“Let’s do something special today,” Mary Ann said when we were out doing her breakfast and pills.  I asked what she had in mind.  She had no more words available or, I suppose, specific thoughts behind them. 

I agreed that we ought to do something to get out.  Let me jump ahead.  She is now in bed for the night (I hope), and we have gone nowhere and done nothing. 

Why?  Why is it fourteen hours after saying that, and we have not set foot out of the house?  Let me correct that.  I did set foot outside a few times.  When she decided to nap this afternoon, I went out and stood in front of the house as patches of sunlight came through.  In fact, I got a folding chair out and did some reading in a Spirituality Quarterly called Weavings

While she was napping, Don and Edie stopped by for a while with some freshly baked blueberry muffins in hand.  We spent a while talking inside then headed out to the deck for a while, watching a few confused geese head by.  In the course of that conversation, I think we have come up with a possible name for the waterfall and surrounding wetland/raingarden.  Don referred to it as a “bog” at one point — a name that did not strike my fancy.  Then he mentioned a couple of names that included the word “peat.”  It is not a peat bog, but it is Pete’s Bog.  To say that Don and Edie have quirky style of humor would be to understate the truth of the matter dramatically. 

One of the things that allowed the day to drift away is the cluster of tasks associated with getting us both up and going, bathroom needs met, Exelon patch put on, hair washed and dried, Miralax mixed in juice of her choice, yogurt and cereal of choice provided, pills taken, other pills put in the timers, clothes put on, my shower taken, morning household chores done.  Understand, there is no time at which we can both be doing working, one doing one thing and the other doing something else.  All the tasks are done in succession rather than concurrently.  Eating and pill taking are long, drawn out activities.  During pill taking and eating I do have a chance to do a couple of things in the bedroom, clean the commode, make one of the beds, move the lift from the front door entry to the bedroom.  The time I have to do other things depends on how Mary Ann’s spatial problems are impacting her eating and how much help she needs.  Straightening up the kitchen and cleaning off the counters, putting things in the dishwasher and others in recycling is part of my need for having some semblance of order in the household.  My office is a shambles, as is the garage and the storage area downstairs.  I just need some areas clear to provide some sense of control in our chaotic world. 

Reruns of the Closer and Law and Order, tended to draw us into them just enough that if one was nearing the end, I sat down and see if it would come out the same way it did the last eight times we saw that episode.  I concede there is not a shred of rationality in that behavior.  

We were up shortly after 8am, but Mary Ann was hungry by the time we were both ready, and all the chores were done.  I suspect it would appear to someone seeing the morning activities at our house  as if it was all happening in slow motion.  I have usually eaten my bowl of cereal toward the end of all the morning chores, so when she is ready to eat lunch, I am still full from breakfast. 

After getting her some lunch, a movie was on television.  Since it had been going on for a while, it was distracting us from doing anything else.  I went back and forth to the computer attending to emails (eats much time), while watching enough of the movie to be engaged in its strange plot.  It turned out to be a depressing movie — just what we needed as a break from Law and Order episodes. 

In the morning, when Mary Ann first mentioned that we ought to do something special today, I mentioned the idea of heading to Kansas City to visit a close friend in rehab for a broken kneecap.  Marlene has ALS and needs a fully equiped unit to keep mobility as it heals.  Surgery is not an option.  Then I mentioned that we could drop off a couple of items at our kids’ home in the KC area.  After the movie, I mentioned that option again.

It was then that she said she wanted to lie down for a while.  That was around 2pm or 2:30pm.  I tried once, around 3:30pm to get her up, but she wanted to sleep.  It was not until 5:15pm that she was ready to get up.  At that point I did get out of the house for a short time to get a burger and fries from Wendy’s for her.  She wore the Lifeline and promised to stay seated while I went.  By that time she did not want to get out in the car. 

The roller coaster between lucid moments and hallucinations continued today.  At one point I couldn’t remember the name of Kyra Sedgewick’s (Star of Closer) husband.  She remembered his first name, Kevin (Bacon).   On the other hand, when eating the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s, she stopped eating after in a matter of fact voice she concluded that there were shrimp, three of them, in the burger.  She held up pieces of the bun when I questioned her claim, and she said, “See?”

After the late nap, she stayed up a little later than usual, but is now in bed.  I don’t suppose the chances are very good that she will sleep well tonight, but we will see.

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A comment on a post I wrote a couple of nights ago raised an issue that is significant for many Caregivers who are doing full time caregiving all day long every day.  The writer mentioned that she often uses the time after her Loved One goes to bed to try communicate with others, since the opportunity for adult conversation is limited.

For many of us conversation that was a routine part of our daily lives with our Loved One and with others has pretty much ceased.  Especially those caring for someone with a form of Dementia find it tough to converse meaningfully.  A number of recent emails from others who are caring for spouses with Dementia have included reflections on the challenge of dealing with the lack of meaningful conversation and the loneliness that sometimes settles in.

Until I retired a number of months ago, I was active in a profession that involved lots of meetings, visiting with people, counseling folks struggling with problems, speaking in front of groups, and many hours each day communicating electronically (email).  All of that came to a halt pretty much the day I retired.  Emails ceased, phone calls stopped, meetings ended, there were no more visits to be made, no more speaking in front of groups.

Now there is one person stuck with me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, someone who has never really been a talker and now after twenty-two years of Parkinson’s has taken its toll finds great difficulty getting thoughts into words and sustaining conversation.  She has struggled with the challenge of having me there constantly, so I can hardly complain.  She tired long ago of listening to my voice as it drones on and on.

One comment in an email I read tonight provided an image of the Caregiver in need of communication.  She mentioned that when she was at the dentist getting her teeth cleaned, every time the Hygienist took her hands out of her mouth she started talking immediately, not stopping until the instruments were back in her mouth.

I find myself starting conversations in with strangers in line at the store, or making conversation with the person at the register. Anyone who dares cross our threshold is likely to be fully engaged in conversation by the time their second foot has landed inside.

Anyone who reads this blog has certainly noticed the length of the posts.  When I write I imagine that there are people actually reading this with whom I am having conversation.

Living in a world of silence other than the sound of the television, can certainly produce a deep sense of loneliness.  I suspect there are lonely Caregivers by the tens of thousands out there.  It seems to me very likely that lots of them, probably a majority, are not computer users who have the option of going online and relating to others regularly. If the Caregivers are lonely, imagine how lonely and bored those who need the care must be.

There are no simple solutions to the loneliness and isolation, the boredom and lack of conversation that comes with the Caregiver and Carereceiver territory.  For me the battle with loneliness starts with developing a rich inner life that experiences each moment fully and fills my thoughts with wonderful images from my environment, from reading, from the lives of others I have encountered, from my own story, from a head filled with unfinished business, from intellectual and spiritual curiousity.

While I have never been a writer, the exercise of writing these posts is safisfying and fulfilling.  Reading emails and occasionally responding to those who are caring for spouses with Lewy Body Dementia is engaging.  When Volunteers come to stay with Mary Ann to give her a break from my constant presence, it takes me a long time to get out the door as I engage them in conversation.  I find myself on the phone with brothers and sisters more often than ever before in my life.  Trips to the coffee shop to get a cup of coffee take a little longer. When we attend the Parkinson’s Support Group meetings, I am not shy in speaking up.

Since I am not good at all at small talk, I know very little about sports and I am completely uninterested in debating politics, conversation just for the sake of talking is not all that satisfying.  I suppose I can talk about the weather with the best.  I do have a genuine interest in people’s stories, so given the opportunity, I will find out what you do and what you like and dislike about it, where you have lived, what challenges you have faced and how you are coping with them.  The problem when homebound by the Caregiving task, or the chronic illness, is that the opportunities for such meaningful conversations are limited.

While it helps, electronic communication is not fully satisfying to me since I thrive on the non-verbal elements of communication as well as the actual words themselves. Getting out of the house with the one for whom you are caring is worth the effort.  Go anywhere.  Do anything.  Put yourselves out there where the chance for human interaction and verbal interchange is possible.

Every job has its good points and its bad points.  The trick is to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” as the lyrics to an old song say.  Celebrate what is good that the Caregiving experience brings into your life.  Refuse to give the negative more power than it is due in ruling, in defining your life. I know that is far easier said than done.

Caregiver loneliness — Are you?  What are you doing about it?  What works for you?

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.