Cheryl’s Cookies (Not the Commercial Venture)

Living with a parkie makes me alert to new information when it comes up. That being said I do not always recognize my new task. This is about becoming a master cookie maker on the fly.

Executive function

Dementia occurs in about 40% of Parkinson’s sufferers. Some behaviors are side effects of medications. Some come with build up of unpronounceable proteins in the brain. No matter the source, the behavior can be disheartening and annoying from a care partner perspective. Cheryl’s reaction often is anger to some perceived slight or merely, the question, why do it that way? (It is an engineer’s question.)

It starts with me. Words and question structure is important. Engineers always want to ask why something is done some way or simply is some way. Why often sounds like a challenge, even to other engineers, if it is not asked properly.

How to do

Our latest challenge to our marital bliss is Christmas cookies. Baking is a hobby and a passion. I like to think I have perfected my meager talent at making breads of various types and shapes. I am proud of that but lately I have pushing into cakes and pies. The pandemic pandemonium gets to us all in various ways.

My perception of making cookies is one of a trivial exercise in baking. That seems to be an incorrect perspective. Cheryl’s helping me. Two cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for a challenge to peaceful coexistence. Two bakers near an oven enables battle lines to be established and defended with vigor. Starting a question with why is akin to removing one’s glove and casting it upon the dueling ground. (smiley face)

Cheryl has made perhaps a giga-dozen (I just made up that word) of cookies. I have made none. What can I say to redeem myself? Engineers ask why a lot.

Where to start

To a skilled cookie baker the recipe is merely a guide, a refresher, a list that says these get lemon zest. Interestingly, that is much like how I view a new bread recipe. I am on familiar territory.

But not so fast apprentice! Nearby there is a master cookie baker. Do not question the master’s skill at her craft with disdainful utterances such as, why and how come? All will be revealed. But also keep an eye on the recipe and make suggestions such as, yes, we have put that in the mix. Shall I add the butter?

Sometimes with creeping dementia ingredients are forgotten. Sometimes without that factor ingredients are forgotten. Try to be kind and remember that no one got up in the morning thinking, how can I mess with his mind today? Most importantly, do not raise your voice two octaves, that is a dead giveaway to your ignorance.

How does one check for doneness? It is common sense! Look at them. (the “fool” is left unsaid.) They will look right. What is right? (and on and on and on…)

Cut out the Crap in the Conversation

To a person standing nearby this conversation can sound rude. It sounds like one person is giving another orders and it can be that way. If, however, it is done with kindness in the communicator’s heart and with understanding that a Parkinson’s patient also may be dealing with confusion issues, it is neither rude nor demeaning in any way. Often a person experiencing Parkinson’s cannot or does not get the implication or inference. Be clear. Have kindness in your voice when speaking.

The onus is on the care partner to be patient, kind and clear. Be aware, care partner, that this is hard to do because you remember how your partner/spouse/parent/friend was before. (Good natured teasing may be misinterpreted. Be certain that your partner is not confused.) You too can be unaware of how they are now. The Parkinson’s patient may become sad or angry. Be persistent if you as care partner are very concerned about safety. Add some love to the conversation if you think you are not getting through the confusion. Strive to not become frustrated and raise your voice (two octaves).


We did wind up with our first battle batch of cookies. Although they are a motley crew, they taste fine.

Carpe Diem.

It’s Easy to Tread on Someone’s Heart (and other AHA moments)

Here is the setup. Cheryl has a wheelchair tag. In fact we have two. When Cheryl was still driving we applied to the state to get one for each car.

A few weeks ago we got in the mail on two different days a form for the state to renew our wheelchair tags if we wished to do that. The forms require a script from Cheryl’s doctor. When they came a couple weeks ago I put them in a special position on a ledge wall between the kitchen and the rest of our living area in the hope that I would remember to take them with me to our doctor appointment in December. Cheryl agreed that was a good spot to leave them.

Today, she re-discovered them and was telling me what they were. I let worry and anxiety about losing them before the doctor appointment come over me. I took them from her and explained why they were on the ledge. Thinking back on it, I was not that forthcoming with why I was putting them back on the ledge. She became very angry. I apologized for being a stinker. It is a delicate balance on some days and I admit I am not always up for it.


Of late, Cheryl keeps her emotions just below the surface. It seems to be a symptom of her disease. She is constantly thinking about what was. Hearing a particular hymn in church will cause her to weep. When she sees pictures of the grand kids on our electronic picture viewer, they become real to her and she will talk to them. If I take a deep breath or just simply sigh, she will ask me what’s wrong? If I do something and she feels slighted in some way real anger appears. All of these reactions are the same as any feeling person except maybe talking to the hallucinations. Parkinson’s is not real to her. The unsteadiness and jerky motion is not visible her until it is.

It is hard for me to not be a helicopter care partner and hover close by. It is hard for me to not be protective of things that I am certain will be lost in her PD and Lewy body confusion. She displays punding style behavior which in her case seems to be arranging and rearranging her papers in her office. These papers are often random collections of emails and news letters assembled with no apparent theme. (I worry that real papers will disappear in the organized randomness of her office.) I try to watch what goes into her office and short circuit anything of importance before it gets there.

Sometimes, like this morning, I do that without the gentleness that I should have used. When that happens I tread on her heart.


Edie’s prayer

I should have read this when I got up this morning.

Carpe Diem

Right and Left

Recently (yesterday) I convinced Cheryl to go to a chair yoga class. I thought it would be good for her. In my sometimes helicopter care partner mode it seemed to me that I might be able to find something for her to go to most everyday at PCF. She often wants to get different things that she uses in class so that she can do the exercises at home. But lately she does nothing at home that looks like exercise. There is nothing unique in that, many people to not.

Today when I talked to her about going to class she said, I don’t want to do that. I have a hard time knowing my right from my left. I have problems with a similar thing I said. I always have to say the alphabet jingle in my head. Elemenopee… I thought about what I said suddenly. Why was it necessary to make it about me?

She went on to say that all that reaching and stretching was hard. Somewhere in her conversation I realized she thought I was taking her to chair yoga. I spent another ten minutes or so convincing her that this class was one that she had been taking all along. It was not a new class. I realized that I was rushing her into trying new things to exercise her body (tired with PD).

Apathy and lack of interest to try new things or finish things once started is common in PD sufferers. I found myself reading about Apathy in Parkinson’s patients while she was exercising at PCF this afternoon. The internet of all knowledge directed me to Michael J. Fox; the APDA site; the Parkinson Foundation and others. All say approximately the same thing.

Apathy describes a lack of interest, enthusiasm or motivation. It interferes with the effective management of Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms, since apathetic people are less inclined to do things like exercise and follow their medication schedules. …

Apathy can be frustrating for people with PD, caregivers and loved ones. Understanding apathy as a symptom of PD and finding ways to cope with it are key to ensuring a good quality of life and for maintaining good relationships with caregivers, family and friends.

Therapies

Currently, there are no proven effective treatments for apathy — no pills or special therapies — but structured activities and opportunities for socialization are a useful approach. A regular routine, continuing to socialize and exercise even if you don’t’ feel like it…

from the Parkinson Foundation website

As I was reading along various sites, Cheryl was exercising three feet away. Same things are easier to get her to do. By that I mean things that she is familiar with, things she has done before. And as I watch her do the exercises she changes. Her motion becomes more fluid and steady. She does not quit. She pushes herself. And tears come me. What’s up with the emotional response in me? What a pain PD can be to people close by. Once she gets started all can be well. As class moves on she is an enthusiastic participant. I am merely an observer and not someone to argue with. (smiley face with tears)


More … My own thoughts … Usually when I write one of these messages to myself I struggle with what point I am trying to make. Not so here. It is easy to drift into making something about yourself. I believe that it is a natural act. To understand some thing, some idea, some opinion, some action of others we relate it to some local knowledge we already have. Educators call it scaffolding.

What happens when one has no similar knowledge? It can be made up out of whole cloth. It is natural. We, at least many of us, want to empathize with the other person’s unsatisfactory experience.

A life lesson, I suppose. Maybe an AHA moment appeared for me. Try to stop making it all about myself and still empathize with Cheryl. Or, at least, do not vocalize it to her.

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.

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…

October

Holy Moly it is October.

The beginning of the shiver months is upon us. I do not want to think about it but it happens every year. Because I am the contact person for our little condo HOA, I get a mailing from our landscape folks that it is time to put some money up to get on the schedule for the ice or snow storm clean up(s) for the new winter season. He usually sends he note out in late September. I always respond to him that I do not want to embrace his message but here is a prepayment anyway. It is the first sign of the shiver months to come.

Today it is raining. Strangely it is a warm rain but it is only three days into the month. Perhaps global warming is real.

Our little family has two important events in October. Two of our grand children have October birthdays. Both Maxwell and Audrey have October birthdays. They are child number two and number three in the same family group. This year they are eighteen and sixteen. Where have the years gone? Happy Birthday to you guys. May God give you long lives, good health and keep you safe. Godspeed.

Covid-19 boosters are here. We are old. We went to Walgreens and got a Pfizer third booster shot. The WHO thinks that it would be better to get the rest of the world vaccinated against this Rush Limbaugh killer cold before us old folks get a booster to stave off the infection but I prefer to be assured that my wife who deals with Parkinson’s and creeping dementia on a daily basis remains safe and healthy. To some that might seem selfish. I think it is merely prudent.

Carpe Diem. Happy October.