It is August

Cheryl asked me – When is Thanksgiving? I told her the last week in November.  We moved from there to me explaining it was still four months away. We were on the way to two appointments yesterday. It was earlier than I would typically schedule anything for Cheryl but in a weak moment on the phone with a scheduler who was trying to consolidate trips, I gave in.

Today she is part of a research study. The MOCA assessment is part of the study.  There are many other instruments used. Some of these are poorly designed but in a way that is part of the assessment overall.

Physical assessment involves weak side motion testing. Resting tremors in different positions. The neurologist researcher wanted to test her walking but she was unable to do that unaided. After all of this Cheryl donated a blood sample and a urine sample.

We went from there to a scheduled visit with the nurse practitioner who works with her movement specialist. Maureen says that physically Cheryl assesses the same as when she last saw her in January.

She complained of tiredness afterward so we went home instead of to lunch somewhere. Cheryl thanked me for taking her to all her appointments and making sure she did not miss any.

Carpe stabilized Diem.

Let’s Clean!

It is easy to tell when Cheryl is feeling good. She will start cleaning.

My go-to cleaning person is my niece, Natalie. She comes over for a couple hours every other week and dusts everything, mops floors, runs the vacuum.

I tease her about touching all my pictures and stuff. I do not watch her every move. I pick up all the towels and throw them in the washer.

But at other times, when Cheryl is feeling good she cleans for awhile. I suppose it makes her feel useful. When we were younger and she was without parkinson she would clean at random intervals. I think it was a calming mindless activity to her then and is a familiar activity now.

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.

Shower Mats?

Cheryl fell in the shower this morning. Slid down the wall is probably a better description. I heard no thumps. It is always our discussion – I’m going to take a shower. Okay, I will listen for thumps. Thanks. And then she goes to the big bathroom to get cleaned up. Today I thought I heard her futzing with her walker but she was occasionally bumping the shower door as she tried to reach the hold bars to pull herself back up.

I ordered a shower mat from Amazon. I told her from now on we put the bench in there with it. A few weeks ago I had the plumber put in the really fine hand held shower head in preparation for this day. Several times I have suggested that she use the bench. Resistance to infirmity is great. No bench she insisted up until now. I will insist but I want her to maintain as much independence as she is able.

The shower floor does not seem slippery to me but I could be wrong.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time.

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.

People Are Still Dying

She went to bed early and did not seem to stir all night long.

Look at this she says to me holding up the obituary page in the paper today. I rarely look at the obituary pages. Cheryl reads them everyday. It is the one of three reasons we still subscribe to the U.S. News and World Report Cincinnati Enquirer. The three reasons are obituaries, comic and puzzle pages, banner page with today’s date. I occasionally look at Daugherty’s sports column. He is a good writer.

I asked, “Is there anyone you know?” But she does not recognize any of the names. She goes through the list several times. The first go does not register every name. She has had two and a half doughnuts and she brings a clementine orange as well as some orange juice with her to her chair as we settle to watch the TV. Lately I have been purchasing Minute Maid orange juice concentrate from the store. It is about $1 more that the store brand orange juice. I do not drink orange juice with breakfast. It is the only thing Cheryl drinks and has been for some time.

She tells me that the Enquirer publishes a list like this a couple days a week and it is much longer on Sunday. I relax as I listen to her talk about dead people. Death is a part of life I remarked. Yes it is she replied without looking up from the list as she read it one more time.

She reads the list carefully as we watch Sunday Morning on CBS. There is a story about Liza Minnelli. Cheryl catches the reference to Judy Garland at the end and remarks that she is dead too. She is thinking Liza is dead, I suddenly realized. There is no point in correcting her thought so I do not.

It is Donut Sunday and she is sitting with me watching what I think of as our Sunday show. We used to watch this show on the VCR after Sunday mass. We often stopped at the Pleasant Ridge Donut Shop on the way home. We always walked to church.

Last evening after church we went to a local pizza haunt to enjoy the quiet and have something to eat. The Cincinnati Bengals playoff game had sucked the life out of the late afternoon pizza scene. The NFL had assigned them the 4:30 PM slot on Saturday. Few people attended church that evening. Some of the lack of attendance may have been due to the latest covid wave or the play-off game.

After we entered the empty restaurant and settled at our table conveniently located with a clear view of the sixty-inch flat-screen TV, another crowd of six appeared and was seated at a nearby round six top. After our dinner – a small pizza for me, a favorite appetizer for her – I suggested that we drive over to a local bakery for some doughnuts or a coffee cake for our breakfast tomorrow.

We did that and as luck would have it, the doughnuts were a special price to move them out of the store. I will have to remember this for future reference and future Donut Sundays.

Today is a good one. I am pretty sure that she slept well last night.

Carpe Donut Sunday Diem.

Tiny Things Change from Day to Day

There are some really minute things that change with Parkinson’s disease. Many are really small and when those show up my immediate thought is, when did that become different.

Wash cloths in the shower, for example, have changed in number. In our old house after the kiddos moved out and started their lives and families, after we became empty nesters, we each had our own bathroom that we used. Upstairs is for her. Downstairs is for him and visitors. (How come I had to share my bathroom? — different question.)

There are some funny aspects to this. Cheryl has her mother’s knees and they were starting to give out along life’s way. The doctor told her that if you have a choice of stairs or the elevator pick the elevator or escalator. No kneeling in church either. Cheryl told the doctor, our bedroom is upstairs. He replied when you come down for the day stay down.

Over time I moved the guest bedroom upstairs to what was the boys bedroom. The guest bedroom downstairs I converted into her office and sewing room. I took over her old office area as mine upstairs adjacent to the upstairs bathroom far from the coffee but what the heck I didn’t used to have an office. I was a basement guy. In my male mind all was well. But her bathroom was upstairs. (smiley face) And although she spent a lot of time in her office sewing room she would go upstairs to the bathroom when that need arose. She rarely used the downstairs bathroom.

Cheryl and I have been married for more than fifty years and although I cannot point to the specific date when we started some particular habit, we started it somewhere in our lives. Thinking back we have known each other longer and I have lived with her longer than anyone else in our sphere and that includes her family and mine. A lot of habits and some traditions have been started and rejected along the way. Several years ago we mutually decided that it was time for a smaller flatter place. Between her knees and the parkieness our life was changing. We bought a condominium all on the same level. It has two bathrooms but the one next to the big bedroom has a swell walk-in shower. She hung one washcloth for her and one for me in the shower area. Done. We are moved in.

Why am I stuck on washcloths? I really do not know but there it is this morning while I am taking my shower; there are now three washcloths hanging in the shower. When did that change?

I get the red one.

Sometimes I want to become angry. Sometimes I want to laugh. Sometimes I want to cry.

Parkinson’s disease and PD with the added feature of Lewy body dementia is puzzling and it consumes a lot of hours for the care partner.

The washcloth thing is merely one of many.

Carpe Diem.

No Church Yet

Last night we sat outside for a bit and watched the International Space Station fly over. She was very excited to see it. She had found an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer a few days before that described upcoming events in the night sky.

We live on top of a hill and have a fairly unobstructed view of the horizon to the west. There are buildings, of course, but all in all not a bad view. After the the ISS disappeared from our view behind our building we went inside and she wrote this note to our children and a few other random family members. She wrote it in Word and printed it out and then asked if I could send it to our kids. This morning I did just that.


Hello, Anna, Scott, David, Janice, Jan, Nancy, Bill Farmer, Iris, Virginia, if I forgot someone, please pass this information along,

During this time of the year, there are often beautiful sights in the night sky. Paul is aware of these because he often researches some of the software that is available. You do not need to have access to special software… although it is
helpful. You can see some of the stars and planets without any special equipment; you can watch the International space station as it travels across the evening sky. These sights are magical! Many if you have clear skies at night… some of them are visible in the early evening. When you learn that there is a lovely event that is expected to occur, get the kids ready for bed, explain the event to them… where to look in the sky, etc., they should ask their
teachers about the night sky.

We found our information for tonight’s show in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the subtitle is “Crescent moon next to dazzling Venus.”, on page 5A.

Love,

Grandma. Aunt Cheryl, and any other relatives who may enjoy this.

The morning started pretty normal. The VERY LOUD ALARM clock awakened me to get her 7AM meds. I helped her to the bathroom and waited on the edge of the bed for the toilet to flush. She took her meds. We laid down again for a while.

Later I got up to find coffee and watched TV for a bit until Cheryl got up. She popped out of the hallway to our bedroom all excited because she could not find any underwear. In my stupidity I pointed out that she had underwear on just no pajama bottoms. (She was confused getting up this morning but I did not understand the extent of her confusion.) She was intending to get dressed for church but I did not realize this at the time. I was pleasantly ensconced in my Saturday morning coffee and newsy programs.

The newsy programs I have found to be not so newsy. The pattern is repetitive and to me boring — Covid we’re all gonna die; the latest political kerfuffle; desperate folks swimming the Rio Grande trying to get to Texas; some weather activity. Lately there seem few MASS SHOOTING events that make the news. Are they becoming commonplace? Or is it merely that most do not rise past some low bar of heinousness that is defined somewhere.

Nevertheless She was looking for underwear so I went back with her and found some undergarments which she pronounced good. I asked if she needed more help and she said no. I resist being a helicopter care person because it seems to anger her when I give unsolicited help. I went back to the coffee and pressed play on the DVR. This is a handy way to watch a two hour news show which is actually fifty-seven minutes long with a lot of breaks for commercial messages about Prevagen, Progressive insurance, the Good Feet Store, Kroger’s and the local weather. With a pre-recorded program you are able to fast forward through the windows direct USA.com and the rest of the crap that comes with commercial television. Cable TV is much better with no commercials and the inability to speed through the ads. (Facebook has this same model.)

After a suitable period of time, it takes concentration to speed up the saved file and catch the actual stories from the Saturday news show, I returned to the bedroom and realized my error. She was all dressed up for church and fidgeting with her earrings in front of the bathroom mirror. I apologized to her and told her that church was not for seven more hours. It is not time to go to church yet. But she was dressed and ready to go.

She blew up at me a little. “No one tells me. Neither of you told me anything!” I was two people. One in the mirror and one behind her. I admit I did not think of it. Almost everyday this week when she woke up she would ask, “What time is mass again?”

This seems to be turning into a constant in this life. For the past few weeks she awakens thinking it is time to go to church. I usually tell her – no this is (mon, tues,wednes,thurs,fri)day. Church is on Saturday afternoon. If she does not ask I do not tell. It worked for Bill Clinton, alas, not for me.


I find in myself an anxiety about getting something fixed before she spirals off into the weeds. By this I mean some task with which I have decided to help her. Her interests are not always my interests. Cheryl has taken on the task of sending thank you notes to those who have participated with or donated to the Sunflower Rev It Up for Parkinsons walk/run/ride last weekend. In this new world of no white pages phone books and no landlines it is harder to discover the addresses of those who have disconnected from the 48VDC copper transmission lines. For a parkie with no sense of how else to search that information it is impossible.

There is some confused repetition to her actions and to our life. I will tell her I will do something for her and find that a few minutes later she is doing whatever that may be instead of waiting for me to complete that task. I admit to not being johnny-on-the-spot about it. Her needs are not mine. Her interests are not mine. And I might have to gracefully let go of whatever mundane task I have given myself to do.

It stresses me a bit. I worry about letting her wander off into the weeds of Parkinson confusion, delusion, hallucination and altered reality. But it does provide some relief to me as long as it is not harmful to her. At least, that is my selfish view. Even now as I pour my inner thoughts into this commentary she is reading and re-reading a two year old story she wrote about the beginnings of whoopadiddee as though it is new.

I suppose the idea that nothing and no one cannot fix her confusion is most troubling to me. As long as she does not seem to be lost completely to me I let it flow around me. It is disturbing to my soul. Occasionally I am two people, the one who lives with her and that guy who brings the pills in the morning. Once in awhile I am Paul.

Alas, Carpe Diem.

Time after Time

A few minutes ago I went in to check to see how she was doing. She told me that Tari picked out some really cute birthday cards this time around. (Tari was not with us shopping for cards yesterday but that is not important.) She is working on the August birthday cards. She had just put on her favorite Rod Stewart CD on the player in her little office. This song came on. It happens to be one of my favorites. This disease of Parkinson is slowly taking her from me and I long for the old days.

What good are words I say to you?
They can’t convey to you what’s in my heart
If you could hear instead
The things I’ve left unsaid

Time after time
I tell myself that I’m
So lucky to be loving you

So lucky to be
The one you run to see
In the evening, when the day is through

I only know what I know
The passing years will show
You’ve kept my love so young, so new

And time after time
You’ll hear me say that I’m
So lucky to be loving you

I only know what I know
The passing years will show
You’ve kept my love so young, so new

And time after time
You’ll hear me say that I’m
So lucky to be loving you
Lucky to be loving you

An old standard by Rod Stewart

It is a lament of times passed and an optimism for the future. I often struggle with that last part when this disease of Parkinson appears in the middle of the night or I am researching incontinence products on various websites. On melancholy days I think about the preParkinson times. It helps to not look back with longing for those experiences. Time only moves forward. I am grateful to have had those experiences with her. I am grateful for the times we have yet to experience.

Do I wish she did not have Parkinson’s disease? You betcha.. Cyndi Lauper has a song that might be more familiar with a similar sentiment. Once in a while I get very nostalgic for our previous life. I let it roll over me in waves. It is helpful.

Tonight’s menu is Salisbury steak, rice, green beans and corn. I am baking a small cinnamon crumble cake for dessert. These are some of her favorite foods. I am following the Dinner for Two cookbook by Betty Crocker which is her favorite cookbook. She will compare her version before our kiddos came along to my version this evening.

Hopefully the hallucinatory little girls that often populate our home in the evening will not appear and we can rest later.

She is looking for earrings after she awoke from her nap.

Carpe Diem.

Pizza Tuesday

Several years ago we began going to a favorite local pizza store one night a week. We tried different days and over time we landed on Tuesday as the day we went out for pizza. It developed into a tradition as my youngest son would say. It became known as “Pizza Tuesday”. Sometimes in conversation a friend might say, “Can we get together tomorrow?” I might reply, “No. That’s Pizza Tuesday.” It became sacred. We did, however, invite others to our favorite pizza store to share. Occasionally one could see local celebrities such as one of the local colleges’ basketball coach there snarfing pizza like the rest of us fans.

When we sold our old house and moved to our condominium we invited our neighbor and friend Jane to our Tuesday dining adventure. It became a time to chat and catch up. Pizza Tuesday as a tradition became even more ingrained in our routine.

The pandemic pandemonium stopped much of that activity. At first we carried out (took away) our pizza from our favorite pizza store and moved our tradition home to our dinning room table. That worked well for a bit. Over a period of approximately fifteen months we experimented with pizza that was not only pepperoni. We added vegetables and fungus. We tried other sauces from the menu. We tried other pizza stores. We tried take away from other food emporiums. We expanded our flavors.

As the pandemonium eased Cheryl and I slowly began to visit restaurants with few or no utensils or menus. I learned how to use the square bar code thingy that restaurants pasted to their tables, walls and doors. A restaurant with paper menus became a favorite when previously it was not a favorite. Victoria, a young waitress at the favorite-not favorite, began to recognize us by sight. We came when she was working often. We began to look for her and tease her a bit about her constantly changing hairstyle. There was a reason to go there beyond pizza.

Socialization is a strong motivator. I worried a bit for Cheryl’s safety and health but I recognized that for her it was important to simply get out and see people other than me. Even in a pandemonium, one must live. Neighbor Jane who is immune-compromised remained isolated.

This past Tuesday evening we went back to Pizza Tuesday. The three of us went to yet a different pizza store. Perhaps, for us, THE PANDEMONIUM IS OVER! Prior to this event we made a list of various foods both home cooked and restaurant dishes that we would like to have. Jane aimed this discussion specifically at Cheryl. We will read the list and tick them off one by one. And I hope make a new list at the end of this list.

We are all three vaccinated. Not one of us has bought into the disinformation distribution on social media. Eating out and conversation provides all of Maslow’s hierarchy in one way or another. This chart is similar to one I saw many years ago.

An old psychology chart that I have not seen for awhile.

Godspeed and Carpe Diem.