Changes are So Slow

Today as I encouraged Cheryl to wake up and get out of bed it occurs to me that the changes are very slow. This morning is very different. It is hard to recover from a night of little or no sleep.

Yesterday she was awake very early simply because she had not slept overnight. I was not awake overnight to observe her but I get up two or three times to use the toilet. I long for the days when my bladder could contain my overnight urine output until morning but alas those days are gone. (I have digressed.) Each time I made this trip she was awake and talking to me. As I attempted to fall asleep, she squirmed as she attempted sleep. Each time I woke up she was in a different position. It suffices to say she slept little overnight.

Yesterday she was delusional and hallucinal and those experiences went to talking to her mother, my mother, seeing our two sons around, seeing her deceased sister and our smallest grandchild, Zachary.

Yesterday evening was my regularly scheduled meeting with friends. We formed a stock club many years ago and we enjoy a few beers and talk about various get-rich-quick schemes as well as attempting to discover the next Walmart or Amazon. It is a satisfying evening for me and our son Scott comes over to hang with Mom for a couple hours.

We had a gift for our newest high school graduate so I enticed our son David to stop by and pick it up. As I was texting David and working out the details Cheryl wondered aloud if Scott was bringing Zachary with him. I texted Scott with that request.

Our daughter-in-law brought Zachary over after he had been fed at home. Scott came at the usual time to hang for awhile. And David came by for a few minutes to pick up the gift and chat with Cheryl for a few minutes. I left for my meeting.

She saw them all in reality instead of inside her head.

Afterward she went to bed and although she was awake when I returned from turning off the lights and reading for a bit she fell asleep shortly thereafter.

Today she really had a hard time getting started. I rolled her, she has a new transfer chair, to breakfast after getting her on and back off of the toilet. She ate scrammed eggs, toast, bacon and some orange juice. She has started reading the Wall Street Journal to which I subscribe. (Getting rich quick is still strong in me.) She likes the editorial pages. I rolled her back to the bedroom afterward and now I hear her moving around selecting her clothes for today.

Carpe Diem.

Scrambled Eggs

This was a strange morning so far.

Cheryl was interested (it seemed to me) in going to bed at the normal time about 10 PM. I helped her through all the normal changes and toileting. Afterward I sat up to read but could not wrap my head around the story I was reading. I came to bed at 11 PM.

After I laid down and got comfortable she started talking to someone. I thought at first she was talking to me but listening I realized she was having a conversation with whom – several people – she was seeing in her head. She has had these episodes in the past but not for some time. Last night and early morning her hallucinations were strong. At least three people were in the room – Nancy and a couple of smaller children and Zachary. They talked about church topics. They talked about playing. they talked about what was best to eat. They talked about books and stories. They talked about breakfast.

After an hour or so of this I got up. I must have gotten used to her murmurings and fallen asleep for awhile but I awakened at a little after 1 AM and could not return to blissful slumber. I got up and pulled the sofa-bed apart with the intention of sleeping in the living room for a couple hours but that did not work out as I heard her moving around shortly after I got up to switch rooms.

When I reentered the bed room she was perched on the edge of the bed trying to get up in her hop-hop mode. I helped her up and she needed to put her imaginary earrings on the dresser in our bedroom.

I suggested to her sleepy, dreamy, hallucinatory self that she sit on the toilet while we were up and she did that. I changed her overnight incontinence stuff and while I was doing that she saw imaginary wetness on the floor as well as several imaginary insects moving about. We captured the imaginary insects after getting off the toilet and searched for more. Afterward she announced that she wanted scrambled eggs and ham. I sadly reported that we were out of ham and I would have to go to the store the next day and fix that but I could do scrambled eggs and toast. She was okay with that modification.

I made her scrambled eggs at 2 AM.

After she ate we returned to bed. I did not hear the living room clock strike three but that may have been because I stopped its pendulum while I was laying on the sofa-bed earlier next to it counting the ticks and the tocks.

It is 10 AM and she is still sleeping and I am wondering how long to let her sleep. We plan to meet one of her friends for lunch today at 12:30 or so. And what should I offer her for breakfast. This day is starting out very hard for Cheryl and very slowly.

Carpe the breakfast Diem.

Great Unknowns

For the past couple days Cheryl’s watch has been missing. It is THE WATCH. As a routine each night we place the watch on what I call the little hat. It is actually a little ring holder that was given to her by Anna. She put her rings and her watch on it but a little more that a year ago I purchased for her a gold chain to wear her rings as a necklace. She had lost enough weight in her hands that her rings would fall off in the car or a chair or the restaurant. This last was the scariest.

But I have digressed. –THE WATCH – has been missing since at least Wednesday. Kathy came to visit on Wednesday. I first noticed that her watch was missing in action when I made dinner and Cheryl and I sat down to eat it. She is right handed so she wears her watch on her left wrist. I noticed it was not on her wrist but I did not say anything because sometimes she does not wear it. Later when we went to bed I noticed that it was not on the little hat. For a couple days I would surreptitiously search for THE WATCH.

About noon today as she was preparing to take a shower and I was searching, I found her watch. She often puts rubber bands on collections of random items in her office. Her watch was on a book shelf in her office near some items that had been banded together. My heart leaped for joy. (I have not been following my own rule of looking around her office to see where things might be.)

Lately, however, I have become anxious about Cheryl’s mental health. The watch story is not about that, it seems to me to be slowly worsening as time goes on. And I think that I am getting used to it. (That idea makes me anxious and adds a fear of not recognizing changes immediately.) My daily notes about bedtimes, falls and other behavior are no longer daily. I note falls and other anomalies. Bedtimes are between 9:30 and 10:30 typically. Her impostor delusion (a noted behavior) seems to appear if she is up later than 11 PM and disappears into her office to “work on stuff.” Last night was one of those nights. I drove her around a four mile loop in the rain as she anxiously gripped her purse waiting to get home.

She was okay with me helping to change her clothes and get into bed when we got back. She wished me farewell and safe driving home. I left the bed room and open and closed a few doors as though I was leaving. I took off my jeans and sweatshirt that I had put on over my pajamas to make the drive. I turned off the lights and gently eased into our bedroom as her husband coming to bed. It worked. I worry that one time it will not work. So far my fear is unfounded but I still worry because I do not have another plan except for sleeping in the living area on the pull out sofa-bed.

At one time in the past I asked her if she remembered any of that. I learned that a reminder in the morning of odd behavior is unwarranted and perhaps even stupid. Introspection of failed ideas is useful.

I still wonder (and worry) about her failing memory and confusion and general mental heath. And of course how to pay for it all should she need extra care that I am unable to give her. Maybe I need some counseling? Or something to ease my mind? Engineers spend too much time what-iffing the situation.

On the morning news the U.S. Congress spent much of the taxpayer’s dollars annoying the CEO of TikTok. That social media platform gets more time per average viewer that Facebook and Twitter. Alas when will we discover the unimportance of Facebook and other social media? … except as another form of 1960’s TV.

Carpe Diem.

Like a Bunch of Random Boulders

What Rose Forgot is a novel by Nevada Barr. Rose, the main character, is struggling with mental illness and memory loss brought on by some unseemly characters in her family. Her granddaughter helps her through the dilemma that she finds herself in. But one line early in the novel stuck out – memories fell into her head like random boulders from a bucket high up all jumbled with no relationship to each other.

Cheryl’s conversation, especially in the evening, is much like that. Kathy came to visit her today and I noticed that her conversation and memories are like that during the day also. Kathy ignored any incongruities if she knew they where there. Had I been sitting near Cheryl I would have had to correct her memory of people and events. It is really, really difficult for me to not jump in to the conversation to fix things.

But I am getting better at it.

I am not certain that I got the quote right but the image is there. Random chunks of memory come into Cheryl’s head. It makes me sad. Sometimes she realizes that this is happening.

Tonight when we came back from getting ice cream at our favorite ice cream store, she went off looking for her Mom in our condo. I did not stop her or correct her impression. And, to her, perhaps, Elaine was there.

I am in pursuit of her calmness of mind. And I admit it makes me anxious.

Carpe Diem

Dog, Cup, Rainbow

Like many old retired folks we have a Medicare advantage plan. When I investigated these a few years age I came to the conclusion that the United Healthcare plans offered through AARP seemed to be appropriate for our needs. There have been several adjustments and realignments over the past several years and I am not in any way an insurance expert but so far the system has worked for us. United Healthcare has a feature that sends a nurse practitioner once a year to visit to check their clients if they want to participate. Participation is voluntary. Cynical me wonders what benefit the insurance company receives from visiting it clients but practical me says there is some benefit otherwise they would have no reason to pay a skilled NP to drive around the countryside to visit clients. There is no altruism in corporate america. I agreed to a visit by Whitney on Thursday of this week.

UHC Housecalls (Whitney) came to visit that day. We went through all the medications that Cheryl takes for Parkinson and my few meds for high cholesterol and too much eyeball pressure. There is a modified MOCA test – draw a clock, remember three words while drawing the clock. The normal blood pressure, heart rate and lung listening happens as in any wellness visit. There is also a clip on gadget and an app that runs on Whitney’s laptop that produces circulation information. Good news we are both alive! And one of us could remember the three words.

In addition to Whitney coming to visit, so did Nancy, a friend of Cheryl’s from church. In fact Cheryl has had a different someone come to visit every day this week. It has been busy and that tires her out.

Cheryl was showing signs of exhaustion on Wednesday. In the evening about 11:30 pm she needed to go home. I was heartbroken that night and tired myself from the time change. The impostor (Capgras) delusion seems to appear about once every two weeks. I put her in the car and drove her around the block. I am usually terrified that this time it will not work. This night it did (still).

Today it was hard but busy. Writing this on Thursday, I wrote that I forgot her pills at 1 pm.  Damn. That will mess up her mobility and her mind. Later on Thursday I noted — it is almost 8 PM and I think she is back to her normal for now.

Cheryl could not complete the modified MOCA test on Thursday. Today, Friday, she went to lunch with her friend Barb. The week of visits, no matter how well intentioned, is over.

Tonight we went out to get dinner at one of our favorite little restaurants. St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls where in full swing on Friday night. [Éirinn go Brách] The food was good and the crowd was raucous and loud. St. Pat showed up on the second day of March madness.

Carpe Erin Diem.

And Tonight We had to Go Home

Sometimes I can convince her that we have come home and we have not left the house.

On other days and nights that is impossible. No night is the same. On this night we had to go home.

I gently got her in the car. I was proud of the fact that I did not get upset. As we drove around the block about 2 mile per hour below the speed limit – the ride is longer that way – I kept up some chatter about various things. Some stories about upcoming events on our calendar.

As we drove in front of our regular Pizza Tuesday spot, she told me about being there last Friday with Paul.

As I turned the corner to climb the hill, I asked her if she knew the way from here. I got no response. As we got to the top of the hill and she began to recognize some land marks she said, “I live on the other side of all that.” (She was headed home in her mind.)

As we got close to our driveway entrance I said, “It’s good to be home. Isn’t it?” she responded, “Yes, it is. I’m tired.”

Dementia, Capgras and Parkinson were in full cooperation this night.

I fear that this little drive around the block reset ploy will not always work. That makes me anxious.

Maybe God will provide me with another plan.

Carpe Diem.

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!