I need to find some synonym for “confused.”  I wonder how many of the posts I have written over this almost year now of writing that have the phrase “hopelessly confused” in them.  Again today I am hopelessly confused.

Mary Ann settled last night after a few signs of restlessness. Oddly, in one of those restless moments, I came in because she had been moving around in bed, seeming to be ready to hop up (as seen on the monitor while I was at the computer).  She asked me something about where I was going to go.  I don’t remember the exact words.  I told her I wasn’t going anywhere and asked what brought her to ask that question.  She said that she had been thinking (or dreaming) that I was going to divorce her.

I told her that she was not getting rid of me that easily, and that it was not even a remote option.  I wondered from where the thought had come.  Even in my most frustrating moments, when my words were far from sweet, that was never a word used or even implied.  As different as we are in some ways and as many times as we were not pleased with one another in our 44 years of marriage, that was never a realistic option.  I make no judgments on those whose circumstances became so difficult that divorce was the best option in a bad situation.  Our conflicts and frustrations never reached the level of raising that as an option.

What causes me to be hopelessly confused at the moment is that, after working on the sheet to fax to the Neurologist about changing meds to control the bouts of hyperactivity and streaming hallucinations, Mary Ann has been subdued and sleeping a lot.

After our conversation eliminating divorce as an option, she settled in for the night, and the morning and into the afternoon!  She has gotten up seldom to use the commode.  She slept until almost 10am (okay with me!).  I helped her to the commode and got her dressed.  As soon as she was dressed (while we were finishing) she started trying to lie down again.  I took her blood pressure (210/120), and then she just lay back down in the bed.

At about 1:15pm, she was moving a bit, so I asked if she wanted to sit up.  She half-heartedly agreed that she did.  I got her to the bathroom and out to the dining room for pills and yogurt.  As soon as she was done with the yogurt, I asked if she wanted cereal or lunch food next.  Then I asked if she was still hungry at all.  She said that she was tired.  She wanted to lie down in bed again.

It is now 2pm and she is resting peacefully.

It is now 3:30pm.  I sat her up to take her mid-morning (I know!) pills, take her to the bathroom, change her pad (disposable underwear), and get her jeans on again.  I asked if she was hungry.  She said no.  I asked if she would like to come out into the living room and watch some television.  She said she wanted to go back to bed.  That is where she is.

It is now 8:30pm.  I got Mary Ann up (she was reluctant) at about 5:30pm.  She was not hungry, but after sitting up for a while, she agreed to eat some supper.  I cooked and sliced up a bratwurst for her.  She likes them and they are easy to eat in that form.  She managed to spear them with the fork and get them to her mouth on her own.  She had a chip or two and some Pepsi.  Then she ate a dish of ice cream from the freezer with very minimal help from me.  She had some fairly normal intestinal activity.  She then sat in the chair in front of the television, but after a short time of sitting up, began leaning forward on her lap again.  At about 8pm she decided it was time to go to bed.  I cannot imagine that she will sleep the night after sleeping most of two full days and nights.

I now have no idea what I would write on the sheet to fax to the Neurologist.  What I wrote Wednesday does not reflect what is going on now.  If meds are changed to calm her down, she hardly needs that.  If meds are changed to perk her up, the wild hallucinations and hyperactivity might return with a vengeance.

By the way, I expect the hallucinations and hyperactivity to cycle back in at some point. I dread that time.

She hasn’t been fainting but seems likely to do so again judging from the past.

Everything she is experiencing, including the vacillations from one extreme to the other are talked about frequently by those in the online group of Lewy Body Disease Spouses.  That does not prove that Mary Ann’s current vacillations don’t have to do with medications, but it does suggest that all this is just part of the deal. It also helps take the pressure off, suggesting that what I do or do not do as problems arise probably does not have all that much power to change things either for the better or for the worse.  This is outside my power to fix.

For someone who has been a planner who struggles with changing quickly from workable patterns, this is madness on steroids!  At the moment, as long as I accept that things may change in a heartbeat, Mary Ann sleeping a lot and remaining fairly subdued when awake makes caregiving doable.  I lament the loss of having more time that she is alert and communicative, but I am grateful for being able to continue to care for her here without going crazy.  If/when the hyperactivity and streaming hallucinations return, it will take about fifteen minutes for me to conclude again that I am in over my head.  What a ride!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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It is about 11:30am and Mary Ann is still sleeping.  She got up last evening long enough to eat some ice cream and apple crisp.  Then she took her pills, went back to bed and slept the entire night.  This morning, there was a commode trip at about 7am, then at about 8:30am she got up long enough to have juice (with Miralax) and yogurt.  Then she decided she wanted to go back to bed.

The good news about this is that when she has been up, she has been able to interact verbally and has not been picking up threads that are not there, nor has she acted as if she was hallucinating.  Her head is no longer hanging down on her chest.  Needless to say, those are encouraging signs. She is still unable able to eat without assistance.  I fed her last night and this morning, even putting her pills in her mouth.  She did manage to lift the cup and drink most of the juice by herself.

Yesterday, I chose not to awaken her for medications.  Most of her meds are intended to help her when she is up and about.  Most of them have a short half life.  They help when they are in her system, but are not necessarily maintaining a constant level of medicine 24/7.  Missing one dose of the meds seemed to me to be acceptable. I concluded that the rest was more important.  She did take her night time meds, so there has been no interruption in them.  She took the morning pills today, and while she was lying in bed, I changed the Exelon patch she had worn for two days.  That is a med that needs not to be stopped for long.  It is pretty powerful and when initiating the patch, it takes a month on a lower dose to keep from creating the unpleasant side effect of pretty bad nausea — been there, done that.  I am also going to wake her up for the meds that come every two hours during the day.  My goal is to return to and maintain a normal schedule in hopes that will help us return to the pre-hospital norm.

The other parallel recuperation activity needed includes intestinal activity.  There has been some activity, this morning during the 7am trip to the commode.  Then before going to back to bed after breakfast (the yogurt, juice and pills) there was a little more substantial activity.  At the risk of being indelicate (there is nothing delicate about being a Caregiver), it is still at the stage where manual help is needed.  With that lovely image in mind, you can appreciate my excitement when things come out on their own and Dr. Oz’s S appears.  We are not yet back to that wonderful normal.  At this point I am hopeful that in a couple of days we will be there.

Of course I cannot know where this will go, but my intention is to methodically do all the things we have normally done in the past as they are possible.  My hope is that by Tuesday, a week from leaving the hospital, normal will have returned.  Whatever is so by then will probably need to be established as our new norm.

My need to establish a norm of some sort, any sort, comes from the way I am wired.  When I get a set of expectations in mind, it is tough for me to incorporate changes very quickly.  Since retirement, the rewiring is in progress.  By removing almost all commitments, there is space and time to adapt to whatever changes come without the added stress of failing to meet those commitments.  When we went to the hospital, there were a few appointments (dentist, doctor, among them) to be changed, but nothing for which I had to find substitutes or burden others to do for me.

Even though things can change dramatically at any moment (as in Saturday’s entrance into the hospital), the norm is where my pivot foot rests when I turn to meet the unplanned, unexpected.  Unlike Michael Jordan in his best days, I cannot hang in the air for very long without a place to stand.

In a moment of devotional time last evening, I read this prayer.  I receive a weekly email from the National Catholic Reporter web site with a devotion by Fr. Ed Hayes.  (Yes, they allow Lutheran Pastors on their site.)  I have appreciated his writings for decades, and I had the privilege of doing a marriage ceremony with him many years ago.

I need prayers for flexibility!

A Psalm of Flexibility

By Ed Hays
Created Nov 06, 2009

O spirit of God’s eternal springtime heart,
grant me the virtue of elasticity.

Make my heart as boundless as my Beloved’s heart,
which at this moment is creating
new galaxies and infant suns.

Make me pliable and playful with your Spirit
as you teach me the alchemist’s recipe
of how to keep my heart’s skin
like baby’s skin, ever-expansive,
able to hold the wildest of wines.

Stir my mind well with your sacred spoon
to awaken the fermentation of ideas
stilled by the ten thousand little compromises
required of me by the stiffness
of the old leathered skins of society and religion.

Gift me with elastic frontiers of heart and mind,
so I can see before my eyes,
both in the heavens and on earth,
how old and ever-new are those partners
passionately dancing together
in the perpetual birthing of your universe.

From Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Ed Hays

The Spiritual support I receive through Ed’s writings, through the Taize Music from their site, from Weavings, a spirituality journal, through Scripture, corporate worship and the Spiritual Formation Group that meets at our house weekly, helps provide the source strength that has allowed survival so far.

There are many wonderful folks who give personal support to our household.  Yesterday afternoon, John called and asked to come over for a time to talk.  John has been a support for very many years.  Mary, our friend who schedules Volunteers, had let him know that things were getting a little hard to handle at our house.  Yesterday, Edie, the leader of our Spiritual Formation group emailed about the possibility of bringing dinner over.  Don and Edie came over and we feasted on lasagna, salad, gourmet bread, some Shiraz red wine, topped off with apple crisp and vanilla ice cream.  Mary Ann slept through supper, but ate a big bowl of apple crisp and ice cream later in the evening.

It is now about 1:30pm and Mary Ann is still sleeping soundly.  She has had two rounds of the meds that come at two hour intervals during the day.  To administer the meds, I put my hand under the pillow, lift her head, put them in her mouth, hold a straw to her mouth and she drinks until the pill(s) are down.  Often, when I give her the pill(s), she gets up from napping.  The last few days when I let her head back down, she just goes back to sleep.  It has not been unusual in the past for her to continue to sleep, just not so many times in a row.

She finally got up and dressed around 2:30pm.  She ate a little more, then provided some unaided intestinal activity worthy celebration.  She went back to bed at about 5pm.  It is 9:30pm now.  She is still sleeping.  We will see how the night goes.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

It was a perfect time to be on the deck.  The temperature was in the high 70’s and there was a breeze blowing.  There were some hazy clouds occasionally filtering the bright sunshine.  The deck was partly in the shade and partly in the sun.  The sound of the splashing waterfall echoed providing accompaniment to the raucus squawking of Grackles and Blue Jays.  I read and thought and pondered and read and pondered some more.  It was a wonderful couple of hours.

I got Mary Ann’ s breakfast and pills done; then showered, shaved (yes, even though I wear a beard), and dressed.  The plan was to head to the grocery and then out to eat.  She stood up from the transfer chair for a moment and flopped down into it.  Whatever the switch is that turns off her ability to function, it switched her off.  The plan dissipated and a long nap ensued. 

Adapting quickly to a change in plans has never been easy for me.  If I got into my mind what we were going to do, frustration was my usual response to being derailed, a disabling frustration, leaving me grumpy and annoyed.   Today, video monitor in hand, I just headed out to the deck and had a great time.  In some ways I am learning to cope with the vagaries of the Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

When Mary Ann awakened from her nap, I got her dressed and ready to head out for lunch.  When we started the often endless task of picking a place to eat, she popped up with one we had not been to in years, Red Robin.  It seems to cater to the younger crowd, with a sort of boisterous atmosphere and very expensive burgers. 

I was happy that a decision came so quickly.  I mentioned the possibility of splitting a sandwich since they are large and costly.  I remember the first time we ate there.  It had just opened and there were lots of folks waiting for lunch.  Our name was on the list, but it seemed that others who had come after us were being seated.  I went in and asked why we had been waiting so long.  Somehow our name had been skipped.   As we were being seated, a manager came over and said that because of the long wait, lunch would be on them.  That was music to these frugal ears (big, but frugal).  Giddy with the thought of it, I decided to buy a beer, a Black and Tan (Guinness and Bass in the same glass).  As I was enjoying my beer, a bartender came by with a Black and Tan looking for the person who had ordered it.  He concluded that there had been some confusion, and I might as well have it.  While I just couldn’t manage to get two full beers down in one sitting (college days are over), it felt sort of luxurious to have them both sitting there for me to enjoy.  We had just had two full meals, a Coke for Mary Ann and a couple of imported draft beers for three dollars and change.  Yes, I did leave a tip based on the full price had we paid for the meals. 

This time we weren’t so lucky.  We got seated right away.  I had talked about our splitting a burger before we went in.  Then as we looked at the menu, both interested in the Salmon burger (made with a Salmon filet, not a salmon patty), I asked Mary Ann if we should go ahead and split the sandwich.  She always eats half and we take the other half home.  The burgers at Red Robin are between ten and eleven dollars each.   She said no.  It surprised me, since her normal response would have been yes.   I asked again just to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood.  She again said no. 

We ordered the two meals.  She finds it easiest to eat a sandwich if I cut it in half, and then cut the half in half again.  A quarter of a sandwich is about all she can manage to hold with her hands.  The fingers stiffen and lose dexterity when she is trying to hold on to something.  When she was working on the second quarter, she said, “I thought you were going to eat the other half.”  I am not sure exactly what happened that we miscommunicated so badly.  Red Robins are particularly noisy, and Mary Ann’s voice is very soft due to the Parkinson’s.  Most of the time I end up reading her lips when we are communicating in public, or in the car (can be challenging when driving).  It was annoying to think that we were paying eleven more dollars than we needed to, but I have come to be better at accepting and adapting.

One thing, however, that I cannot seem to accept, to which I struggle to adapt, is the messiness that goes with the dexterity problems.  I find it very hard to deal with my reaction to seeing the sandwich squeezed in her hand until most of it falls on the table her lap or the plate, sauce running through her fingers and down her arm.   Notice that what is hard to accept is not the messiness, but my reaction to it.  The reaction is internal.  My actions were attempts at helping her get the sandwich pieces back in her hand, suggesting she use the fork, then afterward cleaning her hands with napkins and a wipe from her purse.  I know she was uncomfortable with the cleaning I did, since it seemed that she was looking around to see if anyone was watching.

The messiness bothers me more than it does Mary Ann.  Part of it is that I happen to have grown up in a family with a Dad who was meticulous about eating habits.  Part of it is that Mary Ann doesn’t have the view that I have from across the table.  She is focused on getting the food into her mouth.  I see what doesn’t get there. 

Mary Ann did not choose to have limited dexterity.  All she wants to do is eat.  She does what is necessary to get that task accomplished.  My struggle is not with her messiness, it is with my inability to just take it in stride and ignore it.  I am self-conscious for her, when she is not.  I am embarrassed for her, when she is not.  It is hard to admit this, since she is the one living with the Parkinson’s and its impact on her ability to simply enjoy a meal.  I feel very petty.  In this regard, she is healthier than I am.   At least I have the sense not to allow my feelings to stop us from going out.  

Anyway, when we go out to eat, I don’t have to cook and clean up.  With that payoff, bring on the messiness! 

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.