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.”
Scott was here last night to be with Cheryl while I visited my stock club meeting. The fourth Monday of every month is the meeting of our little stock club. We started this little club in 1984. Over time we swelled to 20 members but the past few years attrition and death has shrunk our number to eight. And over the past few years the meetings are more social than business. Where else can eight old men get together and trade war stories about getting old, fortunes missed, grand children achievements, the proper temperature of beer for drinking, Parkinson’s disease, prostate problems, cataracts and hearing issues, but in the backroom of a local watering hole near a railroad track? It is always fun and over the years I have rarely missed it.
Before I left for the meeting Cheryl’s stomach was bugging her a bit as happens occasionally after her 4 pm meds. When I returned I asked her if she had eaten anything. She said yes but behind her Scott shook his head no. She answered my question how she thought I wanted her to answer it.
Eventually about 11:20 pm we went to bed. Over night she was fidgety and got up at 2:30 a.m. to make a list so she would not forget something. I sat her at the kitchen table with subdued lighting and with paper and pencil she worked on her list.
Her list is a business memory. I sat with her and about 3 a.m. she decided to sleep some more and finish later on. Buzzing around in her mind these days is the thought of creating a database of birthdays for the people in her family. Many times and in many instances she has started this task. Just like engineers this thinking starts with a pad and paper. Often sketches are made to indicate data flow and information input. Just like an engineer Cheryl’s notes switch back and forth from cursive to printing. And although she had an urgency about this activity in the very early morning hours, she had no ideas about what it was or what it was for in the daylight hours.
She seems so fragile to me in the morning lately. She is still working on the remnants of some dream as she awakens. This morning she got up and went into the bathroom. I got up also and put clothes on, got some coffee for myself and turned on the CBS news to see if any new wars developed or any movie stars got divorced overnight. About 20 minutes later I went back to check and see if any help was needed or if there were any special breakfast requests. She was seated on the closed toilet waiting for someone to bring more toilet paper. I showed her where the extra rolls were and asked if she wanted cereal for breakfast. Yes was her reply. I returned to the living area.
About ten minutes later I went to check again and she told me she was still waiting for someone to bring toilet paper. The thirty minutes of database design time in the middle of the night messed up her waking pattern.
More and more she seems to have a slow switch from early morning confusion to present. I have not found a solution to any of this confusion and delusion. I listen to her conversation and make a lot of rapid decisions about how to respond. If it seems like she is getting ramped up about someone coming (that I know is not) I try to gently steer her toward the correct thinking. If she is getting fired up about having a family gathering I merely agree with her plans.
On this particular morning she was concerned about whether David was going to show up any minute to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. It took several repeated conversations about date and time but eventually she seemed okay that Thanksgiving day was not today. Over several hours she came to the conclusion that she should take a shower and get ready for her exercise class. Over those same several hours I planted various seeds of the idea about taking a shower and looking for exercise clothes to wear.
Me and how I feel – It is wearying for the care partner to both console and encourage and direct and deflect her delusions and my own background anger (too strong a word – disappointment?; discouragement?; vexation?) with her brain and how it is operating with PD. My question – Why can’t she have the movement issues without the mental disability? (God are you listening? Why her? She has always been a sweet person. Why did you dump this crap on her?)
Observations about my reaction to her needs – (Shit! Not again. This is the same conversation we had 15 minutes ago. whiskey tango foxtrot.) How can I help dear? Cheryl – you can’t help. Perhaps not but let me hold your purse for you while you get out of the car.
Is this genuine love? … To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse… Those where part of the original agreement. Too late to back out now. She looks so sad and distraught when she realizes that she needs me to help her up from the chair because her scoocher is busted. It is heartbreaking.
The dementia aspect that can occur with Parkinson’s disease seems to be worsening each day. Some of that can be combated with a good night’s sleep. Lately we have not been getting the eight or nine recommended by the experts.
Last evening – actually early morning – was tough.
Friday the 13th comes on Friday this month. It is a little joke I have. An old boss of mine during my working career who is also a good friend used to make that comment when it was appropriate. It seemed to him that mystery problems would appear on Friday the 13th. Engineers love and hate mysteries.
A friend of Cheryl’s came to take her to lunch today.
I am waiting to see how it turns out. Barb is aware of Cheryl’s issues but we often only see her at church. Cheryl will have a chance to practice her “showtime” persona.
The lunch was great. Cheryl had a great time with a good friend and she brought home leftovers that she may or may not want to eat. The went to a Asian restaurant called the Blue Gibbon. Typically when we go to a Chinese or Asian restaurant she will order egg rolls. Nothing else for her, she only wants egg rolls which the restaurant people want to bring as an appetizer. No amount of english, american english, spoken to a person whose first language is not English can convey the meaning of “bring as her meal”.
The last time we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Uncle Yip’s) I ordered her egg rolls, some spring rolls for me and another dish that I like and I thought she would like. We had tea. The waiter brought the the egg rolls,spring rolls and asked if we needed more tea. Later he brought our shared dish. It worked out just fine. She was not embarrassed to eat ahead of me and she did eat a little of what I had ordered to share. The smart waiter brought us extra plates.
Uncle Yip’s, by the way, is the closest thing to actual Chinese cuisine that I have found so far. I visited China about ten years ago for business. And the owner’s and wait staff’s first language is not English.
Cheryl was going through a bit of confusion as I put dinner on the table. She kept getting up to look for her deceased sister Janice. (She called her Janice instead of “Jan.”) Eventually she was satisfied that Jan was not here to eat with us. She became interested in food and ate what I had cooked. (Chicken, noodles, green beans and broccoli)
I had put some music on the radio to play quietly while we were eating. Jimmy Buffet and “Margaritaville” came on when we were finished with the meal. I asked her if she wanted to dance. She said yes. We did.
For a few minutes we were young at a dance with Jimmy Buffet. Our dancing these days is more of a swaying-in-place but it is fun anyway.
In a previous post I wrote about finding a little card entitled “The Art of Marriage” in Cheryl’s purse. As I unwrapped and unfolded the little package in her purse I was very aware of the fact that it was none of my business what she kept in her purse nor why she kept those things in there. Nevertheless, faced with various requests for help, like, I can’t find my black comb or I have lost my glasses, I try my best to keep up with how objects and things are pared up, associated together in her newly confused mind.
I am guilty of looking around through her stuff to help her keep track of her stuff. I have no other interest in her stuff. That is my defense when I am caught. So far so good. I have not been caught yet. She thinks I am really good at finding things. If you know who would think to look in the freezer for a comb or used Kleenex for example, then you know someone who is care giver to some person with some variety of dementia.
Punding is a term used by the Norwegians or Swedes to describe the activity of mindlessly sorting or aligning objects, often random objects, in a fashion known only to the person doing this. I believe the term means “blockhead” Swedish.
In Cheryl’s case this behavior manifests as organization of articles and documents in preparation for a meeting or some other activity. She ran the early computer tech program at Nativity School when our children went there. Having no educational background caused her to be constantly looking to others who did, attending meetings and reading articles. She was excellent I am sure simply because she was aware of her weaknesses. She also helped her mother send cards and notes to family and friends to thank or take note of various occasions such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations or merely an invitation to dinner. To this last Cheryl has kept many thank you notes from her mom for Sunday dinners over the years.
She gets these out and sorts, re-reads, thinks about her mom and shows them to me as though she received it in the mail today. Often she will say, I got this card from Mom. Or I got this Christmas card from (whomever).
She collects these in various clumps and collections. Some are in manila envelops. Some are in small gift bags. Some are collected in stacks with a rubber band around them. Some are in stacks held together by spring clips. Sometimes they may make some sense to me, sometimes they make no sense. No chronology. The collections can be totally random.
As she looks at the cards she reminisces about the old times. I used to point out that she was looking at a five year old Christmas card. I find that unimportant to do now. The activity is totally harmless. Late in the evening she is amenable to “I can help you with that tomorrow. Let’s go to bed and rest so we are more alert to work on that.” And we trundle off to bed tired from another day.
Today it occurred to me as I cleaned the Kleenex lint from the washer and dryer for the nth time, it was doing no good for me to lodge a complaint with Cheryl about putting tissues in her pocket. It also occurred to me that although I beat myself up about missing the tissues in her pocket, I will probably often miss one once in awhile.
Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. (from the CDC)
Drat and alas. Drat, she cannot remember to do it. She cannot remember my complaint either but will detect the disappointment in my voice and probably interpret it as anger. And alas, I will occasionally forget to look in all the pockets.
I will forgo the complaint process. It is not useful anyway. I merely causes us to pick at each other. (Forgo was the answer to the Wordle a couple days ago.)
We had a wonderful dinner with friends last evening. This gathering had been put off three times for various reasons but yesterday we got together. Gary showed off his wine aerator when he was pouring the wine. He told me he cannot tell the difference. His palate is older than mine and I had gin and tonic. Perhaps he was sold a bill of goods by an aerator salesman.
Everyone contributes when we have these dinners. My job was bread. Yesterday after several false starts I got two loaves of italian (my version of italian) together. They were remarkably good so I should perhaps I will note in my notebook of cooking disasters what went wrong and what I did to recover.
Today Cheryl is very tired. She refuses to admit it. I suppose I am tired also. We did not stay out late but we did sit up and watched a PBS show to unwind a bit when we got home.
We had french toast made from the second (leftover) loaf of bread from last night. It was good again. I am very thankful that I do not have celiac disease. One reason to not be grumpy today.
Cheryl spent some time cleaning the kitchen after she had her french toast with blueberries breakfast. All the time I was worried about her. I think I am anxious for her because the last few times she has fallen, it has happened in the kitchen. This time however she moved a lot of things around and wiped counters; swiffered the floor; threw the kitchen tablecloth into the washer along with the clean one she got out to replace it with (both will be clean in soon); and then became tired and uninterested. She took her ten o’clock meds and went to lay down for a bit. When she awakened, she announced, “Today is my birthday!”.
It is not and stupid me pointed out that it is May the fourth. I thought about – may the fourth be with you – but left that unsaid. She responded with, I wish people would stop changing the dates or some other angry anxious comment. I backed off quickly. I apologized to her and pointed out that her birthday was next week on the tenth of May but tonight we should go somewhere and celebrate her birthday.
She became calm and sat down to watch the gabfest on the View. I brought her a coke and set about putting the kitchen back together. I discovered that she had thrown the tablecloth from the table in with the folded one from the drawer into the washer and I did not catch that before tossing a bunch more towels in on top. (Damnation. I became immediately grumpy.)
I sat down to write this little story and laugh at myself. I do not want to be grumpy today.
She actually slept pretty well and later today we will probably get out and take a walk in the park. And celebrate her birthday. There is nothing to be grumpy about. We had dinner with friends last evening. It was good company and good conversation.
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.