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.

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.

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.

Boosted against Covid

In my never ending battle to keep us safe and healthy and because Cheryl kept pressing me to do it, I scheduled us for a second booster shoot for the covid virus yesterday.

I got some chicken out of the freezer for dinner and helped her get moving in the morning. The morning was busy for me because it was my last care partner class. From that I have a mountain of valuable information about various service providers for the future. We are not there yet but in a few years we will be.

Linda appeared a little early and we chatted for a bit and then I was off to class. When I returned Cheryl had gotten cleaned up and dressed herself. I think the big new bed is giving us better rest overnight.

Our appointments at Walgreens were scheduled for 4 PM and 4:10 PM. We got to the store with plenty of time to fill out forms and prove who we are. Except for me. I had forgotten my wallet and ID. (Alas and drat!) As Cheryl came down the aisle pushing her U-Step walker I explained that I had forgotten my wallet. I asked her to sit down near the pharmacy desk and I would return in a few minutes. This Walgreens is about 5 minutes from our house. I zipped home and back to the store. When I returned she was sitting in the chair filling out a form on the clip board that the pharmacy assistant had given to her. Ordinarily this small task would have been confusing and incomprehensible to her. She had even found her ID and previous covid info in the purse of many pockets. I am beginning to understand that much of her confusion and mental fog of late may merely be poor sleeping patterns.

It is hard to overemphasize how important good sleep and rest is. The big new bed seems to help. One less Carbdopa/Levadopa CR seems to be beneficial also. She seems brighter during the day and not so inclined to pund around in her office at night. She is sitting in her recliner with me to watch a show or read a magazine article more during the past couple weeks.

She had plenty to eat at dinner. She even complained that I had not made gravy to go with the chicken. It was a normal (mostly) conversation during dinner between two people who had been married for 53 years. (Smiley face here) Later in the evening she felt a little chilled. I went to recover her sweater from the backseat of the car where it had been warming in the 90 degree heat for several days. We sat for a bit longer and then she got ready for bed. She returned and we watched the PBS show NOVA for an hour and we went to bed at 11 PM.

We were up again at 1 AM until about 3 AM. I am going to blame the booster shot. I was having difficulty also.

Today we slept until after 9 am. She seems rested. I know I am. It is off to the doctor today for our semi-annual wellness check. I feel well. She seems well.

Carpe Diem

Support Group

Last night at support group which is a joint support group, by that I mean some care partners, some Parkinson patients, the conversation was centered on care partners and the difficulty of that activity.

We often start by introductions. We had two new people, Teresa and her husband, Dale who has PD. Dale was recently (a couple years) diagnosed and they as a couple have been dealing with symptoms and life altering changes. Recently they downsized and moved closer in to the city and source of their medical care. They happily discovered Parkinson Community Fitness (PCF) was just a few blocks from their downsized house. Teresa has had psychological therapy to help her deal with her husband’s disease. When she revealed this fact she exchanged info with Jackie who had been pondering the same thing.

It is wonderful to see people helping each other through a difficult time. Life is a journey. Sometimes it is helpful to ask for directions. It is why this group exists. Cheryl originally started it. John and I took it over as her dementia worsened and she could no longer keep up with its organization.

Five questions — all open ended.

These questions are stolen from the Davis Phinney foundation and its theme of every victory counts.

What’s the best way to approach difficult coversations with my person with Parkinson’s or care partner? Take a deep breath and get rid of your anger. Remember your partner is not doing or not doing something to annoy you on purpose. Parkinson’s disease interlaced with dementia is complicated.

I don’t want to nag, so how do I encourage my person with Parkinson’s without harping or nagging? This of course is a source of friction in any marriage that can be made worse as one partner cares for another with a chronic disease. Most care partners were okay with nagging if it proved useful. I know I am. it is the guilt that shows up later that bothers me most.

How can I tell if I’m expecting too much/too little from my person with Parkinson’s? Care partners often maintain expectations of their previous life before PD entered their partner’s life. We can see the slow movement issues. We do not always understand that mental processes slow also. Decision making can be challenging. Menus in restaurants can be extremely challenging.

How can a Parkinson’s care partner live well today? Find time to do things that you as a care partner want to do. Find and do things that are yours and yours only that you can do away from PD and caring for your partner.

How can a Parkinson’s care partner be loving and supportive but also honest about how they are feeling? Most couples are open with each other. It is hard to stay married for long without talking.

Melanie spoke about feelings of grief as she and her husband began to recognize how life changing this disease can be. For Cheryl and I, we have noticed that it can be a very real sense of loss. It is hard to be upbeat when life beats you down. It is for us a one day at a time thing.

Hence my theme “Carpe Diem” which I say to myself over and over lately merely reminds me to look for the good things now. Take advantage of when she is feeling good. Forget about lamenting what could have been. develop a network of helpers to be with Cheryl occasionally so that I can be with myself.

I have not added Edie Kynard’s prayer ( modified) for a while but looking over my notes from last night and writing this piece this morning caused me to find it back.

Carpe Diem.

So Is It Okay To?

I am currently attending a class for care partners. It is put on for us folks dealing Parkinson’s disease interlaced with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in our care givee. We have spent a lot of time on taking care of ourselves and making sure we are healthy mentally and emotionally as well as physically. It it easy lose track of those things when you become very involved in the day to day care of another.

Time away from care giving is very important but is it okay to change the social situation a bit and let people in that are in a similar place in their lives?

The idea of a support group meeting allows this to happen but there is a different social dynamic in a casual lunch, friends collected in a bar to solve world problems or gathered for card games with casual conversation. Support groups tend to try being informational rather than random conversation. Support groups that are attended by both the chronically ill patient and their care partner tend to be awkward somehow. If the care partner should feel the need to vent and whine a bit, they will feel embarrassed to do that.

Is it okay to change the social situation a bit and help the Parkinson person participate with you and others.

Admittedly it is a different dynamic. The caregiver has the social burden of not correcting their partner in conversation. Dementia does that to conversation. I want to jump in and save her from embarrassment. What if no one did that? To an outsider it might sound like a game of post office gone bad. So what?

If Frances was elected president then pumpkins would cheaper at the store. That’s true. That’s true and the police are trying to find new shoes for their cars. Those lights on top can fall off and the car hurts from that. Is there any ketchup for the ice cream? Did she bring extra napkins. I see a bug. Where is Scott? Is he coming? I have noticed that more and more people are married to our children. How many kids do you have? I have about fifty. Did you put up the sick people’s sign on the car? I need to make a list so that everyone knows what they are bringing to Thanksgiving dinner next week. I need to call Sr. Janet and remind her that the kids did not give us any raffle tickets.

And on and on. I used to jump in and help her with correct thinking or at least keep her from making embarrassing phone calls. The range of mismatched topics is endless and for some reason our kids turn up in it a lot as children. I also realized at some point I felt embarrassed. Cheryl did not. I stopped thinking seriously about it.

I actually think of this often. When Cheryl is out with her long term friends, people that she has known for many years but has not seen much over the past few, she puts on her “showtime” mantle and converses. When she returns home she is often exhausted from keeping that going. What if the social occasion did not require any sensate being to understand the conversation? What if there was no sense of or in it? Would she be less exhausted?

There are many things to ponder. Carpe Diem.

Big New Bed Delivery and Nighttime Bliss

The big new bed was delivered yesterday. I thought that I had paid for the removal of the old mattress, box springs and the bed frame. Apparently there are tiny variations in the language of such agreements that I did not realize and was not privy to. When did furniture or any purchase like that become so complicated. Even though I asked the salesman – Can you guys remove the old bed? – what he checked off and I did not question was – “Removal mattress and box springs – $99.00.” I forgot to ask about something that I knew nothing about. I should have asked, “And the old bed frame, headboard and footboard too?” He would have responded with, “That’s an extra $50” to which I would have said okay. Once I am making the switch lets go for it. It served us well for fifty or so years. It is merely a bed. It has no particular sentimental value. I remember when we bought the whole bedroom set thinking to myself, that is a lot of money ($1600 in 1979). Beyond any of those thoughts it has served us well. It is time for it to go. It does not fit our Parkinson life.

The mattress and box springs left yesterday. The headboard, footboard and frame assembly went into the garage. There is a lot of useless crap in the garage, like, I suppose, everyone’s garage. On another day I will rid myself of useless crap so there is more space in the garage. I will probably not paint anything in the condo on my own so why am I keeping old paint brushes? I also have an electric hedge trimmer. We live in a condo complex that although it is small we pay to have mowed and landscaped and trimmed. Useless crap it is.

Alas, we were probably the last delivery of the day. The young men were on the way out when I asked lets see how you left it. I asked them to move the bed about a foot closer to the doorway of the bedroom so that it was basically in the same place as the old bed. they did as asked. The delivery included a sheet set and I had purchased a set of mattress covers from Amazon as well as a quilt and shame set and blanket. The install team left me with a queen size mattress protector which I was not expecting but again, had I realized it was coming, I could have checked that the correct thing was delivered. I did not check that fact. The queen size mattress protector still sets on the dining room table awaiting the delivery truck to bring to correct item (which is probably not on anyone’s delivery list for today.) I am waiting to see how this all works out.

I am not perfect either! I ordered the correct size blanket from Amazon but I incorrectly ordered a queen size quilt. Woe is me. Amazon now uses Wholefoods Market for returns. There is one about two miles from me. It was a painless activity. Perhaps I will return to shop there. It is an alternative to Kroger which was there when the building was first put up and then got mired in some developer default controversy about ten years ago. Kroger moved out. The building was eventually completed. I do not know if the crane operator was ever paid. The crane stood idle along the highway for about a year while everyone traded paper and shouted at each other in court. Now it is where I return my oopsios to Amazon and there is a store that sells stuff to store stuff in. America has a lot of stuff. (Sorry I digressed.)

The first night was wonderful. Cheryl did awaken me to help her in the middle of the night but that was after she had gotten up to go to the toilet. I did not feel her get up.

After I got her up at 7 am for her first meds, she fell asleep deeply until I awakened her at 8:45 am. Bliss.

Carpe new bed Diem.

How Many Things Change

It occurred to me this morning as I was reaching for the Cheerios that lots of tiny things have changed in our life together. Not all of them are Parkinson changes. All can seem associated with Parkinson. I will stop using the possessive and leave Parkinson by itself.

Starting with Cheerios, Cheryl rarely ate Cheerios until recently. The why of that thought is unknown. It may or may not be a parkinson. Before Cheerios she was a huge fan of Life cereal. So much so that I was buying Life cereal in the four box collection from Boxed Up online. For several months perhaps a year and a half it was Life cereal, some dried cherries on top and orange juice. Then it suddenly switched to Frosted Mini-Wheat cereal but only for a couple weeks. Sticking with the heart healthy ideas I bought some Cheerios for myself on day as I passed through IGA shopping for the other things on my list. They were quickly adopted by Cheryl as a breakfast option. Cheerios is the current choice virtually every morning now.

A Partial List of Changes:

  • cars
  • house
  • travel
  • motivation
  • dementia and support
  • bicycles
  • relationships
  • Morning routine
  • Sleeping routine
  • Sleeping
  • Memory
  • Intimacy
  • Me and tea
  • showering and hygiene
  • keeping track of meds
  • adjusting meds
  • Exercise
  • Daily chore responsibility
  • Plumbing
  • handholds around the house
  • Emotional response to songs
  • Financial maintenance
  • Falling and fainting
  • Writing
  • and on and on…

As these changes occurred in our life together I did not take notice of them, I merely rolled with it at the time. I admit to being initially annoyed and sad to see something change away from what it was. Old people like to keep things as they are. The past tense is disappointing but the Beatles broke up in 1970. People move on.

Parkinson symptoms are treated with powerful mind altering chemicals. It is the doctor’s call as to what will help. It is the care partner’s call to observe and listen and respect and help with those drugs. The doctor is global and strategic. Day to day caring is tactical, down-to-earth and immediate.

Carpe tactical Diem.

Past Few Days

The past few days have been sleepless and disturbing. Cheryl has one of her meds that she has been taking for a long time seems to be bothering her at night and not allowing her to sleep. As we sleep in the same bed on the same mattress I do not get much rest either.

Two nights ago I gave into the thought that it was her Sinemet CR tabs that were both helpful overnight and disturbing her sleep. I discussed it with her and she wanted to try taking only one tab for overnight. She slept until about one o’clock and got up to go to the toilet. She came back to bed and slept until the seven o’clock alarm for morning meds.

Wow! Could it be that easy?

Last night we did the same thing. She did not get up at all. I had a little extra laundry to do in the morning but I did it with a full night of rest.

Now it is the weekend which should be a time to relax and rest but we have little to do on the weekend calendar. I lean on my kids. Cheryl has been talking about the kids all week. If I can I take her to visit.

My first thought is my son David. He has a wonderful backyard to sit and visit. My plan was to visit on Sunday but as we drove to our favorite place for a walk Cheryl said she would like to visit David. I had told her as we were driving along about visiting David tomorrow afternoon. Somehow that translated into today in the afternoon. I called David and he said sure.

We took our walk and sat on David’s back patio the rest of the afternoon.

Maybe tomorrow afternoon we can find Max’s ballgame and visit Anna’s family.

Carpe Diem.

NO

In a past episode of “Ghosts” the young woman protagonist uses the term “maybe” instead of a direct “no.” Cheryl says, “I’ll think about it.” Reading the care giver’s guide to the galaxy book which is a part of the class I am attending to learn some things the communications chapter discusses saying “no.” It talks about the implications of negativity which go along with saying no. I have noticed that most times people cannot say no with out offering some explanation to lessen the blow of the no.

It is much harder with a dementia patient. The no may be a greater blow than one can imagine. But sometimes it is very important to the care partner to express “NO” and then explain the the care receiver why no is important this time and then discuss alternatives that may sound like “we’ll see.”

We will see and keep working on it.

Carpe Diem.