Not in a Long Time

Sometime ago about two years ago Cheryl struggled with fainting.  The neurologist blamed it on orthostatic hypotension and she does have some of that.  It is  measurable.  Her standing,  sitting and laying blood pressures are all different.  But two years or so she had fainting spells sitting at breakfast table after eating while working the puzzles in the newspaper. I got so used to it that I parked a pillow from the couch one one of kitchen chairs to be handy when I laid her on the floor.

Today we got up later than normal after Cheryl got meds on her 7AM schedule.  She washed her face, brushed her teeth and we had the church funeral discussion.  I made blueberry pancakes.  Her alarm went off for her 10AM Sinemet and Entacapon so she ate them with her vitamins and pancakes.

After eating I got cleaned up myself , sorted the laundry and dressed the bed. It is Friday (laundry and checkbook day). I got the washer started on the first load and staged the rest in the utility room near the washer. As I came back into the living area I noticed Cheryl seemed to be asleep in the chair by the kitchen table. She had fainted midmotion while removing the snap top of a container of crunchy snacks she intended to munch on while doing the puzzles. She was seated stiffly in the chair.

I got a pillow from the couch and laid it on floor and laid Cheryl down. She was stiff. I put her feet up on the chair. In the past she would wake up immediately after I laid her on the floor. She did not today.

This morning she laid there for awhile still out of it. It was unusual from a couple years ago. The stiffness was also unusual. Previously she was very limp. Eventually I was able to get her up off the floor and into a chair again. I got her walking frame but she was unable to pick it up off the floor. Tried to help but she kept pushing down instead of lifting up. It was as though her brain had the directions reversed. I got her to sit again and I got her transfer chair from the garage and with that I moved into the bedroom and got her to lie down.

She had very low blood pressure. We have meds for that. I gave her the 1PM dose of BP medicine at about 11AM and coaxed her to drink more water. I nagged and hounded her to drink more water, orange juice, tea, coke, whatever she wanted. There is a background theme of anxiety about incontinence at work here.

Eventually she came back and realized we had missed the mammogram appointment. We also missed chair yoga. We made it to the finger exercise class. The checkbook balanced and the laundry got done. All was well again. A few more steps down the road were behind us.

Carpe Diem.

Don’t Think, Just Do

Words from the Karate Kid and advice given to Drew on B-Positive tonight.

It is always possible the think and over think one’s situation and find a reason to not do something which could easily be very beneficial to one’s own well being. I discover this often with care giving to Cheryl.

Today Cheryl’s cousin-in-law (a relationship I just made up) made a very kind offer to me. Let me back up a bit, her CPAP machine bit the dust. She thought it was merely the cord but as it turned out it was dying long before it bit the dust completely. I brought it home to try to figure it out. Alas I could not. I do not have a manual or even know how it is supposed to operate.

She came to pick it up this morning and as she had never been to our home I showed her around and we chatted for a bit. I mentioned that I was taking Cheryl to her exercise class in about an hour. As she left I walked out to her car and she said that she did not live very far and if I needed someone to sit with Cheryl while I did something or wanted to ride my bike for exercise, she would do that.

I choked me up for a second. A kind and very generous offer of help, freely given, not requested, completely out of the blue. I sent her a text a while later and asked how much warning she might need to do that for me. She only needed a day or so warning and even suggested which days might be best. I thanked her profusely.

I do not ask for help with Cheryl, probably because my maleness gets in the way of that. I am planning, not thinking.

Some days the road seems smoother and less treacherous when you are not focused on the potholes coming up.

Carpe Diem.

Special – or not – Spaghetti Sauce

Every once in a while I get creative with the refrigerator contents.  Last evening I had some frozen butternut squash I had cut up and cubed a couple days previous.  Usually I roast this in a 400 degree oven with a little salt and pepper and olive oil for about  15-20 minutes but I decided to try something different.

I had also a 1/2 pound of ground beef. And I had a half jar of Barillo (12oz.) tomato basil sauce.  I took about a cup of butternut squash and simmered it in about a cup of water for about 15 minutes on top of the range.

When it was soft I poured off the water and smashed it into a pulp and dumped in the Barillo sauce. When I recover unused commercial sauce like this I often put a couple tablespoons of water in the jar to rinse the bottom, I poured this in as well. I added a pinch to a quarter teaspoon of red pepper.

I sauteed the ground beef with a little olive oil and rinsed it in a colander when it was browned. This removed some of the grease left from the saute. Cheryl has a hard time with any sort of greasy food. She likes it but about an hour later it gives her a lot of indigestion.

I added this to the sauce and let it simmer gently with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

While that was happening I got the water going for 4 ounces of spaghetti. When that was ready I plated it up.

I sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

She pronounced it good.

The picture at the top is not mine. It is from fitmencook.org. How cool is that? Perhaps I am a closet fit man. (smiley face here)

Carpe Diem.

Let’s Not be sad During Holidays

In a conversation tonight at dinner, Cheryl became very sad and longing for the past as we started to talk about the holidays coming up.  When we were younger we had this huge five bedroom house.  Everyone was welcome.  My mother and father were still alive.  Cheryl’s mother and her gentleman friend, Bob were still alive.  Dinners and holidays were loud and raucous with kids coming and going.  There was beer and wine.  My mother enjoyed gin and tonic.  I still order that in a restaurant as a tribute to Mom.  We longed for those days.  Cheryl became sad in remembrance of those times.

I suppose in a way I did too.

The only constant in life is change.  I do not remember if that comes from the Hindu or Buddhist religion but everything is in motion.  Embrace the change.  Make new memories.

If you let it over take you nostalgia can distract you from the present in much the same way that anxiety about the future does.  Most of us have little prescience of what comes next, so anxiety and worry is unwarranted.  Our personal history has been lived.  Focus on the now.

Many years ago I had a conversation with my father.   We had traveled to a local state park near a lake.  The idea was to let the kids run around and have a picnic.  We were at the little beach area alongside of the lake.  The kids were running around having a good time and after a few ounces of refreshments I needed the facilities as did Dad.  While standing and staring at the wall inside, my dad remarked that he wished he was a young man again.  I think he may have said, “I wish I was eighteen again.”  He was making reference to the young girls in their bikinis and his nostalgic memory of youth. 

I responded with, “Me, too! But probably for a different reason than you are thinking.”

“When I was eighteen I was still living in your house on your dime.  You used to give me money for gas.”, I told him. 

“Now I have a wife and three kids to take care of and support. I don’t regret any of that but it was a lot easier when you were taking care of me.” I said.

That is not the exact conversation but merely how I remember it. Dad smiled and remarked that he was not thinking about it that way. Everyone’s nostalgia is different. I had many life conversations with Dad.

Looking back occasionally gives perspective. I realized then that, although ten or fifteen years earlier my life was easier from my perspective, I would not change a thing that was happening now. My now was a wonderful wife, great kids, a wonderful family and a great outing with my children’s grandparents.

It is much the same now. Parkinson’s disease takes a lot of time and although I wish it was not. It is. I am constantly provided with opportunities to be a better husband. Do I want those opportunities? No, I do not but that does not change the fact that with a little bit of attitude change, a little change in perspective I am better at life with my care partner. This is a mutual effort.

So let’s not linger in nostalgic times. They were good times. They are not now times. They are past.

Carpe Diem

Almost the last day of October

Last evening she asked me, are you staying here tonight? To which I responded yes, I live here. You live here? Yes…

We have these conversations occasionally.

I wish that we did not have them but we do. Every day is a new adventure. It is hard to keep that in mind. Last evening I was very hard for me to resist correcting her. She wanted to call her sister to find out who I was. I decided to let her do it. I am sure her sister was confused. I did not find that out until earlier when I sent a message to her sister explaining Cheryl’s confusion yesterday.

Carpe diem.

Care Partner

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.

Hmmm.

Carpe Diem

They are back tonight

The little people who used to visit are back. That is my own little joke. The little people never really left our home. I was merely ignoring Cheryl’s behavior.

They were back in a vivid sense to Cheryl. This chair arrangement is left over from their visit. She was showing them the pictures on the frame. She went into full on grandmother mode describing the picture to the kiddos.

I asked who was there and she replied Natalie and Max.

We left a little while later to got to our support group meeting. While there she asked if I had called home to make sure the kids were all right. Apparently they were more vivid than at other times in her head. When we returned home she looked for them.

We sat and watched Bob hearts Abishola which is her new favorite show. The kids seemed to be gone for now.

When I tell her that there is no one else here except us I feel as though I am standing in the back of a crowded room saying this to her.

Today, earlier, she asked me to rub her hair conditioner into her scalp. I do this once or twice a week when she asks. She referred to me as “Mom”. I had a little petulant moody reaction and said “I am not your mom.” She said, “No. You are my dad.” I replied that I was not her dad either, I was her husband. To which she said, “But you are the one I love.” (AHA! Edie) She merely could not pull the name and relationship out of her head.

It was another Aha-moment in our life together. It was a very important moment. All of my life as an engineer words have had a very specific meaning to me. Perhaps the words should not when understanding Cheryl’s needs.

Carpe diem — hunt for the special moments of insight and empathy. Those are special. If you miss them they may be gone forever.

Why is Slumber so Hard to Achieve?

The ageless question that I ask myself. Why does Parkinson not allow her to sleep and rest?

Tuesday – dinner with friends; A completely sleepless night afterward. Up, down, up, down. Eventually she slept for a couple hours.

Wednesday — nothing special about it, just Wednesday. A totally restful night. She didn’t move when I got up several times.

Thursday — Exercise class as normal. Overnight a couple odd things; teeth brushing at 2AM and Noxzema face cleaning ( I said not church today) she came back to bed. Leg pain — half in and out of bed at 5AM.

Friday was slow moving. Overnight she slept through although she was awake when I came to bed after reading (11:30PM). This morning for the first time she leaked. She was totally asleep when I got her pills at 7AM. She didn’t awaken for her bladder. She did not act upset about it as she has in the past when she occasionally had mistaken perspiration for a leaky situation.

Saturday overnight she slept peacefully. I awakened her at 3AM or so to use the toilet. She easily fell back asleep. She was sleeping deeply when I got her pills at 7AM. We went to church in the afternoon. She missed her 4PM meds in the confusion of preparing for church at 4:30PM. We had dinner with friends after church.

Sunday morning she was agitated and slept fitfully. She was fidgety in bed. In the morning she was worried about something. We went to my son’s house to celebrate a birthday of one of the kiddos.

Sunday night and early Monday morning she slept little. She was certain she had to prepare for the appointment with her neurologist at 3AM. We read the calendar. I showed her the annoying alarm clock that displayed MONDAY. She slept little if at all. I reminded her several times that her appointment is tomorrow TUESDAY. The information did not reassure her nor did it seem to stick with her even as she insisted she understood what I had told her.

Monday (today) she is still convinced she has a doctor appointment.

Carpe Diem…

Best Descriptors for Insomnia

Ironical

  • Peaceful as a truck driver on amphetamines
  • Restful as an old man with the bladder storage capacity of a peanut
  • Satisfying as a rock star on speed
  • Quiet as Michael Jackson after practice for a concert
  • As restful as an hour after sixty-four ounces of colonoscopy prep
  • Rejuvenating. Much like being chased by a mother bear after you’ve noticed her cub behind you on the Appalachian trail.
  • Adrenalin rush leads to melatonin misfire

Last night was a particularly unsatisfactory overnight experience. It seemed as though Cheryl did not sleep at all nor did I. I tried a new idea out on myself. Instead of becoming angry with her disease, her insomnia and myself for getting angry I laid alongside of her thinking of funny ironical and satirical ways to describe insomnia. It is hard to be creative at 2AM. I kept falling asleep. When I awakened again, perhaps an hour later, feeling a little guilty for falling asleep, I was worried that today would be especially bad.

Yesterday we had dinner with my cousin and his wife visiting from the west coast. It was a pleasant afternoon and evening full of catching up and conversation. Cheryl seemed to enjoy it even though her evening meds attacked her and she sought refuge on a couch in the back office of my cousin-in-law’s condo. I think that embarrassed her even though we assured her that she should not be.

On the way home she expressed how much she enjoyed herself. When we got home she hunted for comfy clothes and we watched a favorite show together. She went to bed at her normal time around 10PM and I sat up to read for awhile. When I went to bed later she was still awake but that is not unusual. She is often awake for a bit after she lays down. Sometimes it is a long bit. Last night it seemed to be all night.

Early this morning she told me that the kids needed breakfast. I think I raised my voice when I told her that there were no kids living with us but she had left the bedroom. I am sticking with that excuse.

Someone said that you can sleep when you are dead. What a morbid thought that is. So, I began my thought experiment. Some of them I remembered this morning.

Haiku: Adrenalin rush; Sleep is disturbingly sad; Melatonin fail. 🙂

Perhaps I will get my sonnet maker out and think about that for awhile. Or I could read a book and nap later today.

Carpe diem or carpe nox. Carpe whatever you want.

Frustration and Anger

Lately I have been experiencing a bit of what I think of as Caregiver Burnout.

We seem to have repetitive conversations about where we are, where we live, who is here, who is not, where we are going today or not, when church is or etc. I admit to raising my voice in a natural inclination to getting the conversation to stick in her head. I can hear myself getting louder and cannot seem to resist. Later when I reflect on it, such as now, I want to remain calm and discover a quiet informative way to convey the same information to her in a way that helps her to remember. I find it to be doubly frustrating. She cannot remember so she will ask again. I repeat the information about dates and times and where. She cannot remember so she will ask again. (Urgh!) When I raise my voice, she thinks I am angry. I know I am frustrated. Maybe I am a little angry. It is hard to not be angry with this annoying disease.

Her inability to remember conversation and detail just an hour later is frustrating to her as well. She makes little notes to herself to help her remember. The next day or two or three days later she will ask me what I wrote her this note for as she holds up a note that she previously wrote to herself as a reminder. She does not recognize her handwritten messages. Parkinson jitters and stiffness has destroyed her calligraphy. She seems to not believe me when I tell her that I did not write whatever note she is holding in her hand.

I kept this particular note. I cherish it. She struggled very hard to remember how long we have been married this year. Along with all the other things our family calendar has become meaningless to her. The other picture is a sample of what her handwriting used to be. I have kept all of our letters we exchanged in high school. I suppose that makes me a romantic. 🙂

An added frustration is her complete inability to remember medication coupled with my occasional failure to also do so. I have set her phone to alarm for each medication time. She sometimes resets the alarm and does not take the meds. Occasionally I miss that. It is a constant battle between her Parkinson and my old agedness.

Over time I have taken over the duties that she used to do in our home.

In this second year of the pandemonium the pull between now and what was before is infuriating. Keeping track of her stuff and mine reminds me of how things used to be. She used to tell me what we were doing and where to go to next. Now the shoe is on the weaker foot. Occasionally that foot hurts.

It’s hard to enjoy the journey if you can’t see the road. It is so intensely unsettling to travel an invisible road in the dark.

At least we are vaccinated and boosted. The road is pretty long even when not visible.

Carpe Diem!