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.

Who am I?

Last night was a peaceful night. Cheryl laid down in the big new bed at 10:30 or so. I finished up a couple things and joined her at a quarter ’til 11. It was a restful night. I awakened to go to the toilet at 6:30 am and so did she. Cheryl laid down again but I got up.

At about eight I went to check on her. She was awake laying in bed. The creaky door had startled her. I apologized for wakening her from her dreamy state. As I closed the door to return to the living room this conversation ensued;

Cheryl – Who am I?

Me – You are Cheryl.

Cheryl – And who are you?

Me – I am Paul. We’ve been married for about 50 years.

Cheryl – Well, happy anniversary!

I do not know what to make of this conversation. As I left the room she added, I love you.

I can understand that in the early morning hours she is a little more confused than normal. She is still tired. I do not know how well she slept. I can report that the couple of times I got up overnight she was in the same position. She moves little when she sleeps during the night. At about 5 am she was having a conversation with someone in her sleep but she often has these conversations. I do not always hear them.

We will see what the day brings. So far, my youngest son has invited us to dinner on Father’s Day which is Sunday.

Carpe Diem.

Punding

The need to do something, anything even if it is a mindless thing is referred to as punding. Parkinson seems to generate this need in many of its participants. It is generally harmless until it gets in the way of other things. Here is more from the Davis Phinney Foundation website.

Cheryl does this at different times. It used to drive me crazy and sometimes it still does if she starts up immediately before we are going somewhere. She often does it in the car with the purse of many pockets.

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.

And Last Night was Bliss (Again)

The ups and downs of this Parkinson thing do not seem to allow for planning, comfort and looking-forward-to-ishness. I imagine it is the biggest headache we care partners have to deal with day to day.

In addition to the fact that Cheryl can be great one moment and in the next she can be off in the weeds punding or hunting around for something that does not exist or merely worrying about something that is days into the future, she sleeps fine several days in a row and then one night is up. If one does not have Parkinson one can still have sleepless nights occasionally. Parkinson merely makes it more annoying. But, holy cow, it can be really annoying and not only for the Parkinson person.

The previous night was miserable. She did not sleep until about 3 am. Last night she laid down at 11 pm and did not move from that position until 7 am when the LOUD AND ANNOYING alarm clock went off to signal TIME FOR MEDICINE. That is what it displays in two inch high bright green letters after it raises its brightness level so that it is visible on the moon.

I got her the meds. She took them and laid back down for a bit to allow them to work. I put the Kleenex box in front of the message to the lunar astronauts. I felt rested.

I went to turn on the “news” and was shocked to learn that there were sexual hi-jinks going on within the Southern Baptist Convention. Hoping for more news about the Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp and getting instead the fact that Hunter Biden was, as a husband, a stinker as told in a new tell-all memoir by his ex-wife, I turned it off to do the Wordle. Ho hum.

She got up a little later and put the big new bed back together.

We are up at the regular time with no extra laundry today.

Life is good.

Carpe Diem.

Quiche not Lorraine

Seems like a good day for quiche. It’s anything goes pizza Tuesday but it is 90F feels like a 190F. Jane next door suggested we raid our larders and stay in. She had many eggs and suggested scrambled. I suggested quiche. I had freed up the quiche pan.

Finished product.

It was good. I started by making a pastry flour, shortening and water. 1C. / 1/3rd C. / 1/4th C. In general proportions. Chill for a bit before rolling out. Rolling out on parchment paper makes it easier to get the pastry into the pan.

List of stuff for quiche: broccoli about a cup, ham about 1/4 cup, cheddar cheese 1 cup, 5 large eggs, 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups milk, 1/2 tsp. sugar.

Give fresh broccoli a minute in the microwave. Put ham, broccoli and cheese in pan on the pastry. Mix eggs milk and sugar. Pour over the top of everything. 425F for 15 minutes and continue for 30 minutes at 325F and check after 20 minutes or so. Let stand for 5 minutes after taking out of oven.

The pan

Quiche not Lorraine. Pretty good dinner with a little fruit and some brown bread and butter.

Carpe Diem.

Last Night was Peaceful

Last night was the first dose of donepezil which may help with Cheryl’s confusion and dementia issues. It has two main side benefits (effects) in addition to the myriad of others that seem related to any drug regimen. The side effect I am most concerned with is insomnia. I will be watching for this closely over the next few nights as her body adapts to the medication. The drug literature suggests a two week or so adaptation period. I am hopeful today.

The dose in this series of pills is 5 mg. The intent is to discover the patient’s tolerance for it. The dose will be increased over time. If one eats a little bit of peanut butter each day when one is little, one will not develop an allergic reaction to peanuts. If you eat a little bit of dirt each day as a child you will develop a tolerance for a lot of things later in life but your parents will go through a really annoying diaper period.

Nevertheless last night was peaceful. One trip to the waterproof room and no extra laundry in the morning. Seven AM meds consumed on schedule. Breakfast of yogurt and Pillsbury refrigerator rolls rounded out the morning.

Exiting “news” today from the world’s largest advertising company Meta formerly know as Facebook, new tools are available for Instagram whatever that may be. (I am old.) All the major stock market indexes plunged (not fell) into bear market territory. The Fed is wondering out loud about where to set interest rates. Nervous investors are placing their bets. Bitcoin aficionados are moving their money so quickly the major exchange called a halt. (Think of all those computers mining bitcoin settling into stasis.) Ho hum. And it is going to be hot today on the east coast where all the news comes from. Stay hydrated!

Another day begins. Cheryl seems to be moving well. She can try out our new grab bar that was installed yesterday on the wall near the shower to help with getting in and out of the shower. I have no control over the things that CBS has decided is news today, so, although I am mildly interested, I do not spend much time on it. Cheryl is quietly watching the news after eating her Pillsbury refrigerator rolls and yogurt with OJ.

The Wordle today was easy. I got it on the first guess. Today life is good.

Carpe Diem.

Donepezil aka Aricept

A mild mannered drug used to treat confusion in patients with dementia. Often the only chemical of consequence for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A little humor there. The previous choice was rivastigmine which Cheryl could not tolerate.

We’ll see. I am fearful of giving her some thing else that is going to make her feel like crap all day long. The slow movement and mental confusion is somewhat easier to help her with than persistent nausea. Rivastigmine did that to her.

We are starting this drug on the thirteenth of the month. That cannot be good.

Carp drug Diem.

Morning “News” Programs

Yesterday we picked up one sister of Cheryl’s and went to visit another sister of Cheryl who lives about forty miles down the road. It was a very pleasant visit sitting on their great front porch perched up a hillside with a nice view of the Ohio river to the north. We had a great conversation while some extra kids and grandkids showed up to drive go-karts and minny bikes over the hills and around the property. Sometimes it seemed like having a conversation on the berm of a nearby highway. Nevertheless it was a good day and this morning Cheryl is sleeping in for a bit.

Which leaves me with my morning coffee and watching the morning news shows. It also leads me to think about what is news to me. The morning news shows, as they always seem, are interspersed with the latest political dilemma, complicated financial maneuvering that makes money less valuable but no less important, some actor/celebrity fall-out from marriage or their manager, the best guacamole recipe or another use for hot dogs, the expected weather for the next week (it is remarkable how this is always bad news), the latest book usually a tell-all memoir – today about growing up as a child of abusive news reporters in California, and other useless, to me, drivel. I suppose a breakthrough therapy for Parkinson would be of much more interest. Sometimes news is merely superfluous information and blather.

I turned it off because I noticed I was using it as background noise for working today’s Wordle and a couple other puzzles I have become fond of working.

I like crosswords. I suppose that is my father in me. He liked crosswords also. It probably sounds odd that I care little for Scrabble since it looks much like a crossword when completed. I think that has mostly to do with competition which I also care little for. I am not competitive except with myself. Crosswords and stroke-play golf fit into those self competition categories and maybe bowling.

Journaling and writing and blogging is also an interest. Today is also wash-the-sheets day and I am starting later because she is sleeping in.

Carpe Diem.