I simply could not get her pills into her mouth and swallowed this morning.  It is the first time this has happened other than many weeks ago when she slept through a few days.  She drank a couple of ounces of Cranberry juice as I prepared to give her the pills.  Then her lips sealed shut and she ceased to be responsive at all.  I was going to try to force the pills into her mouth, but when I determined that she could no longer drink the juice or water, I knew that I could not risk her choking on the pills.

Yesterday she stopped swallowing after swallowing her pills and eating a few spoons of yogurt. At lunch yesterday, she stopped swallowing after a few bites of food.  Last night she managed to swallow her night time pills.  Today, she stopped swallowing anything, including water for the entire day.  She got no pills, no food, no water.

She sat up some, with the saliva coming from her mouth much of that time.  Our Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter arrived in the late morning to spend the day with us.  For a while after they arrived, Mary Ann remained in the chair.  She was pretty much unresponsive, even to our Son, who can always get a response from her.

After a while I took her into the bedroom to lie down.  It became apparent that we needed a trip to the bathroom.  Our Son has been through helping his Mom with bathroom duties, so he helped with the project.  It was a comforting to me for him to have a first hand experience of just how difficult that task is.  It was hard even with two of us doing it.

After that, Mary Ann settled into bed for a long time.  I enjoyed the time with Son, Micah, Daughter-in-Law, Becky, and Granddaugher Choe (11yrs old).  We spent most of the day watching the large screen wildlife display provided by the sun room and waterfall at the back of our house. I realized I have little to talk about other than Mary Ann and the birds.

We talked about the current change in Mary Ann’s situation.  It has profound implications.  We have both signed Living Wills excluding a feeding tube.  If Mary Ann is no longer capable of swallowing food, we have just come to the end of a long journey.

Son Micah and Daughter Lisa (in Kentucky) talked on the phone for a while so that Lisa would be fully aware of what is going on.  She and the girls are due in this Wednesday evening to stay for a few days.  This scared all of us.  We are not ready for things to move to the last stages.

I phoned Hospice to talk with the on-call Nurse.  When she responded to the page, I explained the situation, voicing special concern that Mary Ann was not able to take  her morning meds.  The Nurse mentioned that in some cases meds could be given rectally (whoopee!).  She said she would phone the Pharmacist and check to be sure of that. When she called back, the Pharmacist had told her that the meds Mary Ann is taking are not ones that have been shown to be effective when taken rectally.  We could do it, but it would not be likely to do much good, if any.

It seemed reasonable to accept one day of no meds, but that certainly could not continue.  I concluded that I would make one attempt at giving them to her orally, and if that didn’t work wait until morning.  I asked the Nurse to connect with our Hospice Nurse in the morning so that we could talk through options.

It has been a pretty tough day contemplating what might be coming sooner rather than later.  I went in regularly whenever we saw on the little video monitor that Mary Ann was moving at all.  Each time I asked if she wanted some water.  At this point I am not sure of the time, but around the supper hour or a little later, she was moving some.  I went in and she took some water and swallowed it — the first time since the few swallows of juice first thing in the morning.

When I asked her a couple of questions, she was able to answer, “no” (more water? get up?).   Not long after that she stirred again and this time was willing to get up.  I asked if she was hungry.  She said, “yes.”

Then came a very pleasant surprise.  I should have known!  On a whim, when returning from getting some coffee, I picked up a Baskin and Robbins Grasshopper Pie.  Mary Ann ate every bite of a good-sized piece of that pie.  She swallowed every bite, and drank lots of water afterward.

She responded a bit to Micah after that.  The Kids headed back home.  Mary Ann soon went back to bed.  I decided I would act as if she had no trouble swallowing and follow the usual routine of telling her what I was doing, sitting her up on the edge of the bed, putting the pills in her mouth and giving her water to drink through a straw (the norm for how she drinks).  She swallowed the pills!

I did choose to reduce the Seroquel from the 150mg she has been taking since January, to the 100mg she was taking before that.  Since it has become absolutely clear that the Seroquel exacerbates the problem of hallucinations, and since one of its main purposes is to produce sleep (too much daytime sleep in the last days) it seems reasonable to try reducing this.  In some folks who have taken Seroquel, it has produced a powerful drugged state.  We are living pretty much at the end of our options, so I am giving it a try.  Of course I may regret doing so depending on what happens.  There is just no clear and standard approach to this form of dementia.  It is just too unpredictable with no consistent responses to medications.

One characteristic of forms of Lewy Body Dementia is that people can present with symptoms that cause Hospice or whoever is doing the medical care to suggest that the family be notified that the end is days or hours away.  Then the patient can turn around completely for no apparent reason and return to relatively full functionality.  With some folks in the online LBD Spouses group that has happened more than once.

I don’t know if we have just come back from the edge to have lots of time yet, or if tomorrow will bring us back to the edge.  When I got out of College and Seminary at 26 years of age, I knew so much.  Now at 67 I know so little.  What happened??

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