I am not completely sure why.  Some things are harder to accept than others.  There is one visual cue that removes all my ability to keep things in perspective.  It takes me right up to the edge of my ability to cope, and then pushes me over.

There she was, half way across the bathroom, walking with her pants around her ankles.  I had stepped out for only moments to give her some privacy.  On the way out, I asked her to please remember to push the button when she was done and reminded her not to get up until I arrived to help her get up.  She did neither.

That visual cue seems to release my deepest fears that the next fall will be the last one.  It surfaces every feeling of frustration that comes when her choices seem to fight against the very help I am trying to provide.  That visual cue pushes me over the outer edge the confidence that I can care for her here at the house until the end.

I got her dressed, put her on the bed, and had to leave the room for five or ten minutes to gather my composure and try to regain perspective. I wonder if part of my reaction is a safety valve blowing off steam to keep the boiler from exploding.  I wonder if it isn’t a grieving process going on that I ignore until something like that visual cue shatters my illusion of control.  I wonder if part of it is my refusal to admit to myself just how hard this is.

Yesterday morning when I went outside to clear the drive and sidewalk of snow for the Volunteer, she tried to get up from her chair, fell and took with her the table in front of her, knocked the computer monitor to the floor along with a cup with some juice in it and a number of other things on the two tables around her.  She was lying in a heap among all of it. Gratefully, as always, she was not hurt at all.  I was upset that I couldn’t so much as go outside to shovel the sidewalk without her getting up, creating the vulnerability for a fall.  Then I felt responsible.  While she couldn’t remember why she got up, I had not gotten her a new box of Kleenex, I had not gotten her fresh water, I had not taken the audio receiver with me outside so that I could hear the electronic doorbell, which she would not have pushed anyway.  I realized again how hard it is to anticipate every impulse need and provide for it so that there will be no need to get up.  It is hard to anticipate and cover every impulse need of another person — one who cannot tell you those needs in words.

She has been having a difficult time keeping things clear the last couple of days.  There are flashes of lucidity, but most of the time, it the hallucinations have continued, verbal communication has been virtually gone, and there have been times of great confusion.  At supper tonight, after working on the baked potato on her plate for a long time, mostly with her fingers, I asked if she saw the meat.  She said no.  A large piece of meatloaf was there on the plate right next to the potato she had been working on. She has often been in eyes closed mode.  She will be acting in every other respect as if she is doing things normally, except that her eyes are slammed shut tightly.  Often when that happens and I ask her to open her eyes, she will answer that she can’t.  I have learned how to walk her from one place to another when her eyes won’t open.

I just came back from the bedroom.  Mary Ann had gotten up on the side of the bed.  She was trying to pick up needles that were not there.  As we were sitting there, a couple of times she told someone to stop pulling on the quilt hanging on the wall a few feet away.  She asked we how soon we would be getting out of here.  Then she asked how we were going to get all the furniture back.  I asked if she was thinking that we were in a different place from our home and that the furniture had been moved here.  She said yes. Like Capgras Syndrome, this is a Delusional misidentification syndrome.

I just went back again.  This time she asked me to take the girls out of the bedroom.  When I asked if they were our Granddaughters, she said no.

At the same time, earlier today when I mentioned the library, she suggested that we eat lunch there.  Since we couldn’t find a parking place, we at at Bobo’s Drive-in.  At the library, she managed to pick out two books from the large print section. We had sundaes at G’s after the library.  When we got home she ended up wanting a nap.  After an hour and a half, after taking medicine and using the bathroom, I took her out to watch television.  She got up and headed back to the bedroom to nap some more.I had to wake her up for supper.

Back again. She is just having a terrible time accepting that it is night and time to be in bed.  She wanted to get dressed this time.  It is about 12:15am at the moment.

I have just been with her a few more times.  The last time included a snack and a paper towel to wipe up something that was not there.  It is about 1am now.  I am wondering how much of the night will be spent with the delusions and hallucinations.  Last night we were up quite a number of times.  There has been very little sleeping in happening in the last week or so.  The interrupted sleep is not helping the coping skills, nor is it helping the delusions and hallucinations.

I am going to edit this now and get to bed in hopes that my presence will help.  There is no good reason to hope it will help, but I am too tired to stay up any longer.  I guess interrupted sleep is better than no sleep.

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As I traveled in the car coming back from my Renewal Retreat, I thought about how the transition back to my role as the full time Caregiver would go.  Having done retreats before, I knew that once I was in the door, there would be little chance to ease back into the demands.   Having realistic expectations about the transition back to Caregiving duties has helped me very much in the last years. 

It is actually unreasonable to expect the person who has been left at home to be anxious to celebrate the wonderful experience you have had away from him/her.  As Caregivers it is important for us to try to put ourselves in the place of our Carereceiver who does not have the luxury of going on a retreat and enjoying some solitude, doing things for the sake of renewal, things they can no longer do. 

Sometimes the very things we do to help maintain our equilibrium so that we can continue to be good Caregivers make our Loved One’s jealous.  How could it be otherwise.  We are the people closest to them.  We are the ones they depend on for all their needs.  They would love to be able to take care of themselves.  They would love to take some time to do the things that used to bring them joy.  They would love to get away on their own just to enjoy themselves.  They can’t any longer.  Our freedom, however limited we may feel it to be, can be for them a painful reminder of the freedom they have lost. 

As a result, sometimes Caregivers don’t hear the words of appreciation for all they do, words they would like to hear.  Sometimes Caregivers receive some passive aggressive indications that they are not appreciated.  Sometimes Caregivers feel as if their Loved Ones resent them instead of appreciate them.  Sometimes they do resent us, whether it is fair or not for them to do so.

I have taken over the kitchen duties from Mary Ann.  Her way of responding if anyone asks about cooking is to say, “Theywon’t let me in the kitchen any more.”  She says it with a tone that sounds blaming.  It is the way she expresses her frustration that she has lost one of her most meaningful activities, one from which she got lots a positive feedback and satisfaction.

When the Grandchilren come and visit, there are hugs and kisses for both Grandma and Grandpa, but I am the one who can respond to the Grandchilren, who can talk with them and read to them and play with them.  The attention they give me is hard for Mary Ann to see.  It is another reminder to her of what she has lost. 

When people visit for any reason, her words are few or barely audible due to the progression of the Parkinson’s Disease.  I am the one who engages in conversation.  She has always been the entertaining one who had the smart-aleck comments to make.   She still has that wicked sense of humor and will get you when you least expect it.  Those who know her well still enjoy her sense of humor.  Now, her thoughts don’t always translate into audible words quickly enough to keep up with many conversations.   Of course, she gets frustrated and a little jealous.   

Caregivers are the ones who are the most accessible when Carereceivers need to vent their frustrations.  Their limitations are highlighted by anything we do, especially anything that was in their territory before the chronic illness took its toll. 

We feel hurt that we are doing so much for them but are not appreciated adequately for it.   One of the tasks that comes with caring for someone we love is to allow them to express their frustration, yes, even at us.  We are only human, so it does hurt when it happens.  The real culprit here is the chronic disease, in our case, the Parkinson’s.  While resentment and hurt feelings are a part of the Caregiver/Carereceiver relationship, it is the third member of the relationship, the chronic disease that is the source of the frustrations. 

In our best moments, we can talk about the frustrations and the jealousies and the hurt feelings and the lost freedoms.  My goal in keeping my equilibrium in the face of what the Parkinson’s has tried to steal from us is to match expectations with reality.  If I am constantly expecting Mary Ann to behave in a way that caresses my ego as a noble Caregiver, when she does not, my feelings are hurt, I am disappointed, and even more frustrated by all the difficult tasks associated with that Caregiving.  When I remember what has been taken from her, how hard it is for her to accept that she cannot do almost all of the things that formerly brought her satisfaction, when I remember what she has lost, it is easier to accept the times her frustrations come my way. 

It isn’t fair, it is just what it is.   Yes, there are sometimes hurt feelings and misplaced frustrations.  It comes with the territory.   The goal is to recognize the real culprit and refuse to allow that culprit to damage our relationship.

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.