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?
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.
A good friend of Cheryl’s from church organized another luncheon with her and another mutual friend today.
Back in the bygone days of younger kiddos and the everyday working world, Cheryl was part of the group of women (mostly) who decorated the church for various holy days or other events in the church calendar. Often Cheryl’s job was to clean and press and arrange the alter cloths just so. The group would spend an evening or Saturday decorating the church for the occasion.
These days are gone for her and the decorating committee and St. Ann’s sodality has thinned over the years. Today however Cheryl and Barb are hooking up with Diana, the team leader, who has moved to a retirement community with her husband on the other side of town.
It gave me time to experiment with banana bread and fool around with other things. Maybe even blog a little.
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.
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 went to high school with Rosie. Rosie went on to become a Sister of St. Francis. Cheryl went to the prom with me and four years later we married.
Yesterday after many scheduling issues we hooked up for lunch. Cheryl was moving very slow that afternoon. Rosie moved very slow with her and very gently held her arm into the restaurant and over to the table. In conversation, Rosie, the quiet calm and gentle person that she is with her own health issues, gently took Cheryl down a memory lane of remembrances from their high school years to their current time.
I slowed a bit and observed. Slow and gentle were Rosie’s movements, her companionship, her conversation. I learned something.
When we got home Cheryl rested for a bit.
I realized that Cheryl needs to go at her own pace. I always knew that she did but I did not always observe that pace or make myself slow to her pace. Cheryl’s pace is principally Parkinson slow with occasion spurts of Parkinson fidget and sprinkled with Parkinson frantic and a little normal motion and conversation.
She did not seem really very tired or ready to go to bed at what I think of as her normal ordinary bed time of 9:30 – 10 PM. I tried to exercise what I had observed earlier in the day and suggested we play a card game or work a puzzle for a while. She said let’s play Uno. We played with half the deck. She shuffled the cards and asked, Does everyone get seven? I said yes and she did not deal any extra players. Uno for those who do not know has a simple theme. Follow the color or follow the number. She could do that for about an hour or so. She began to notice on her own when she could not tell the difference between red and green. She declared herself tired about 11:30 PM and we got ready for bed. She slept soundly for several hours — all at her own pace.
Rosie taught me something. Let Cheryl set the pace. And if she is not around, think about letting God set the pace. Life is peaceful at Godspeed. Life at warp-speed requires quick reactions and having your shields up at all times.
As we get older and this goofy damnable disease takes more from her I find that is more important to find those gems of experience and good times.
I did not realize how important that is to me and to Cheryl. Today was a pretty good day. I expected it to not be so. Cheryl slept little overnight.
Ordinarily when that happens she is tired and lethargic the next day or maybe that is just me. Today she got up and had some breakfast. She took a shower with no help from me. We went to exercise class.
I made dinner that evening. I made a Betty Crocker noodle thing that I had not done before. We had our neighbor Jane over to eat with us. Both Cheryl and Jane pronounced the recipe good, so, I will make it again.
At exercise class we were reminded that this evening the Parkinson Community Fitness is having a Beach Party theme party that evening. So after dinner and Jane returning to her condo, I reminded Cheryl of that and asked if she wanted to go. She said yes if it was not too late. It was not so we went.
At first she seemed iffy as the seven o’clock meds shook her well being for a bit but she came out of it okay and had a good time. As you can she by the picture, she had her smile on. We both had a good time and we even got to dance for a bit. (It was more like a sway. :-)) — Thanks to another Jane at PCF we have these great pictures on our Frameo electronic picture frame.
In both of these pictures, she has her smile on. Carpe Diem.
The puzzle is completed. Hallelujah! Kill the fatted calf. The Christmas 2017 puzzle is complete. So, now the question is what to do with it? I suggested that she break it into the tiny little pieces she started with and pass them on to her sister Nancy. She is still thinking about it but that is probably what will happen.
Who knows maybe this is a new hobby. It certainly is an occupation once it starts. Cheryl seemed very content while this whole process was happening. Cindy is an enthusiastic cheerleader and champion during the activity. I was not gone for a long time but when I came home they were puzzling away.
I started dinner. I had been out in the rain that we had ahead of the icy wet snowy crap that came today. While out I decided it was a good day for stuff soup.
2 small onions chopped
several (5) carrots pealed and chopped
several (4) small potatoes pealed and quartered
several (5) stalks of celery chopped
a head of broccoli chopped – the stems are good in soup the flowers tend to disintegrate like peas.
the end of the bag of frozen corn (maybe ½ C.)
half a cup or so of frozen peas.
½ lb. of mystery beef – bought out of the get rid of it soon shelf at IGA – chopped int ½ in. cubes
some whole wheat pasta for health reasons.
In a dutch oven put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and dump in the onions. Stir them when they start to sizzle. Rinse the carrots and celery and when you are satisfied with the onions, let them brown a bit, dump in the beef. Brown the beef for awhile and enjoy the aroma. When the kitchen smells like a good diner, dump in the celery and carrots. Stir it up for a bit and put the lid on and give it a few minutes. This is a good time for a little salt and pepper to taste.
When you are ready dump in a box (32 oz.) of whatever broth you like. I used beef broth here. Bring it all to a boil and start the oven set to 300F.
Dump in the frozen peas, corn and chop the broccoli into small pieces. When it starts to boil again, dump in the broccoli and put the lid back on and stick in the oven for 30 minutes or so.
Add the healthy pasta at the end of 30 minutes and set the timer for 10 minutes more. Set the table and find some rye bread to go with everything. Put out the butter, bowls, silverware, etc.
Sit down in the kitchen to eat so that the puzzle can be viewed from afar. It is better to leave the dining table undisturbed. Speak to the small children attempting to mess with the puzzle even if you cannot see them.
Maybe I should look for the special table to build the puzzle on. I kind of liked having dinner at the dining table. We sat closer to the little apparition girls and I could chase them away as necessary while eating. The little girls seem to show up a lot at dinner time.
It is now a third of the way through January. Cheryl and I went out to a small diner on the other side of town to visit with one of her life long friends.
They call themselves the “Clementines”. They attended grade school together and many attended the same high school. They number about a dozen and they used to meet every other month at a local pizza place to chat and reminisce and catch up.
Cheryl was the the original organizer of this group and convinced the others to come and chat. She teased many of them into it at first. She kept the friendships alive. And then Parkinson’s hit and took away her organization and her cognition.
At first she hid it well. It drove her crazy that she might forget something or someone. The computer, something that she had used throughout her working career as a database analyst, something she wrote code for to extract information, became a confusion. I (behind her back) asked one of her friends t take over the organizational task. Kathy stepped up and did it.
Covid struck and they moved to Zoom. I set up the zoomeetings for a bit because I had a corporate account with the community college that I work at part time. Kathy got her own license because she was using Zoom to visit with family.
Today we went to lunch with Marilyn who was unable to zoom a few nights ago. It was a wonderful lunch. Cheryl was able to talk to someone other that me in person.
Tonight for dinner I made oven fried chicken and roasted brussels sprouts with carrots. But for dessert I made Apple Oatmeal delight which is a recipe from BookBakeBlog’s site pages. It was pronounced good! Write that one down!
Life is a journey. Enjoy the apples (and other fruit) were you find them. Carpe Diem!
Recently I learned a new term. Care Partner. I use the term care giver on this blog as I write little stories about our day to day struggles. I think care partner is a better term for what we actually do. Often I care for her. Just as often she cares for me. It is not a one-sided activity. Interestingly enough I poked “care partner” into Google. I am always interested in what sort of images the great alphabet search engine will find. The very first hit on my list is this link to an article about care partner on Parkinsonsdisease.net.
Last evening we attended a gala fund raising event for PCF which is an exercise and social facility that I take Cheryl to three days a week. They had an awards ceremony and passed out what engineers call attaboys. It is nice to be recognized for work and effort for which there is no expectation of reward or recognition.
I was given a “Care Partner ” award. I thought– absolutely, yes. It is better description of what happens. There is no doubt in my mind that Cheryl cares for me as much as I do for her.