked to her about going to class she said, I don’t want to do that. I have a hard time knowing my right from my left. I have problems with a similar thing I said. I always have to say the alphabet jingle in my head. Elemenopee… I thought about what I said suddenly. Why was it necessary to make it about me?
She went on to say that all that reaching and stretching was hard. Somewhere in her conversation I realized she thought I was taking her to chair yoga. I spent another ten minutes or so convincing her that this class was one that she had been taking all along. It was not a new class. I realized that I was rushing her into trying new things to exercise her body (tired with PD).
Apathy and lack of interest to try new things or finish things once started is common in PD sufferers. I found myself reading about Apathy in Parkinson’s patients while she was exercising at PCF this afternoon. The internet of all knowledge directed me to Michael J. Fox; the APDA site; the Parkinson Foundation and others. All say approximately the same thing.
Apathy describes a lack of interest, enthusiasm or motivation. It interferes with the effective management of Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms, since apathetic people are less inclined to do things like exercise and follow their medication schedules. …
Apathy can be frustrating for people with PD, caregivers and loved ones. Understanding apathy as a symptom of PD and finding ways to cope with it are key to ensuring a good quality of life and for maintaining good relationships with caregivers, family and friends.
Currently, there are no proven effective treatments for apathy — no pills or special therapies — but structured activities and opportunities for socialization are a useful approach. A regular routine, continuing to socialize and exercise even if you don’t’ feel like it…
from the Parkinson Foundation website
As I was reading along various sites, Cheryl was exercising three feet away. Same things are easier to get her to do. By that I mean things that she is familiar with, things she has done before. And as I watch her do the exercises she changes. Her motion becomes more fluid and steady. She does not quit. She pushes herself. And tears come me. What’s up with the emotional response in me? What a pain PD can be to people close by. Once she gets started all can be well. As class moves on she is an enthusiastic participant. I am merely an observer and not someone to argue with. (smiley face with tears)
More … My own thoughts … Usually when I write one of these messages to myself I struggle with what point I am trying to make. Not so here. It is easy to drift into making something about yourself. I believe that it is a natural act. To understand some thing, some idea, some opinion, some action of others we relate it to some local knowledge we already have. Educators call it scaffolding.
What happens when one has no similar knowledge? It can be made up out of whole cloth. It is natural. We, at least many of us, want to empathize with the other person’s unsatisfactory experience.
A life lesson, I suppose. Maybe an AHA moment appeared for me. Try to stop making it all about myself and still empathize with Cheryl. Or, at least, do not vocalize it to her.
I got up at about half after eight. We had been up at 7AM for meds and she went back to bed. I knew she had not slept well overnight. As I got up and she headed toward the bathroom, I talked about what the days events would bring. We have nothing on the calendar except for the exercise class, I told her. There is no church today. Today is Thursday. Yes, she replied.
I went to the kitchen to make coffee. As the beans were grinding I went out to fetch the newspapers. When I returned I set the coffee maker to making coffee and turned on the CBS This Morning show while waiting impatiently for the coffee maker to complete its task. Finally after an arduous four or five minutes where the succulent aroma wafted through our small living area the coffee genie made its happy gurgle and later a tiny beep. I poured a cup. Heaven is fresh bread straight from the oven and fresh coffee made from beans ground only moments before.
I carried my mug to my chair purchased during the waning days of the Trump administration with stimulus funds. I restarted the DVR recording so that I would not miss any of the covid, border, weather or political disasters. I nestled in for the first sip and looked at the WSJ front page. I few minutes later I checked and she was getting ready for church. I was in time to head that off with a minimum of anger from her that “no one tells me what’s going on”.
As I headed that off I reiterated that she did have exercise class today and she should dress for that.
After enjoying much more of my mug of joe I returned to check on her. She reported numb fingers and she was angry about it because it was causing her to drop things – her watch – and making it hard for her to put in her earrings. She thought she had broken her watch so she selected a different one.
The watch she was trying to put on was one which she rarely wore. It has a clasp that is hard to visualize even with the new reading glasses I got recently.
Cereal for breakfast this morning and a new thing – checking blood pressure – because of the numb fingers were at the top of her list once she came out of the bedroom dressed and ready for exercise. We left for PCF right on time. And then as we approached the parking area, zip, unzip, zip again, unzip again, different zip, the same zip as previous over again — I asked what are you missing? My little pill bottle. I want to find a Hall’s she told me. I helped her search to no avail.
Damn! We are out of Hall’s. It is the only, absolutely the only thing, that can relieve a Cheryl scratchy throat. (I am whining a bit. I have tried to push other solutions. All have been rejected, alas.) The fact that we are out was interpreted by me over time after a discussion about the Hall’s being kept in the upstairs bathroom cabinet so that the hallucinatory kids would not find them. (Smiley face) But we are out. I did not register the out part.
Later at PCF we searched the purple multiple zippered perfect purse but, alas again, no Hall’s in the little pill bottle. It fact there was no pill bottle. Where is that? It is not in the many zippered bag.
I left Cheryl to start her exercises and I went to Walgreens down the street to stand in line behind three people grocery shopping at Walgreens while I hold a bag of Hall’s that eventually cost me thirty-nine cents. I should not be a curmudgeon about it. I own Walgreens-Boots stock.
Today was the day to walk or run or ride to raise money for the Sunflower Rev it up for Parkinson. Team SMILE made a good showing. The pictures say it all.
It is a magnificent day on the riverfront in Cincinnati, Ohio. And a large contingent of our family appeared to help Mom, Grandma, Aunt Cheryl and Cheryl raise money for sunflowerrev.org. The fund benefits Parkinson’s disease research here in Cincinnati. It also is a social event that promotes understanding of Parkinson’s and how it affects patients and their families.
And then not. It is a puzzling disease. It is odd and frustrating. It is Thursday. It is a exercise class day. I had no other expectations beyond that. The morning was kinda normal. I got up at 7AM for meds and she laid back down for a bit. We got up at 8AM. Overnight she had been angry with me for helping her to the bathroom. She seemed like she was dreaming. She forgot where the bathroom is located and became angry when I opened the doors to show her. She shifted into what I call “little kid” mode and said, “you don’t know everything. I’m going to bed.” (Her hesitant PD motion is gone during these episodes.) She has had other verbal dreams like this before. She does not remember them in the morning.
Breakfast was her usual Life cereal with dried cherries and milk. Orange juice is the drink of choice. She perked up a bit and I watched the news. The morning news is getting a bit repetitive; first the covid report, then the Afghanistan debacle and then the general disaster report, fire, earthquakes etc. Life sucks all over the world. The boys in Gaza were not throwing stones and other pieces of concrete at the Israelis across the fence. The Israelis were passing out booster shots instead. But Cheryl seemed to be doing well this morning.
Off into her office she goes to check email and see if there is any news. She checked for text messages on the way there. No emergency emails were found. This could indeed be a good day.
Close to time for her second dose of meds she reported being very tired. Indeed this is a normal wearing off of the medication. I suggested that she should take her ten o’clock and then lay down for a bit. After her 10AM meds she is up and down a lot. It takes some time for the medication to bring relief. She often reports a tightness or congestion in her chest. A coughing jag may occur. She might get up and wander the house with her limping hesitant parkie motion. I asked if she needed help with anything. She said no. I told her that her class was going to happen in a couple hours and she should start preparing for that and put on her clothes, put in her earrings and so on.
She decided I was being mean and I should leave her alone. Perhaps I was pushing too much for her to get dressed.
As a caregiver it saddens me sometimes that as I try to steer her towards activities that I am certain will help her feel better she is resistant. I admit to pushing sometimes to get her off the tired and feeling not up to it fence. She gives me her wrath in return. It would be easier to give in and accept her malaise. The relief is only short lived, as I have done that before and she wanders around in a funk for hours.
We discussed going to her exercise class at length. She told me that she knows it helps her but she was really tired at that moment. I suspect it is hard for her some days to summon up the courage, strength and ambition to go forward with this tiring disease. Her sister Janice often complained of being incredibly tired constantly. In Jan’s case she slept mostly in a lounge chair. Cheryl seems unable to nap in a lounge chair.
I asked if she wanted a little Coca-Cola and chips or a snack of some sort. Yes. What kind of chips do we have? – was her reply. Only potato chips, I think you ate all the Sun chips, I told her. Another thing to keep track of is her appetite and desire for certain foods. Up until about three years ago Cheryl always had some peppermints with her. It was basically the only kind of candy that she would eat. Today she never wants them but I have butterscotch blobs in the car because I like them. She likes them also.
She went to class. I noticed that she seems to be coming out of her funk. She had conversation with several of her fellow classmates on the way in. PCF is such a warm and welcoming place. As she came in and talked to people she perked up. As we were driving over to PCF she asked where should we go for lunch. Then she asked, “How about Skyline for lunch?” We have not been there for several weeks but it is a favorite of hers. (One cheese coney – no onions. Sinful.) We’ll see was what I thought at the time. We ate lunch at the Skyline on Plainfield Rd. (One cheese coney – no onions. Still sinful. I had a 5-way.)
We shopped at the IGA to buy groceries on the way home from Skyline.
We had corn on the cob and hamburgers for dinner.
After dinner she went to work on the labels for birthday cards. She was confused about printing labels when I checked on her but she was working on organizing things.
She came into my office at about 9PM and asked me to give her a ride home. She mumbled something like, “Mom has left so I’ll need a ride home.” I helped take her bedtime meds. I explained that we were already home and I would help her with printing the labels for the birthday cards tomorrow.