As we progress down the sad road of Parkinson and intermingled dementia I am always looking for ways to help Cheryl or get help for her and me. This web blog by Cheryl Hughes is and has been a source and an inspiration to me.
For the past few days as Cheryl has struggled through various mental clouds I have begun to ask about and look for trusted home health services. She is coming off of a UTI which I am getting pretty good at recognizing just by behavior. Some sort of mild sleep disturbing cough (thankfully not Covid related) has messed with sleep cycles for her and me. All of that is easing as the antibiotics have been used up. We are slowly drifting into our weekly sameness.
The past week of April has been beautiful in Ohio. On Tuesday I road my Rad City bike out of our drive onto the public roads. This is something that I have spent the winter gathering the courage to do. I rode around late morning to early afternoon on residential streets near me so that I did not have to deal with rush hour frantic antics. I greatly enjoyed my ride and although it was not long I realized that I was relaxed when I returned. My cousin-in-law was sitting in the kitchen with Cheryl having lunch and I was pleasantly fatigued.
It is time for me to get some consistent considerate help. It will cost money but there is that story about camels and needles that reminds me of my real responsibilities. Financially rich is not a good description of us but I am acutely aware that Cheryl’s care will cost more as time goes on. I may be too concerned about that but it is something I think about often.
Cheryl Hughes has pointed me to DailyCaring.com which is now sending me email newsletters. This website may prove invaluable as I try to learn more about helping Cheryl. Other friends have pointed me to a home care group that I will contact in the coming week to get established.
Every once in awhile I get the what-if-I-did-this-instead-of-that in life blues (mood, meditation, discernment). They have been strong for the past couple weeks.
I suppose this winter has gotten me down more than previous. Cheryl seems more and more mentally frail as the PD/dementia progresses. I think that bothers me more than I want to admit to myself.
She has not seen the woman who lives in the corner of our bedroom for several weeks. Cheryl thinks her name is Jean but she is not sure of that.
The what-ifs instill a background anger. It is a sort of smoldering why-isn’t-there-a-fix mood. Perhaps it is time for me to find a shrink.
Therapy for me is to find a novel that captures and keeps my interest. I have never been one to stick with it if the story has wandered off into the weeds. Recently I read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Bachman. It spoke to my heart and kept my interest. Ove was pretty down after his wife passed away but many of his neighbors kept inadvertently messing with his suicide plans and the story goes on from there.
Typically I read for an hour or two before going to bed in the evening. If Cheryl is awake when I come to bed I notice that she does not sleep well through the night. I let her sleep later and then feel guilty all day while I am getting her back onto her med schedule. And it creates anxious stress in me as I keep track of her medications more closely until she is caught up.
The medications only seem to work sorta.
Parkinson does seem to be endless and that starts to get me thinking about the What-Ifs again. There are no take-backs in this life but wow does PD suck.
I am hoping that she will get her earrings in in time for us to go for a walk in the sunshine today. I would help but that merely causes a spat. So far it is not looking good.
A few days ago the kids and grandkids camped at a nearby state park. Cheryl knew about it. They had exchanged text messages back and forth while the planning went on. I did not talk seriously to Cheryl about it until the day before. If I give her too much to think about she becomes anxious with the planning activity.
I suggested we could stay overnight in the lodge there and visit the kiddos at the campground. She readily agree. I called the lodge desk and THEY HAD HANDICAPPED ACCESS rooms available. I did not ask about their cancellation policy. I was hopeful that Cheryl would still be interested in visiting the kiddos campsite when she woke up tomorrow.
The next day we went. It was a great day. I got the big bed pad out and packed it on the bottom of the big suitcase with extra incontinence solutions so that Cheryl would not have that anxiety all day long. On top of that she packed clothes for a week. Girls need choices. I packed a change of clothes in the little bit of space left in the suitcase.
We got there about 3:30-ish and found the room. I texted David and found out where their camp sites were and cruised through the campground twice after misreading the signs the first time through. We found them unloading coolers and tables and chairs and other stuff. Everybody was busy with something so I parked in an empty campsite across the little drive through the camping area. Luke was loading a cooler with soft drinks. Anna, Laurencia and Virginia were making quick work of erecting a couple tents.
Good times were soon to be had. Frisbee games were unloaded. Eric and Max tossed a baseball back and forth. Corn hole was set up. It is not camping if there is no corn hole set around.
There was great camp food. Our son, David, with Cheryl’s help, current veggies and sausage packets to place on the fire. Cheryl had a great time participating in the food preparation. For a short while she was Mom again. She was talking and cutting. Dad was hanging out with the grandkids and the other adults.
We had some great conversation around the campfire. Parkinson disease interlaced with dementia takes most of the spontaneity out of our living activities these days. I had forgotten about that. I am sincerely grateful that Cheryl was feeling good that day and evening. We both miss the spontaneity of retirement.
And grateful that some of our hoped for spontaneity in retirement was there that day. Twenty-five years ago we would spontaneously decide to disappear on the weekend and hike in the woods or explore some little town we had not been to before. Once we stayed overnight in a bed and breakfast in Chilicothe, Ohio and the B & B was being run by others because the owner was going to Columbus overnight for a cancer treatment. So, we stayed overnight with strangers in someone else’s house. It was amusing and fun and spontaneous.
A couple of months ago I seriously doubted my ability to care for Cheryl on a long term basis and looked into memory care facilities around where we live. There are a lot of them.
Now, after having clicked on the wrong thing on the internet of all knowledge, I am deluged with calls from the marketing folks of all the facilities within a twenty mile radius. The world wide social media network – Facebook (aka Meta) – sends me two types of ads on every other post on my “news feed” advertisements about Parkinson stuff and memory care places.
I suppose I should be smarter about see more when I see it dimly printed at the end of some paragraph I started reading. I suppose I should be smarter about a lot of things but sometimes you want to just see more of the text. Sometimes you merely want to have one question answered up front, “how much?” Used car guys know enough to not answer that question directly. The trick is to keep ’em on the lot and find the lowest possible number where the client says, “I can do that.” It is the whole reason for, “For 50 cents a day, you can feed this orphan in some obscure country.” – ads on television early in the morning. The Shriner’s hospital ads are especially compelling. (Oops, I have digressed.)
I fell for it and probably always will.
On the heels of making that mistake, I did sign myself up for a care giving (care partnering) class that also produced a fount of valuable information without the “scam likely” phone calls coming to my cellphone while driving somewhere.
The class itself has given me new insight into how important it is for me to seek out help from others around me, take time for myself to do the things that I enjoy doing, and to give those things and myself priority in my (and our) life. I have at the same time become aware of not dumping on friends and family to “take care of Cheryl” for me. Most of the time in the daylight Cheryl can take care of herself.
I do not have Parkinson disease but Cheryl does. In order for me to stay healthy enough to care for her, I have to stay healthy both physically and emotionally. I thought to write mentally also but emotionally covers it. I use the term anger but that to me means -frustration, disappointment, anxiety, sadness mixed with a little collegiality and a lot of empathy and love. And maybe a little grief is there too.
I have written this before I truly hate this affliction and what it has taken from her but I have to be as upbeat as I can about things. Some days that is harder than others.
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.
Cheryl went to lunch again with a friend yesterday. Barb had arranged a luncheon with another member of the church decorating committee. (See my previous post)
They were gone for a long time about five hours. When Cheryl got home we talked for a bit and she went to lay down. I think she actually fell asleep for about thirty minutes. Or, at least, she was very still for a while when I went to check on her about an hour later.
In the evening she declared herself tired a about 10 PM and she went to bed. After a few preliminaries she was laying down at about 10:20. I remained up to read as I usually do before retiring. When I came to bed about thirty minutes later she was still when I laid down.
At 1:30 AM or so she was restless and awake. To the bathroom she went. I helped her a little with the toilet because she has confusion and balance issues in the middle of the night. She lamented that she really needed to sleep but she was fidgety and agitated. Nothing I could do seemed to help. I began to think that my presence was disturbing her. She couldn’t get comfortable.
She stayed in our bed. I got up and opened our sofa bed in the living area. I had never slept on it before. It was a new purchase we made with the mad money that we got from the federales during the height of the pandemonium. After a couple false starts and finding a blanket and my pillow from our bed. I fell asleep from 2:30 until about 5:32 AM when my bladder reported fullness to my brain. That is a much longer span than laying with Cheryl fidgeting her way back to sleep. The sofa sleeper itself while not perfect was quite comfortable to sleep on.
I will have to study the living room area floor plan and think about things some more. I had to rearrange furniture in the early morning hours to open the sofa sleeper. That was a little inconvenient in the dark.
Perhaps we are at the stage of her disease and our lives when we will need different sleeping arrangements.
“Know what you want to know.” — Marion Lewenstein There you have it – the distillation of my Stanford education in six little words. Save all that expensive tuition and meditate on this quote instead.. Marion Lewenstein was my journalism instructor at Stanford- I had the pleasure of visiting her during a reunion in 2017. […]