The Evenings are Hardest

With all of the memory, confusion, delusion and dementia issues that have come up in our life with parkinson, evenings put me on high alert for hints about where she is mentally.

Last evening was particularly troublesome and at the same time interesting about where her mind was. For the previous couple days she occasionally would tell me how much she liked this”place” better than the other one. When I probed a little bit I discovered that she seemed to think that we were trying this condo out before we bought it. last night she asked if we were going home tonight or if we would wait until tomorrow. (Carpe Diem!) I told her that I did not want to drive all the way home tonight. I thought it would be better for me if we slept her and left in the morning. She agreed that it would be better to get a good night’s rest before driving back home.

A different discussion started about what to take with us and when to pack. I suggested that we wait until the morning because any dirty laundry I could easily pack in a garbage bag. I would not have to be neat about packing. She said, or you could wash it in the morning before we leave. I readily agreed. There were two or three story lines going at the same time. There were condos in two different places, here and at home. But we were going there tomorrow.

It became important to inform her sister Nancy that we were coming home tomorrow. I sent a text message to her sister informing her that she might get an odd phone call in a little bit and to just go with it.

Cheryl decided to water the plants so that they would be okay while we were gone for a week. (Nice, we were coming back.) I kept my mouth shut and helped to fill the little measuring cup we use to water the house plants. The story was still unfolding as the evening went on.

It looked as though Nancy was off the hook for the phone call and I informed her about it. Cheryl shifted gears and called her other sister Debbie. (Smiley face) I did not see that coming.

I helped her dial the phone to talk to Debbie and scrabbled to text Debbie about what was happening. I was not fast enough and opted to talk over the top of Cheryl to quickly explain the purpose of the call. Deb caught on quickly and smoothly adjusted the topic to their cousin who was in the hospital and probably soon moving to a close by hospice facility. They talked about that for awhile.

When she hung up I informed her that I had texted Nancy and told her that if Nancy needed more information about where we were or our other travel arrangements she could ask Deb. Cheryl replied that she had just talked to Deb and that would work. (Another smiley face) She did not remember that I was in the room while she was talking to Debbie.

I better call Anna and tell her too. When our daughter Anna answered I said over Cheryl, “Just go with it.” Anna did.

It was a busy hour and a half with phone calls and plant watering but all was well an hour or so later when we went to bed. She got up once to visit the bathroom and eventually got up for blueberry pan cakes and orange juice at about 9 AM.

NOVA was a repeat anyway.

Carpe sundowner Diem.

A great sunset picture from the LA Times.

Physical and Mental

These two aspects of the Parkinson Dilemma are frustrating from a care partner viewpoint. They are the source of laments and weariness. The grind can be debilitating in many subtle and unsubtle ways.

Physical disability is only recognized by Cheryl when she is so physically tired that she cannot stand up. And even then she fights the thought that she physically cannot do something. That something might be as little as getting up out of the chair that I put her in because I was worried about her falling. There must be a balance somewhere. So I help anyway without trying to be a helicopter helper and hovering about her space.

Her mental ignorance of her ability to do something – rare is the occasion that she will ask for help – is simultaneously frustrating and heartwarming. She wants to do it. If she starts it and I complete it she feels like she did it. (Ugh!) Her memory does not allow her to remember that I completed whatever it was. So I help anyway without trying to be a helicopter helper and hovering about her space secure in the fact that she will not remember and assured that it is unimportant for me to correct her when she tells someone – see what I did. (except when she tells the doctor.) Tee Hee!

Seize the day and make something new if things are not going your way. Parkinson is a progressive dilemma and in Cheryl’s case there is an element of creeping apathy. The meah factor appears as she loses interest in doing things – exercise, writing birthday cards, visits with friends, laundry, making cookies, taking down the Christmas tree and decorations and other things. A little push every now and then never hurts. She will not remember that it was not her idea if you are subtle with your pushes.

Today we will visit a cousin of hers who is in the hospital. She is uninterested in exercise class. The hospital will be a long walk so we will switch activities today. And then as we left the little lunch place and headed toward the hospital my son called with a request to pick up our grandson after school. More driving but out in the world today. We will go to the hospital tomorrow.

This is an old picture but it is how I see this woman, the love of my life, the place I am home. I see that smile less and less but sometimes early in the morning it peeks out of her face.

Carpe Diem even if you cannot.

When She’s Off

It is such an odd disease. Cheryl slept very soundly last night and because of that so did I. I do not remember awakening to visit the bathroom at all. I must have but I have no memory of it.

Today she seemed really good. She was struggling with a BM and I worried that she may be focused on that tonight. It is only 11:28 so there is still time but the “I need to go home” was strong. I tried another suggestion about asking where to turn and how to get here. She was not sure of the way. We got back from our little circuit. She was okay with being here. She told me to be careful when I went home. She pointed the way to Galbraith Rd.

She walked around the house while I garaged the car. She was still unsure of “home”. But it looked a bit like home to her. It seemed like I was winning. If I could have charted it, the pattern was more like the markets of the past few weeks – up, down, up, up, down – yadda yadda yadda. Hard to judge. Up? or off?

It was a constant running commentary to help her with PJ’s. I lied that I had reported where she was staying to her mother. I lied that her mom was okay with staying here. I lied that I sent and email message to everyone telling them where we were staying. I said, “I love you.” she replied, “I love you too, Jan.” She noticed her mistake. I ignored it. It is unimportant and she is very tired.

Eventually she succumbed to tiredness and laid down in bed.

The night is still young and the morning is not here yet.

Carpe Diem the connection to the addled mind inside.

Don’t Be An Asshat

Asshat is one of my favorite terms for “stinker”. When I read it in a book it makes me giggle internally.

Today I was an asshat. Cheryl had a rough night. She spent a long time feeling something in her bowel that would not happen. Sadly one of the often not talked about symptoms of Parkinson is constipation. This condition is treated with various devices, more veggies, extra fiber, fiber enhanced foods, docusate sodium (stool softener), Miralax, psyllium husk powder, and others. The result of many of these maybe all is an emergency. And sometimes a declogging device. We have been down this road many times.

Why I did not recognize it last night at 3 AM is beyond me. Maybe not.

I was an asshat. Today I am trying to recover from my overnight asshattedness.

Happy New Year! My One Word is CONNECT

Carpe diem – Get up! Connect! Move!

Recurring Themes

There are days, and this may be one of them, when I wish for Cheryl’s physical Parkinson’s symptoms to be worse and her mental Parkinson to be less. She actually moves quite well with the C/L in her system during the day. If in the middle of the night she might get up to toilet once or twice she moves pretty well then too. She might be slow and slightly disoriented but at 3 AM I am too.

Late Autumn and Winter is the worst for her mentally. Last evening she stayed up very late; frantically organizing and reorganizing her papers and cards in her office. She eventually allowed me to help her to bed about 11:30 PM. I heard the clock strike midnight before she succumbed to sleep. She had been talking gibberish about the kids.

five repetitive themes

She is often confused as to who I am. I am that other Paul. I am Dad (as I was last night encouraging her to get rest before our big outing with Marilyn.) Some times I am Scott but if not she will ask, “Did Scott go home? Or, Is Scott here?” Some of this is simply aphasia and she cannot find a name in her head. (Me too, occasionally.) If I cause stress in her by insisting on something she will be very anxious about me being around. Insisting is always a bad idea but I often forget that. I try to hedge and let her decide she wants to – go to bed, eat dinner, have a cookie, have cereal for breakfast, etc. Often that works, often it does not. It can be frustrating when you are also tired.

“I want to go home now.” – She believes for a time often late at night that she is not home and wants to go home. Sometimes this delusion is overpowering and I help her find shoes and a coat and I drive her around a four mile circle and home. I reinforce the we are home thought by saying plainly, “we’re home now. I’m glad to be here finally.” That will reset her brain and she starts to think we are home. Sometimes it works only partially and she thinks – wow, this is neat. How did they get all our stuff here so fast?

Recently she has asked how we will get all our stuff home? Do we need to get some movers? I merely replied yes, I will call them tomorrow and set it up. — I wonder how long the “I will take care of that tomorrow” ploy will last. For now it does. She has not yet asked when I was going to call the movers in the morning while I am organizing breakfast.

“We are in Detroit” When Cheryl went to high school she was following the prescribed path to become a Franciscan nun. I met her originally in the summer between her junior and senior years in high school. When she was a freshman, a teacher she had realized she may have some potential in english or journalism and arranged for Cheryl and a couple of her classmates to attend a journalism workshop in Detroit for a couple weeks between her first and second years in high school. It made a deep impression on her. In many ways, when she talks about it, it was as though she traveled to a foreign land. And she thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. Her favorite TV show and the only one she really watches is a show called Bob (<3) Abishola which is set in Detroit. Watching the the show, she will tell me stories about Detroit but mostly I think she looks at the screen because some views will spark a memory.

“When are we going home?” Is her theme some evenings when she is sure we are in Detroit. I did not realize at first where she thought we were. I discovered this later through conversation. — I can respond, “We are staying here tonight and going home in the morning. Is that okay with you? It is late and would rather drive home in the morning.” Most times traveling along with this theme she responds with, “Yes that is a good ideas. We should rest first.” Once in awhile the Detroit delusion lingers until morning. It is often gone at breakfast.

It is time for office work — is usually a physical activity. In our second bedroom that became her office when we bought this condo she will spend time organizing. Or doing nothing. It is her version of punding. If she starts doing it at 9 or 10 PM there is no easy fix to getting her to be interested in sleep even when it is obvious to me that she is very tired. She takes a prescription to help her sleep as well as melatonin to help her fall asleep but her will is strong when she decides to – get this stuff organized. It breaks my heart to see her do this mindless activity. Last night I sat with her because the later she stays up the wobblier she gets but her confused mind will not let her see this in herself. In her brain she is a 35-year-old computer database analyst and the deadline is tomorrow.

These behaviors generally occur late in the evening. I sometimes succeed in not being Mr. Cranky Pants. This part of His plan sucks for sure. It is hard to be calm when the Plan has dumped on you and the previous night was smooth and uneventful.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot comes to mind.

Carpe Diem.