This is the person whose Autonomic Nervous System has not been able to maintain a consistent level of blood pressure for the last few years.  It has vacillated up and down and down and up again.  Now the pressure gauge in her body seems to be stuck on high.

After consistently high blood pressure readings yesterday (see last night’s post), this morning at 2am I decided to take her blood pressure.  We spent a couple of hours up most of the time between 1am and 3am.  At 2am it was 200/105.  I decided to take a reading this morning when she first got up so that I could decide whether or not to give her the morning dose of Midodrine.  The Midodine raises her blood pressure to keep her from fainting from the Orthostatic Hypotension — sudden drop in blood pressure when standing, resulting in fainting, what the doctors call syncope.

Her blood pressure reading at 8:45am was 220/120.  Needless to say, I chose not to give her this morning’s dose of Midodrine.  I will keep track of her blood pressure and phone the Cardiologist tomorrow if it is still stuck at such a high level.  Actually, I will call no matter what to report this long stretch of high BP and ask if there is something that would be safe for me to give her to lower it when it is this high.  I also need to try to take her BP when she is standing to see if it lowers then or remains high.  At the Cardiologist’s office last Thursday, her BP was consistently measuring higher than yesterday and today’s numbers here at home even when we stood her up and ARNP Angela measured it.

Last night was not an easy one at least for part of the night.  I went to bed very early for me.  By around midnight or a little later, she started getting up, disturbed by the people.  At one point she wanted to get up and out of bed for a while to get rid of the people in her head.  I was encouraged by the way she said that, realizing (or saying for my benefit) that they were in her head, not actually in the house.

I reacted differently from the past when I have gotten irritated and insistent with her.  I encouraged her and helped her lie down, reminding her that staying awake would make them worse instead of better.  Each time she lay down, I returned to my bed but stayed awake, listening intently to her.  Whenever I heard her mumbling or moving around, I asked if I could help.  In some cases I went over at talked with her a bit.  At one point when I was in bed, she asked what the man was doing in my bed, meaning me.  I reminded her who I was.  It was odd that she seemed to be talking to me but at the same time about me as if I was someone else.  I assume it is a version of the Capgras Delusion I have talked about in earlier posts — the perception that a person has been substituted for another (as in the body snatcher movies).

I stayed awake most of the time for about an hour and a half as we interacted off and on.  Then she settled and slept through until morning, other than the usual commode trips.

I got up earlier than usual this morning so that I could get ready for going to the 11am worship service.  When Mary Ann got up, she asked what we were doing today.  I helped her tune in to the fact that it was Sunday, and that I was planning for us to go to the 11am service, then out to eat at the Brick Oven, and watch the Super Bowl later in the day.

When eating the yogurt, drinking juice and taking pills, she was in eyes-tightly-shut mode.  I needed to feed her again this morning.  When I offered the usual options for cereal, instead of picking one, she said she was tired and wanted to lie down.  She was pretty unstable from the time she got out of bed.

I did make a point of weighing her to see if she is retaining fluid.  Her feet have been swollen the last couple of days, including this morning. Her weight was almost exactly the same as it had been the last time she weighed herself on that scale.  I will continue to monitor that as long as her feet remain swollen.

After she made a trip to the bathroom, when I asked her if she still wanted to lie down, she said her stomach hurt and, yes, she wanted to lie down.  She was concerned about lying down, knowing that I wanted to go to church.  Those words and actions, stomach hurting and wanting to lie down, usually asssociate with intestinal activity at some point. I knew that major intestinal activity would be far easier to deal with here at home than at church.  There would have been no way to manipulate her into going at that point, nor would it have made sense to try given those circumstances.  It is now well past the time church would have started and she is still sleeping.  I am sitting here at the computer with my suit pants on.  I guess it is time to change into stay at home clothes.

She slept for about four hours.  I should have gotten her up at some point to go to the bathroom.  Even though she had a night time disposable, it leaked. The bedding needed changing anyway.  The PJ’s and bedding are in the washer. I waited a little longer than I should have to give her a pill and get her up since I had ended up sitting down and reading, listening to the waterfall and birds in the back yard through the speaker made to bring outdoor sounds in.  Last night’s time up with Mary Ann caught up with me and I wanted to have some extra time just to rest.  She called for me soon after the time her med timer had gone off.

I took her blood pressure when she got up.  The reading was 165/105, not good but better than earlier in the day.  I cooked a bratwurst at her request.  Bratwurst and chips sounds like good Super Bowl Sunday food.  She handled the bite-sized slices of bratwurst on her own, as well as the dish of ice cream from the supply we bought at the store yesterday.

After lunch I asked her if she was willing to let me check her blood pressure while she was standing.  It was considerably lower, 130/80.  It was a little harder to hear clearly through the stethoscope since she was moving some.  It may have been a little higher than that, but certainly not lower.  When she has had problems with fainting, her BP has been very much lower than that when standing, and sometimes sitting.  Both numbers have been under a hundred.  The time she took the Tilt Table test at the hospital to verify that she had Orthostatic Hypotension, as soon as the table moved her from a lying position to 70% of a standing position, her BP dropped from a high reading, to 50/30.  A few minutes later she fainted.  I will keep checking her BP, but I would rather have a little fainting than allow it to stay as high as it has been the last few days.

A few minutes ago she showed me her glasses.  The ear piece on one side had come out of the hinge completely.  It will need to be reglued — hopefully possible.  We will take it in tomorrow.  I can only guess that spending so much time with her head down on the dining room table or the little table in front of her chair has resulted in loosening that ear piece.  I finally found an old pair of glasses she could use in the mean time.  It was almost comical in a sad sort of way that I found two old pairs that were not useable since she had fallen on them, in each case scratching one of the lenses so that it is completely useless. One of those falls took her to the Emergency Room with a giant hematoma on her forehead the size of her fist.

At suppertime Mary Ann’s blood pressure measured 165/95, again, too high, but not as high as this morning.  She struggled to eat supper and refused to allow me to help.  The last time I offered and she refused, I asked her why she wouldn’t let me help.  She was completely shut down, her face almost in the plate, getting nothing into her mouth.  Her answer was, “It is all I have left.”

She went to bed at about 7pm, watched the game from there, took her pills.  It was not long after that that she needed a snack — no surprise since she had eaten very little at supper.  She seems to be sleeping at the moment.  That, of course, can change at any time.

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Hallucinations ruled until about 1am or so last night.  Then she slept through with only one or two commode trips until around 11:15am this morning.  I didn’t get up unitl 9:30am.  Nothing ever stays the same.  Yesterday that was not a good thing.  Today it was a good thing.  She gave very little indication of having hallucinations.  She was awake most of the day until she went to bed tonight at about 8pm.  I will not presume to guess what tonight will have to offer.

After Mary Ann got up and took pills with some yogurt, we began talking about lunch already.  I suggested the possibility of going out, listing a few of her favorite spots.  She did not really seem interested.  I am wondering if the need for me to help her eat is beginning to diminish her interest in eating in public.  Some point at which she seems especially sharp, I will ask her about that issue.

I offered to make scrambled eggs and bacon.  She took me up on that offer.  As I was getting the eggs out, I noticed the untouched left over baked potato from a couple of days ago. I realized that would make great fried potatoes.  About a thousand dirty pans, dishes, pieces of silverware, cooking utensils, and bowls later, I delivered Mary Ann, two scrambled eggs, seasoned with parsley flakes, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, covered with shredded cheese that had melted on top, home made bread (Maureen’s) toasted and buttered, fried potatoes and onions, two slices of thick bacon, all served on a warm plate.

Have I gone crazy???  It all started with sighting that potato.  Then I fried some eggs for myself, which I covered with the wonderful Peach Salsa that I order by the case from Texas.  From the time I started cooking to the end of cleaning the thousand dirty items or putting them into the dishwasher, wiping off the stove and counter, must have been close to two hours.  This cooking business with all the accompanying cleaning up duties remains on the outer edge of my domestic capabilities.

Gratefully, Maureen had brought for the freezer some very tasty vegetable beef soup to go with the home made bread.  That was supper.  Mary Ann needed help with that, as well as some help with the two scoops of ice cream from B&R that we had picked up from there on the way home from the late afternoon doctor’s appointment.

While our visits are usually with the Cardiologisit himself, today we met with Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner [ARNP] Angela .  She had seen Mary Ann once when she was in the hospital last fall.  She knows her case well. It was especially comforting to hear from her that they (she and the Cardiologist) often talk about our situation.  They appreciate that we are traveling a very narrow road of functionality, playing meds that do opposite things against one another to get a result that allows us to survive.

It was scary today when three blood pressure readings at different times in the appointment all were in the mid-200’s over the low 100’s, even when she was standing.  Because of her Orthostatic Hypotension (low BP when standing up), normally the standing reading is much lower. Not so today.  The fear, of course, is a massive stroke, as well as long term damage to her heart and kidneys.  We all know that.  At home the readings have been in the 160 to 180 over 90 to 100.  If we reduce the Midodrine that Mary Ann takes to raise her BP, she starts fainting.

I am going to reduce the dosage of Midodrine a little (cut the noon pill in half) to see if we can do so without resuming the fainting.  One irony is that the Seroquel we have been raising to reduce the hallucinations, has the side effect of increasing the likelihood of fainting. Another irony is that Mary Ann is taking a heart medication after her heart attacks a few years ago.  That medicine’s purpose is to reduce heart pain by lowering blood pressure.  Another of Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s meds (to reduce the dyskinetic movements caused by another Parkinson’s med, the main one) can cause hallucinations and fainting.  The main Parkinson’s med can cause hallucinations, fainting as well as the dyskinetic movements.  Without that med, Mary Ann cannot move at all.

As the primary Caregiver, it is my job to observe and help inform the doctors prescribing these medicines, since I am with her 24/7.  I have been given permission to adjust the Midodrine and the Sinamet (the main Parkinson’s med) within certain limits as seems appropriate.

The doctors have no clear insight into how much of the problem with hallucinations is caused by medicine and how much by the disease process (Lewy Bodies on brain cells).  They don’t know how much of the fainting problem is the disease process and how much the meds. Both the disease process and the medications produce the constipation, as well as other non-motor symptoms.

My head starts to swim when I try to think through the effects of all the meds with the goal of suggesting a workable balance of all of them.  The truth is, the doctors and pharmacists are no better equipped to find that balance, since they don’t see the effects on a day to day, hour to hour basis.  When we have raised or lowered dosages of meds, Mary Ann has not always reacted the same way in adapting to the change.  Sometimes, as with the Seroquel, the change comes, and then leaves quickly, leaving no clue as to how to proceed.

For whatever reasons, the last part of last night and this morning have included sleep; today Mary Ann was lucid and did not seem to have strong hallucinations; she ate tolerably well and has been sleeping fairly calmly for the last couple of hours.  I have no idea what will come between now and the morning, nor can I even begin to guess what tomorrow will bring.

There is one note I would like to add.  It may change tomorrow.  It is likely to change soon.  Since Sunday morning’s powerful experience, I have not felt angry with Mary Ann at behaviors that frustrated me in the past.  I have been far more accepting of the challenges in caring for her.  The feelings of irritation may return soon, but for the moment, caring for her has been less draining emotionally since I haven’t spent so much time feeling angry and frustrated.

That observation makes me wonder how much of the irritability emerged from simple grief over what the disese has been taking from her and from us for twenty-three years.  Again, there is no predicting how I will feel tomorrow or the next day about behaviors that have been frustrating to me in the past.  For the moment, there is a peace and a calm that has been missing for a long time.

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It is just too soon to tell.  Mary Ann is now taking two medicines to help control the fainting due to low blood pressure when standing (Orthostatic Hypotension).  One is the standard med prescribed to control the bouts with fainting, Midodrine.  The second is a medicine prescribed off-label for helping control the BP.

I just read a post on the online of Spouse Caregivers of those with Lewy Body Dementia.  That post had specifics about their larger dose of the new med.  I have been thinking lately just how helpful it has been to be a part of that online group.

The group is a place where those who are in the throes of very difficult caregiving can vent without judgment.  In fact the opposite of judgment comes.  There are words of acceptance, affirmation of the validity of the feelings of those venting. Everyone in the group understands the crazy ups and downs that come with this disease.

Reading the many hundreds of posts over the last year or two has helped me handle things that might have frustrated me more had I not known what to expect.  I knew not only from past experience but from the group that the aftermath of the hospital stay might be a problem.

We can ask one another how her/his Loved One reacted to a particular medicine or dosage of that med.  Even alternative medications can be discovered in the posts.  There are some who see a particular doctor at the Mayo Clinic who specializes in Lewy Body Dementia.

We can talk with one another about waste management issues without having any concern for speaking in an indelicate way.  There are things that can be shared there that would not be appropriate in a blog like this.  We can talk in ways that might scare those who were not going through this particular challenge.

One thing I have gained by reading those online posts is perspective on Mary Ann’s and my situation.  The struggles of some in the group are beyond imagination.   We are among those who have been dealing with Parkinson’s the longest, but others have been dealing with the dementia much longer than we have.  Not all the spouses have Parkinson’s, but all have some form of Lewy Body Dementia or a related diagnosis.  For some the dementia has reached the last stages, where we are in the mid-range of the usual progression of the disease.  With that said, the truth is, the disesase vacillates so dramatically, that most of us have seen earlier and later stages of the disease in our Loved One’s at various times – with no warning that a change for the better or for the worse was coming.

With the perspective of the reading those posts, I celebrate how much we are still able to do, the quality of life still available to us.

Mary Ann did reasonably well today.  We slept a little later this morning, a good thing for both of us.  The morning routine is pretty time consuming, leaving too short a time to allow us to participate in a morning filled with activity at church, including a Pancake Breakfast.  We did benefit from some leftovers brought over early in the afternoon.  When she was up in the morning before her nap, she was not at her best.  There were many times that she had her eyes tightly shut as we tried to walk to and from the bathroom.

Mary Ann actually ended up in bed late in the morning for a couple of hours of napping.  After eating some of the leftovers, we went out in the car for a while, ending up with ice cream.  Our first choice for ice cream this afternoon has gone out of business, Maggie Moo’s.  The format is the same as Coldstone Creamery, only with much better quality ice cream.  We ended up at Sonic.

She was pretty alert this afternoon, and headed to bed sometime around 7pm or 7:30pm.  She has been a little restless, but as always, I am hoping for a restful night for both of us.

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I think it was around 3am that Mary Ann finally settled.  Then, we were up pretty early again in anticipation of the Bath Aide.  Mary Ann has done no napping today, and she did not go to bed early.  Some days she can sleep well at night, then have a couple of two or three hour naps during the day.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when there is lots of sleeping and when there is very little.

When there has been little sleep, I appreciate that I am retired and have no major public responsibilities that would be impacted by my sleep deprivation.  I guess driving is a public responsibility.  If you see a dark colored Honda van coming down the street, give it wide berth.  The driver may be dozing.

Today has turn into a domestic duty day.  It was not planned that way, a couple of things just converged on the day. Both the medication that thin her blood (aspirin and Plavix) and the mucous production increase on account of the Autonomic Nervous System being impacted by the Parkinson’ s and Parkinson’s Dementia, combine to create the need often to change the bedding.  Today was not the usual day to change bedding, but I noticed that even the mattress pad that is protected by two chux had some stains on it.

I got out a new mattress pad and put the dirty one in the downstairs utility sink along with stained bedding, and a two or three ladles of Oxyclean.  After soaking a few hours,  and then running it through the washing machine, it is all in the dryer at the moment.

Then the weather for today and tomorrow allowed working on a much dreaded task. The Ceramic tile floor in the bathroom is a dangerous weapon in a household with someone who has both balance and fainting problems.   After a nasty fall and subequent trip to the Emergency Room, followed by a couple of hours with the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist trying to get the bleeding stopped, I realized that the tile floor needed something to soften a fall.

I found something called Snaplock, twelve inch squares of mesh made of a strong and supple plastic mesh.  The squares snap together.  The colors were nice and the squares were easy to put together.  The squares are impregnated with something to reduce the mold.  Of course the squares must be taken up and cleaned a few times a year.  The weather is important, since the tiles get washed in the driveway, and dried in the sun.  I scrub them with an old broom after spraying them liberally with spray cleaners that kill mold as well as cleaning the tiles.  They then air dry.  They are on the driveway tonight.  I will leave them there and bring them in after the sun has done its work.

The hardest cleaning task actually is cleaning the ceramic tile that has been covered by the mesh squares.  Mold eventually grows under the tiles.  There is lots of spraying (Tilex and Clorox Cleaner), scrubbing with the broom, and rinsing that has to be done.  It is certainly worth the effort to have the protection on the ceramic floor.  Any Caregiver whose Loved One is subject to falling needs to be sure and cover ceramic tile with something safer.  Gratefully, the Snaplock tiles come in very nice colors, so the result after putting them down is not unappealing.

Blood Pressure update:  Now that I have reduced in half the Midodrine in preparation for starting the new medicine, Mestinon, I am trying to track her BP more closely.  Sitting down at the table earlier in the day, her BP was 107/65.  Tonight while lying down I tried taking it with the electonic meter.  It would not read her BP but gave an error message.  That usually means it is too high for the machine to measure.  When I took her BP by hand, it was 240/120.  There was no doubt about when the beat started and stopped while listening with the stethoscope since the beat was so strong.

That is another example of just how dramatically her BP jumps between high and  low.  Tomorrow morning I plan to add the generic Mestinon.  I hope it works.  I don’t know how long it takes to reach the therapeutic dosage. We will just wait and see what effect, if any, the new medicine has.

As always, we will see what tomorrow brings.

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Noma called this morning and asked if she and Herb could bring over a couple of bottles of Herb’s home made wine.  For a number of years, Herb has provided home made wine for the Thanksgiving Communion services at the congregation from which I retired.  He makes very good tasting wine.  Herb and Noma also brought a little meatloaf that Noma had made, and some home made peanut brittle.

The week started with Jan bringing with her a very tasty Mexican chicken pie on Sunday when she came to spend time with Mary Ann.  Then early in the week Mary brought by a large container of soup made using the Olive Garden recipe for their Pasta E Fagioli.  Jeanne came over for a part of the day today and brought a Quiche from Copper Oven, along with a piece of pie from there for each of us.  Mary Ann’s pie was one of her absolute favorites, Lemon Meringue.  Tomorrow, Mary is going to bring us some pork loin and dressing.

So much of the time Mary Ann is forced to eat my culinary creations, which I just decided to dub, Pastor Pete’s Pottage.  Mercifully, the pottage is interspersed with Glory Day’s pizza slices, Bobo’s burgers, Perkin’s pancakes and a variety of take out foods.  This week Mary Ann is eating like a Queen.  I, of course, am not wanting for good food either, since she needs help in consuming it all.

When food is brought to us, as it has been this week, very often it is brought with the instructions that it can be put in the freezer (or some portion of it) to be enjoyed at some time in the near future.

One of the best things about the food this week is that it is coming at a time when I have been concerned about getting more calories in so that she can stop losing weight.  Convincing her to let me feed her is not always an easy task, but she has let me do so here at home more often.  When I help her, she eats much more.  She has been eating very well with all the good food that has been appearing at our home. We weighed her this afternoon and found that she had gained back about a pound, after having dropped five pounds.

At lunch today, Mary Ann age a full quarter of the Quiche, followed by that very large piece of Lemon Meringue pie.  With my help feeding her, she ate every crumb of both.  She had eaten a good breakfast, the usual yogurt, juice and a large bowl of Shredded Wheat Mini-bites.

She was very tired today.  Yesterday, she got up fairly early and then went back to bed for a relatively short nap.  She ate well and was up the rest of the day.  Today, after the good breakfast, she really shut down and needed a nap.  Shortly after Herb and Noma came by followed by Jeanne’s arrival, Mary Ann got up and was up the rest of the day.

There was one episode that moved me to go ahead and increase the Midodrine that raises her blood pressure.  Between the Quiche and the piece of pie, as she was sitting in the chair at the table, she just went out, had a fainting spell.  I managed to take her blood pressure after she came out of it.  Her BP was 100/60.  That is pretty low for just sitting in a chair.  It sometimes drops lower than that, much lower, when she stands up.  (One time during a tilt table test at the hospital, it dropped to 50/30, when she was moved from lying down to 70% of the way to standing upright.)  When she is lying down it is often as high as 180 or more, over 105 or more.

I have changed out the pills in her daily pill containers so that the dose of Midodrine will return to the pre-hospital stay level.  I have also printed from the Internet an article by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a component of the National Institutes of Health.  The article describes a study of a drug named pyridostigmine (brand name, Mestinon), which seems to help the problem of Orthostatic Hypotension (low blood pressure when standing) without raising the patient’s blood pressure when lying down.  The drug’s intended use is to treat myasthenia gravis.  This is an off-label use of the drug.  The study concluded that a low dose of Midodrine combined with therapeutic dose of Mestinon was able to control the Orhostatic Hypotension in most of the subjects.

I will fax or mail or take the article to our Cardiologist to see what he thinks of the idea of trying this new approach.  Our Neurologist, a nationally known authority on the treatment of Parkinson’s, had suggested the option of using Mestinon when the problem of fainting got so much worse last summer.  The goal, of course, is to gain a manageable quality of life without raising her BP to a long term harmful level.

At the moment, Mary Ann seems to be sleeping soundly.  We will hope for a good night.  The weather is supposed to be great tomorrow.  Maybe we can get out of the house for a while.

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Twice today Mary Ann fainted.  She has not done so in many weeks.  The fainting is due to a sudden drop in blood pressure, referred to as Orthostatic Hypotension.  It is another of the systems run by her compromised Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous System.  That system runs the smooth muscles, such as those that create the peristaltic movement that keeps everything moving through the alimentary canal (esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon).  It also runs the smooth muscles that cause our arteries to constrict when we stand up, raising our blood pressure to compensate for the pull of gravity.

That was a lot of technical language that simply means that people with Mary Ann’s version of Parkinson’s and Dementia are often constipated and often faint after getting up from a sitting or lying position.  In both cases today, Mary Ann fainted when on the toilet stool, after trying to get up.  Having watched this at close range for so many years, it was clear to me that both syncopal episodes (medical term for fainting is syncope) happened when a dose of her generic Sinamet kicked in.  When it kicks in her body starts involuntary wavy motions called Dyskinesias.  Sinamet (Carbidopa-Levadopa) is the main medication that treats Parkinson’s.  It is the same medication that has been used for decades.  Most of the newer meds just help the Sinamet do its job better.

During the hospital stay, I suggested lowering her dosage in half of the medicine (Midodrine) that raises her blood pressure to keep her from fainting.  Last summer we doubled the dosage when the fainting got out of hand and was reducing dramatically our quality of life. That medication and the higher BP slowly damages the heart, reducing its flexibility.  Her heart is enlarging, stiffening, her kidneys are being damaged.  If we eliminate the Midodrine, it might add a little time, but the time would be of little quality.  The goal of my suggestion of lowering the dosage is to find a middle ground that gives us the best we can get of both longevity and quality.

I am not yet ready to raise the dosage of Midodrine.  If the fainting comes only when the Sinamet kicks in, I think we can manage the problem.  If the fainting increases to the level it was last summer (multiple protracted fainting spells, sometimes even just when sitting in her chair) we will need to increase the Midodrine back to the full dosage.  We will do what is necessary when it becomes necessary.  Gratefully, the Cardiologist and Neurologist understand the problem and have given Mary Ann and I the freedom to adjust the two meds (Sinamet and Midodrine) within a prescribed range as we determine appropriate.  I am grateful for the latitude in dosing, and I also feel the weight of that responsibility.

The day continues: Mary Ann slept until about 2pm.  I got her some lunch.  She did reasonably well at feeding herself.  She still is not eating enough.  I convinced her to let me help her with some cake after lunch.  She kept putting the fork to her cheek instead of to her mouth.  She was resisting my help, but eventually I was able to get most of it in her mouth  She managed a snack of ice cream later.

We got to the grocery store!  I was hoping we could get it done.  Since she is in the wheel chair, mobility is not an issue when going to the grocery.  I push her with one hand and pull the grocery cart behind with the other.  It is a little tough on my wrists, especially when she drops her feet to the floor and I am pushing against rubber soles on a tile floor.  Years ago, she used one of the motorized carts.  We gave that up.  There were too many displays put at risk by a driver with spatial issues.

We brought home Sesame Chicken from the Chinese counter in the store, so supper went pretty well.  She went to bed at about 7pm and has been sleeping pretty soundly since.  The first couple of hours after she goes to bed are usually pretty good. I will continue this post tomorrow with a report on how the night went (way more information than any who read this blog actually want or need).

Next day (Friday):  The night wasn’t too bad, but it was another early morning with multiple trips to the commode in the wee hours of the morning and finally up before 7pm.

She ate a good breakfast with my help on the bowl of cereal.  After a while in her chair she wanted to get dressed.  Immediately after getting dressed, she got back in bed for a nap.  That was about two and a half hours ago.  She did get up once for a trip to the bathroom.

The issue of fainting continues to be a concern.  She said that she has been dizzy the last couple of days.  That is usually from the low BP.  I tried to take her blood pressure while she was lying in bed this morning, but it didn’t register on the electronic monitor.  That usually means it is too high for it to measure.  BP is usually highest when lying down, since the heart is not pumping against gravity.

While she hasn’t actually fainted today, she came close to it once when I was trying to get her to the bathroom.  She also has seemed to be dizzy at least a couple more times.  I suspect that the switch to the higher dose of Midodrine will be needed.  I am giving it another day to be sure.

The day continues:  After getting up from her nap, I discovered something mightily irritating.  We had to start using new disposable underwear today.  Kroger’s generic has worked very well for us.  They have just discontinued the combination male/female one for new gender specific ones.  The same size and weight as we used before, but in the new female version managed to leak.  It happened twice.  All her jeans had to be washed.

I can only conclude that someone in the Kroger braintrust decided that it would be better for sales if they marketed gender specific disposables.  That would be fine if they had bothered to make them in a way that actually accomplished their purpose.  To those of us who use them, it is no small inconvenience.  The small amount it took to leak the two times it happened today suggest that a long nap or a long time between trips to the commode during the night would provide enough leakage to demand changing the bedding and washing the linens, as well as whatever she was wearing.

I took them back to the store, got my money back and bought the Depend’s brand in hopes that they will work better.  Even though they also are gender specific, the appear to be constructed in a way more like the generic male/female ones we were using.  The Depend’s brand, of course are $12 and change versus the $9 and change price for the generics.  We buy three or four packages every time we go to the store.  There goes the grocery budget.  We will soon determine if the Depend’s are adequate to the task.

The good news is that I found part of a package of the old generic ones in the bathroom closet.  Hopefully that will get us through until tomorrow.  I change the disposables often to protect against urinary tract infections.

Mary Ann was up for a while this afternoon, after her long nap.  She ate a good lunch, lots of left over Sesame Chicken and a huge piece of cake with ice cream.  We were able to run a number of errands with her in the car while I did the errands.  She is now down for her third nap.  It didn’t begin until almost 5pm.  It is now almost 7:30pm.  She has had no supper.  I don’t think there is a chance there will be much sleeping tonight.

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Her head is hanging over the side of the transfer chair resting on the table next to it.  I suggested that she go to bed, but she insisted on staying there for another half hour.  That half hour will be up in a few minutes.  I wlll take a break and get her into bed in a moment.

After a restless beginning last night, sleep finally came and stuck around.  There were only a few commode trips after she finally settled.  She chose to sleep in until about 9:45am.  That rest seemed to help her alertness and responsiveness.  She has often put her head down on the table today.  I think the restless nights and early mornings have finally caught up with her.

I am heading off to get her to bed now.

She is in bed and already appears to be asleep.  It is too early to tell, but I certainly hope she sleeps well.  She needs the rest.

When the phone rang this morning it was the call I was expecting from the Cardiologist’s Nurse.  She had in hand the reports from the echocardiogram, the carotid sonogram and her blood work.

The call was another encounter with realities that are not visible.  Probably the most serious concern is the increase in the severity of her Pulmonary Hypertension.  That is the disease that took the lives of those who had taken the diet medication called Phen-Fen (sometimes designated in reverse, Fen-Phen).  Pulmonary Hypertension has been a part of the array of Mary Ann’s diseases for the last two to three years.  It is a funcion of the high blood pressure, which is, of course, raised by the Midodrine.  Any treatment would involve medications to reduce her blood pressure, bringing on the return and probably increasing the frequency of the fainting spells.

As last summer’s posts reveal, the fainting spells lower dramatically our ability to function.  Gratefully, both Mary Ann’s Cardiologist and her Neurologist understand the dilemma well and respect our decisions on how to proceed.

As I mentioned a number of posts back when reflecting on the report we had received on her blood work, her kidney function also has declined in the last six months.  She is now only one point away from Stage 4 (of 5 stages) of Chronic Kidney Disease.  A couple of years ago, her Nephrologist agreed that any treatment would lower her blood pressure, creating the same problem as the treatment for the Pulmonary Hypertension.

The Cardiologist’s Nurse said that the lesion in her left Carotid is still not past the 50% mark, which is the point at which the need for surgery comes into play.  She mentioned that there is a build up on her right side also.  I don’t remember whether that has been mentioned before.

The Nurse confirmed that there is leakage in more than one heart valve, including the Mitrovalve.  That regurgitation seems to have worsened some, but the language of the tests was not clear on that issue.  At our last appointment with the Cardiologist six months ago, the leakage was not bad enough for the surgery option to be up for consideration. There are also enlarged chambers in the heart, especially the left Atrium.  That problem has worsened.

All of the above has been factored into our consciousness at some point already in the past.  Hearing the results of the tests bring it all to the surface.  My questions always probe the rate of change.  This set of test results seem to indicate a more pronounced decline that in the past.

I plan to fax the Neurologist to probe further any treatment options for the fainting that might not raise the blood pressure.  At one point he mentioned an off label use of a drug called Mestinon.  The Cardiologist was unfamiliar with it and unwilling to prescribe it at that point.  I may try to get them to talk with one another about that or other options.  Getting doctors to talk with one another is not always an easy thing to accomplish.  They are both good doctors — maybe it can happen.

On the matter of the quality of life and the health of this Caregiver, the power of the Alien possession is now getting scary.  This is the Alien from planet Pedometer Prime who, as in the movie the Body Snatchers, is trying to change me into some sort of walking, exercising pawn.  This will frighten you.  Mary Ann and I made an afternoon run to the store for something.  Afterward, I offered to get some ice cream.  We went to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard for a what they call a concrete.  The one of choice is made with chocolate frozen custard with pecans mixed in.

Here is the terrifying development.  As we approached Sheridan’s, the Alien simply took possession and overpowered my will to eat ice cream.  Those of you who know me well (or have been following this blog) understand just how horrible this was.  I got Mary Ann a concrete as described.  Then the Alien took over the car and drove it to Cedarcrest where I walked the path while Mary Ann ate her treat.  It is a miracle we made it safely.  I certainly had no control over that car or, at the very least, we would have veered left at 17th and headed for Maggie Moo’s.

If that is not horrifying enough, the Alien had already forced me out to walk in the neighborhood early (for me) this morning while Mary Ann slept.  Keep alert, you never know when one of those Aliens will try to take you over too!!

By the way, Mary Ann actually said she liked what I made for supper tonight.  There were a couple of pork chops in the fridge recently thawed and needing to be cooked.  We had some red potatoes, onions and fresh broccoli in the there also.  I cut up the potatoes and veggies and put them on a foil covered cooking sheet (I hate cleaning pans).  We had some Hendrickson’s dressing and marinade that we have used in the past and liked.  I tossed the veggies in it.  Then to make the food preparation easier, I put the pork chops in a baking dish and covered them with the same marinade.  Both dishes went in the oven (375) for almost an hour.  I really liked the meal, but then I like everything.  Mary Ann only ate the meat, but volunteered at one point that it was good.  There is such a feeling of victory when something has passed muster with those finicky taste buds!

Just in case the Alien attacks again in the morning, I had better settle in for the night and get some rest.

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