About 4am Mary Ann was up.  Then again once an hour until a little before 8am when we got up for the day.  There was some of the intensity that can develop into hallucinations and hyperactivity, but this time it did not get out of hand.

I suggested that after I wash her hair we should head to Perkin’s, where she always orders some pancakes and a couple of slices of bacon.  She liked the idea.  She did have juice and yogurt with her pills as usual, just not the bowl of cereal.  It took a while to get the morning chores done today, so it wasn’t until about noon that we actually headed to Perkin’s.  Then we headed to the grocery.  Even though I had a list, we ended up with more than intended.  Gratefully, it was all things that we routinely use.

During the morning, I began taking her blood pressure every hour or so.  Her blood pressure had been so high and the Cardiologist’s office on Thursday that it was pretty concerning.  Her morning meds included a whole Midodrine tablet with the purpose of keeping her BP up so that she doesn’t faint, on account of the Orthostatic Hypotension that has given her such difficulty.

I started at 8:17am, 220/115.  Then ranging from one hour to three and a half hours apart after that her blood pressure measured, 200/110; 160/85; 185/100; 200/100; 200/105.  I took it one other time when it the systolic was 200, but I didn’t get the diastolic.

I could not bring myself to give her even 1/2 of a Midodrine tablet for her midday and suppertime doses.  I know it is not good to stop meds cold turkey, but it just seemed crazy to give her meds that raise her BP when it was already dangerously high.  One thing that caught my ear was the Cardiologist’s ARNP mentioning the fear of a massive stroke.  I had mentioned that Mary Ann already had a stroke.  Angela responded immediately with that concern.  Mary Ann’s stroke was not a bleed, but a cluster stroke (bits of plaque, probably from the ulcerated lesion on her carotid artery).  Nonetheless, it is hard to accept blood pressure that high without major concern.

The last couple of days there has been some swelling of her feet.  She has not had that problem very often.  When she has had swelling it has gone down the next day.  Two days in a row catches my attention. She has not had the heaviness in her chest and the ARNP, Angela, did not hear any crackling in her lungs, the sign of problems with fluid build up.  I need to remember to weigh Mary Ann in the morning to see if she has gained any weight.  That is another of the signs of potential congestive heart failure.

Today, the hallucinations have emerged a bit.  When she started eating tonight’s two scoops of Baskin & Robbins, she asked Ashy if she wanted any.  She saw our youngest Granddaughter sitting in the transfer chair a couple of feet away from her. That Granddaughter is currently living in Kentucky, not in our dining room.

One of the choices we have to make for the remodel/addition of a Sun Room at the back of our town home will be vertical blinds to cover twelve feet of glass for the sake of privacy.  Stacey brought a sample book of blinds that seem ideal.  Mary Ann has gotten in her mind that there is another sort of blind that would be better.  The problem is, it does not exist.  She looked through the latest Martha Stewart magazine and has become convinced that she sees there what we should choose.  She said there are many examples throughout the magazine.  I paged through the entire magazine with her. There were a couple of pages that had what she decided she liked.  They were pictures of an open porch with no blinds, just greenery, vines and bushes in the yard the porch is overlooking.  Then on another page she pointed to some large pictures of pink and red nail polish she said were the weights at the bottom of the blinds.

I could do nothing but tell her that we could not find blinds that exist only in her mind but do not exist in a way that we could actually buy and install.  This one is going to be tough.  I have absolutely no doubt that as long as we live, she will  routinely mention that we did not get the blinds she wanted for those windows and sliding glass doors.

Mary Ann’s ability to feed herself simply was gone today.  At breakfast, I assisted her as she worked to get the pills into her mouth.  I fed her the yogurt and held the cup and straw to her mouth.  At the restaurant at lunch, after I buttered them, cut the pancakes into bite sized pieces and put syrup on them, she got the fork in her hand with my help and was determined to eat the meal herself.  After an interminable amount of time, in which I had long since eaten my entire meal, she was still frozen in place with her hand lying in the pancakes, holding her fork wwith her head down near the plate.  On occasion she tried to get the pancakes up to and into her mouth, but no pancakes ever remained on the fork long enough to make it in.

I offered to help a number of times.  A couple of times I moved her hand with the fork in it so that some pieces were stuck on the fork.  She still could not seem to get them to her mouth.  Finally, she agreed to let me put each fork full into her mouth.  I did the same with the bacon, and with the straw in her Coke.  She ate most of the food on the plate.

At supper at home the same thing happened, she could not get the food to her mouth.  What seems strange to me is that she refused to let me help her even though we were in a completely private setting.  She ate almost nothing.  When I returned with the ice cream from B&R, she could not manage that on her own either.  After a while she did let me help her eat the ice cream.  I can only guess that she really likes pancakes, bacon and ice cream, so she allowed my help.  She was not so fond of the ham and cheesy potatoes at supper, so she was not so motivated to accept the help.

After getting back from the grocery this afternoon, I worked on filling the pill containers for the week, while Mary Ann watched television.  Her head was hanging on her lap much of the time.  One of the times I came over to help her sit up, she said one of the things that always triggers feelings of guilt and some helplessness.  I don’t remember her words exactly, but message was: I am bored sitting here all the time doing nothing but watching television, and I am just wasting away.  The implication was: you aren’t providing me with enough activity and stimulation to provide a decent quality of life for me.

I have talked about this in earlier posts.  I do feel guilty about not providing her with more attention and engagement.  My rationalization is that my life already revolves around her wants and needs all day every day and all night every night.   There are two truths that sort of intertwine as I process what she said.  One is that I really should do more to engage her attention and improve the quality of her days.  The other is that she has Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and there are resulting consequences and limitations that I cannot fix.  I cannot give her the life that has been taken from her by the disease.

One goal in processing this issue is to keep my feet to the fire to try to come up with things that will keep her interest.  My hope was that the lunch out and the trip to the grocery would help.  Tomorrow I hope to get both of us going early enough to make it to the 11am worship service followed by a meal out at a nice restaurant that we both like.  Then later in the day will come the Superbowl.  She loves professional football and will enjoy watching the game.

The other goal in processing this issue is to accept my own flaws and imperfections and let go of the guilt and frustration that I am not doing more.  This has actually been a better than average week in one regard in particular.  I don’t think I have said a cross word to Mary Ann this week, nor have I felt like doing so.  Sunday morning’s experience seems to have had some residual effect.  I have no illusions that the change in attitude will remain, but it has felt good to set Grumpy Caregiver aside for a few days.

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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Count them, twelve prescriptions and three over the counter medicines make up Mary Ann’s daily regimen.  That translates into Mary Ann consuming twenty-one doses of that collection of meds most days. 

One medication is not supposed to be taken with food.  Another that is taken five times a day at two hour intervals, alternating between one half and one full pill, should not be taken with protein.  Another prescription is to be taken every four hours, a whole pill for the first two doses and a half pill for the last.  It is not to be taken too late in the day or if she is going to lie down for a nap (a need that comes without warning).  One pill is taken half in the morning and half at night.  Another is kept in her purse at all times to be used only if there is chest pain that is not diminished by taking a Tums, suggesting that it might be her heart.  She has to lie down to take it so that she doesn’t faint.  One over the counter med is to be mixed with juice or water and taken Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. 

One prescription is intended to raise her blood pressure so that she doesn’t faint.  Another prescription is intended to lower her blood pressure and help control heart pain. 

One prescription, when she first took it immediately after diagnosis, helped her keep movement, rather than freezing up.  It ceased to be helpful after about three years.  After a decade or so hiatus, it was added again to help diminish the extra movements produced as a side effect of the main medicine she takes to keep from freezing up completely.  Those extra movements are what Michael J. Fox often presents.  They are called dyskinetic movements, or dyskinesias. 

Side effects of the two meds that treat the movement disorder aspect of Parkinson’s increase the susceptibility to hallucinations.   The disease process itself of the Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia produce hallucinations.  That means there is also a prescription to help diminish the hallucinations.  That is a medicine which can produce a fatal side effect in the elderly.  You tell me just how old we have to be to qualify for that side effect.

The brain chemistry of Parkinson’s produces depression.  Wouldn’t a person with Parkinson’s have to be crazy not to be depressed once in a while?  There are some prescriptions to help with that chemical imbalance.  The side effect of one is to make Mary Ann sleepy, but some of the others make her restless. There is something added to help her sleep. 

Two of the meds thin her blood and help reduce the likelihood of her having another stroke.  The lesion on her carotid artery has a rough surface — not a good thing.  The list of side effects of most of her medicines includes the matter of dizziness when standing up.   That means they interfere with her autonomic nervous system, reducing her body’s ability to adjust her blood pressure quickly enough when she stands up.  The disease process of the Parkinson’s and Dementia are complicit in that nastiness.  The result of the low blood pressure is that she faints, increasing the likelihood of hitting her head and having another stroke or breaking the skin and producing a major bleed. 

The newest prescription is a patch to be put on her back daily.  It is intended to help her memory and alertness.  It’s main side effect is vomiting.  I can hardly wait!  One additional side effect can be diarrhea, but then listed among the side effects of most of the rest of the meds is constipation.  She, of course, takes a couple of over the counter meds to counteract the constipation.   

I could go on!

Every Saturday my to do list includes filling the pill container, four compartments for each of the seven days.  Mary Ann used to do that for herself.  There was a time when she had even more prescriptions and multiple doses of some of them.  When she was having trouble getting them all organized and in their spots without missing some, she devised a numbering system for the bottles.  By the way, the numbers go up to eighteen, seven more than she has now.  The job of filling the compartments is now mine, but I still use her system.  I have to follow a meticulous routine with bottles set out in certain places on the table if there will be any hope of my getting the job done accurately. 

Once all the compartments are filled, we are ready for the week.  Each morning, one of the day’s containers is snapped out of the holder.  The pills must be distributed into the pill cup for the morning pills, taken with yogurt (with active cultures), juice and maybe cereal.  Pills from the other compartments are transferred into two pill boxes with timers, one set for two hours and the other set for four hours.   The timers beep at ten minutes, five minutes and three minutes before beeping for a full minute to tell us the time has come to take the pill.  It is a miracle that I haven’t thrown then on he floor and stomped on them to stop the endless beeping.  The bed time meds are left for another cup to be set out at the end of the day. 

Do I even need to tell you what the frightening error was that I made one dreary morning a few years ago?  I was sleepy.  I got Mary Ann to the table and filled the morning pill cup — with the night time pills!!!!!  It wasn’t until she was pretty much out of it and back in bed that I discovered what I had done.  I called the Pharmacist and we worked through the implications and what to do.  Gratefully, the doses were all low enough that no damage was done.  After that experience, I now make sure that all the lights are on, my glasses are on, I look at the pill container three or four times, and Mary Ann always counts the pills and examines them carefully before she takes them. 

Every once in a while, someone asks me what I am doing now that I am retired.  After they regain consciousness from my having whacked them up side the head, I explain gently that Caregiving is a full time job. 

The pills are a wonderful gift.  They have helped provide a quality of life we could not enjoy without them.  It is tough to live with them, but we can’t live without them. 

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.