I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer and it is well past midnight.  I thought I was going to just write a couple of sentences of update, but I don’t want to leave wet clothes in the washer overnight.  There will be items that need to come out of the dryer immediately and hung on hangers to keep from getting wrinkled while sitting overnight in the dryer. I will have time to write more than a short update.

When I was a child, I remember routinely finding a plastic bag of wet clothes in the refrigerator to avoid mildew until they could be ironed. The rest hung outside until dry — even in freezing weather.  In rainy or snowy weather they would be hung in the basement to dry.  By the way, Mom ironed everything, of course shirts and blouses and pants and skirts, but also sheets, pillow cases, handkerchiefs, T-shirts and underwear.  I am unable to run the iron.  It is an unfortunate disability that has no cure.

Today Mary Ann got up early and just headed out the door of the bedroom.  By the time she reached the door, I woke from REM sleep containing one of those pastor dreams in which there is a service that I am leading and I am not prepared, or something that I need can’t be found, or I have lost my place in the service book.  I guess I should thank her for ending the dream, but I certainly was not done sleeping.

I moved quickly and got her seated so that I could put on something and take her out for food and pills.  Almost immediately after eating, she agreed to lie down in bed for a while so that I could get a little more sleep.  She ended up sleeping for close to three hours.  I got about an hour and a half more of sleep.

After she got up, I gave her a sandwich for lunch.  Then came some reluctant intestinal activity, needing my assistance.  When that was done, she was very tired again.  She had fainted a couple of times before and after lunch.  She slept again, for about an hour and a half. Oddly, when she awoke, she was convinced that it was early in the morning.  It was actually after three in the afternoon.  She didn’t seem to believe me at first.  It took quite a while to finally convince her that it was not early in the day.

While she was napping Arlene came over with a plate full of fudge and candy she had made.  Wow!  Is that stuff good!  Later Glenn and Margaret brought over a plate of goodies.  They also are very good.  Yesterday afternoon, Don had brought over freshly smoked salmon and bread.  In each case we were the recipients of a wonderful gift of food and, in addition, some pleasant conversation — especially enjoyed by this retired pastor suffering from Diminished Conversation Opportunity Syndrome.

This evening our Kids from Kentucky (staying with us) took us out for an Anniversary Dinner.  Our little five year old Granddaughter, Ashlyn, was diagnosed with a Strep infection this morning, so she was not a happy camper today.  She was feeling well enough for us to go to Famous Dave’s and enjoy a nice meal.  I ran into one of the young people from the congregation I served here, reminding me just how much working with Youth meant to me over the years. (The majority of my 407 FaceBook Friends are Youth.)  Juli is a beautiful young lady inside and outside, with a heart of gold.  Her Mom is one of the Volunteers who stays with Mary Ann.

Dryer is done!  So will this post be done soon.

One interesting sidelight today is that Denis bought a Wii for the family.  They tried it out this afternoon.  They are going to love playing that, especially when they use it on their large screen digital television in the large family room at their house in Kentucky.  We tried to help Mary Ann do some bowling, but the coordination just isn’t there.  I have often thought about how beneficial it might be to have a Wii to help Mary Ann stay active.  She loves games.  I have been waiting for clear evidence that it will actually accomplish the goal.  It is too expensive to buy and then find out it is not helpful.

An update: Daughter-in-Law Rebecca’s Gall Bladder surgery went well today, and she is at home, feeling good (according to the last emailed report).  The email was titled “Weight Loss Program” using the removal of organs as the means.  She is a Corker!

Time to edit and get some rest!

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It was a night from Hell.  We have plenty of them.  I went to be early in hopes that my presence would help her sleep.  Not so.  She wanted to go home more than once.  Often she would get up and when I asked, admit that she didn’t know why she had gotten up.  Once she woke up and said she had swallowed a snake.  I have no idea from where that thought came.

It went on through the night.  Once there were only seven minutes between times of getting up with some need.  The next one was twelve minutes.  Then came a couple about twenty minutes apart.  I am just tired enough that I went back to sleep during each of those short times, only to be wakened again.  I am not sure what words to say to communicate the level of frustration with that behavior.

One of the times she got up, she agreed to go to the table and eat some applesauce.  We started toward the dining room, and soon it was apparent that she just couldn’t walk well enough to make it there.  I asked her not to move, while I ran a few feet to get the transfer chair.  Of course she fell.  My level of frustration was enough that while I was complaining about her not staying still, instead of patiently working out how to get her off the floor in a way that was safe for me and her, I just picked her up off the floor and seated her in the chair.  Yes, she is only a little over 120 pounds.  No, a small 66 year old man with a family history of back issues should not try to pick up someone from the floor, someone who is not able to help in the process, essentially dead weight.

While it hurts, at the moment (six or seven hours later), it is not excruciating.  I am hoping only minor damage was done and that Advil, ice and a call to Chiropractor Tim will eventually take care of it.

Last night, all I wanted was for her to go to sleep!  She got up early again.  I just insisted that she stay in bed so that I could get another hour of sleep.  Gratefully, she did stay in bed for a while.

When she got up, things were pretty difficult.  I, of course, was not in a very pleasant frame of mind having been up and down every few minutes during most of the night.  She was able to get some of her food eaten by herself.  After breakfast she sat by the television in her PJ’s.  She was in popping up mode.  While at the moment, she is not fainting, her weakness and balance are making her vulnerable to falls.  I got a phone call.  Just as I got into the conversation, she hopped up and headed across the room.  I was frustrated by the timing of it, but after determining it was a bathroom need that precipitated it, I got off the phone and got her into the bathroom and seated.

I have not mentioned this much in the last three days, but there has been intestinal activity verging on diarrhea.  Sunday morning when I was gone, she had some major activity.  That activity required a later cleanup that involved removing the toilet seat, taking it to the large basin I had installed in the basement storage area for things like this, soaking the toilet seat in water with lots of Clorox Bleach, scrubbing the hinges with a toothbrush, rinsing, drying, disinfecting the stool itself and replacing the toilet seat.  This is all taught in Caregiver school.

The good news is that the activity does not come often.  It is just takes some extra effort to keep her and whatever else clean.  We have dealt with much worse in this area.  This morning’s trip to the bathroom was not an easy one.

When she returned to the living room, the popping up continued.  She was almost always getting up to look around at the floor.  I don’t know exactly what she was seeing, but it was some sort of mess that needed cleaning up.  Just going into the kitchen to get a bowl of cereal had to be done in short segments of time, often less than a minute in length so that I could check on her and get her seated again.

I had not yet gotten my morning shower.  I could not trust her to stay seated for the ten to fifteen minutes it takes for me to get ready.  She often agrees that she will stay seated, but pretty much does not do so.  I finally realized that the only way I was going to get ready myself, would be for her to be napping.

There is such an conflict of wants and needs that converge on this simple process.  I want her to stay awake during the day and sleep at night.  I want her to be sleeping even during the day so that I am not dealing with the popping up, the constant needs, the hallucinations, not knowing what will come next.  I should keep her up in the daytime, but when she moves into her need-for-sleep mode, she ends up hanging her head and sleeping in her chair, if not in her bed. There is a sense of relief when she is sleeping during the daytime hours, but a dread for the horribly frustrating nights that come when she can’t sleep then.

I suppose I could sleep during the day while she is sleeping.  I don’t want to shift days and nights for both of us.  I want to be tired enough at bed time that I can go to bed and sleep, if she will allow it.  When she is asleep, I have the freedom to do things that nurture my own well-being both for my own sake and so that I don’t lose the capacity to care for her.  These posts have been long and detailed lately because she is sleeping enough during the day that I am free to write.  These posts have been long and detailed these last days since we are almost entirely homebound now and the task is frustrating enough that I need the outlet of writing these posts as therapy.

Then there is the question, how is Mary Ann dealing with this new place in our experience.  She is stuck with the frustration of not having the mobility and mental acuity she has had, and she is stuck with Grumpy Caregiver who gets frustrated with things she cannot control.  She vacillates between days when she is exhausted and just wants to sleep, and nights when she can’t sleep, wants to be up while the person on whom she depends is scolding her and insisting she stay in bed.  She needs food but often not what is in front of her.  She hates the feeling of needing to be fed but often needs to be fed.  She wants to do things for herself but is constantly being asked to sit down, being reminded that she can’t do them.

I wish I were better at this caregiving task.  On the positive side, I think that most of the time I act in ways that are caring and helpful and affirming of who she is.  I try to treat her with respect, recognizing that my words are not always respectful when I am frustrated with some difficult behavior that seems still to be under her control (probably most often a result of the disease more than her willfulness).  I work hard at keeping her neat, hair washed, dressed appropriately, the house in order, beds made, kitchen in order.  I work very hard at determining what she needs or wants and if it is possible, trying to provide whatever it is.  With that said, in fairness, my assessment is based on who I want to be, not necessarily who I am in her eyes.  In the area of this sort of self-awareness, my propensity to feel guilty when I have been unkind provides some internal metrics.  My self-centeredness drives me to do things that allow me to feel good about myself.  My batting average in that task is probably just that, painfully average.

Back to our day: When med time came after she had been sleeping for a couple of hours, I decided not to make yesterday’s mistake.  After I took her to the bathroom, she stayed up for us to head to Glory Day’s Pizza to bring a couple of slices home for her (lunch and supper).  Her mobility was very poor, and she still would not open her eyes, so the trip out to the car and back afterward was pretty difficult.

She insisted on eating the slice of pizza without help.  She only managed to eat the topping (cheese only) from a little more than half of the one piece.  Then she was done.  After refusing once, she finally agreed to a dish of ice cream.  She is about five pounds lighter on our scale than she was the last time she weighed herself before the trip and the hospital.  She has been eating so little it is no wonder.  When I took her to the bathroom after the pizza, as I was getting her clothes down so that she could sit on the stool, she stopped me, asking what I was doing.  She thought we were still in the dining room.

At about 4:45pm, she wanted to get her bed clothes on and get into bed. She got up again when a paid worker from Home Instead to stay for a few hours while I honored a commitment that was important to me.   She was still up when I returned and went to bed at about 9:30pm.  Let’s hope for some sleep tonight.

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I think not!  We made it through today, but it took much coaxing and insisting and endless activity. She did not sleep very well again last night.  There were about as many trips to the commode, changes in position, drinks of water as have been so for the last few nights.  She was up at 7am, laid back down while I showered and got up for the day immediately thereafter.

I got her hair washed, got her dressed and delivered her to the circle meeting well before it was time to begin.  On the way home after the meeting, I suggested getting a movie or two for the late afternoon or evening to keep her awake.  When we got home she wanted to nap.  Since it was lunch time, I was able to keep her up for that.  Then she wanted me to leave her home while I took the car in for an oil change.  I thought about doing so, but since she was still up we just got in the car and headed to the Honda place.

When we got home after that, the television kept her attention for a while.  We ate supper,  watched one of the movies, and now she has just gone to bed.  My goal has been to keep her up during the day until finally she will sleep soundly through the night (with just a few commode trips) and we can return to a more manageable sleep pattern leaving both of us better rested and reducing the hallucinations.

Colleen commented on last night’s post: “Your comment about sleep reminded me of children.  The more tired they are, the more hyper they get, and the less likely they are to sleep.”  Before I read that comment, I had decided that tomorrow, if she wants to nap, I will not try to keep her up and busy, but just let her sleep.  Colleen’s observation may very well explain what is happening.  Keeping her up may actually be making it harder for her to sleep through the night. It is far too soon to determine if this will be a sleepless night or a sleep-filled night.

By the way, supper tonight was a treat for both of us, even though I did the cooking.  It was a meal simple enough even for me to prepare. When Edie came to stay with Mary Ann on Sunday (providing a meal, as she always does), she mentioned that they had just picked many green tomatoes.  We sent with her Mary Ann’s Mom’s recipe for green tomato relish.  I mentioned that it made the best glaze for a ham known to humankind.

Guess what was delivered to our house last evening while I was at the local Audubon Society presentation?  There were a couple of jars of freshly made green tomato relish and a huge slice of ham about an inch thick, ready to be cooked.  I wrapped a couple of sweet potatoes in foil and baked them until they were soft and moist, ready for the butter and brown sugar, spread the relish on the ham and broiled it (per instructions on the wrapper), opened and heated a can of peas, and the feast began!  The only moment of concern came when the relish under the broiler began to smoke.  I had visions of alarms sounding and fire trucks gathering.  Gratefully, the newly cleaned smoke detector was no longer too sensitive [see earlier post].

The movie we rented was The Soloist.  It was is engaging account of someone who managed against seemingly insurmountable odds to make music.  While our situation is far less dramatic and hardly compares to what the character in this true story encountered and, apparently, still does, the movie encourages the idea of living meaningfully, no matter what.  That is precisely the goal toward which we are drawn.

On that note, the Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime had its way with me again.  I walked once outside at Cedarcrest and once in the mall while Mary Ann was at her Circle meeting.  Then came a powerful attack by the Alien.  Before it was over, I committed to a five week exercise and weight reduction program at Rebound Physical Therapy.  This lack of sleep must be getting to me also.  My resistance is down.  There is confusion from synapses that have not had time to connect as they do during that deep sleep that is so important to us.  Have I finally simply gone completely mad!!

One last note:  She has already been up for a couple of drinks of water, saltine crackers and a snack-sized container of applesauce.  Is it possible that she can have still another restless night?  The answer to that question will come soon enough.

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.

The Domino Effect is just beginning to lean away from the good days we have been having.  Last night Mary Ann did not sleep as well as she has the last ten days or so.  Yesterday morning the signs were there when she got up very early.  She had had a little trouble getting to sleep that night.

Our lunch out with a friend and the trip to check out the birds at a lake in a nearby town kept Mary Ann awake through the entire afternoon.  She had not napped in the morning.  I have mentioned before that while common sense would suggest that being up all day would result in sleeping better at night, with this version of Dementia with Lewy Bodies (Parkinson’s Disease Dementia) common sense is pretty much irrelevant.

Last night she also had some trouble getting to sleep.  There were more trips to the commode, and restless times, especially in the very early morning hours.  This morning she got up at about 6:45am and stayed up.

The hallucinations have had a pretty steady presence today.  While I haven’t really asked the rest of the group, I suspect that she either doesn’t have them or doesn’t reveal she is having them when she is at her Tuesday morning group.  The time I have been with her today, the hallucinations have been present and she has seemed out of touch, having lost the mental sharpness of the last week or so.

I was determined to keep her up today in hopes that sleep would be better tonight — hoping that the common sense approach might actually work this time.  I think it was our Daughter, Lisa, who said she thought we might enjoy the children’s movie “Up.”  Mary Ann had mentioned that as one she would like to see.  So, off we went to see to the $2 theater to see “Up.”

It was not what Mary Ann expected.  I am not sure what she had understood it to be like, but I don’t think she realized that it was an animated feature.  Oddly, we were not the only adults there without children or grandchildren.  It seemed to me to be a movie that might scare or be too sad in places for little children.  The movie was well done — Pixar alwsys seems to do creative animation.

She went to bed about an hour ago and does not seem yet to be completely settled.  I hope by being up all day today, we have kept the cycle of daytime sleeping and night time waking from getting a strong foothold.

She will be up early tomorrow so that I can get her ready for a Circle meeting at church.  Our bath aid has an in-service meeting and can’t come in the morning, and there is no Volunteer able to come.

I opted out of the Spiritual Formation group that meets every Wednesday morning here so that I would have time to help her with the morning prep.  My hope is that in the future, I will be able to manage both the group and getting her to the Circle meeting.  The Spiritual Formation group has come to be an important element in process of maintaining equilibrium.  This shift in the direction of the Domino Effect is a reminder that no amount of will power or commitment or planning will change the harsh reality that we are on a roller coaster with no controls to which we have access.  We can only react and make the best of whatever comes.

On that note, I did manage to get in a walk early this morning while Mary Ann sat watching television. I got in a second one while she was at her group.  This evening, there was a Volunteer wtih Mary Ann.  For the first time ever, I attended a local Audubon Society presentation.  An hour long video of birds and their songs was a wonderful treat.  The videographer was there to comment and answer questions.

Well, tomorrow is garbage day, so I had better get the garbage out, and I need to be up early to get MA ready for her meeting.  Here is hoping there will be some sleeping tonight!

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.

Danger! Danger!  Alien attacks again.  This Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime has had his way with me again.  I was out and walking some time before 7:30am.  I had no idea there was a 7am on Monday.  I didn’t think they started measuring time until at least 9am.

The Alien and Mary Ann were in collusion.  As suspected, sleep did not go quite as well last night after a daytime nap yesterday and earlier to bed than usual.  The consequence was that she woke up at 6:45am in need of food and ready to get up.  Do you see how this played into the Alien’s hands?  After eating a single serving snack of apple sauce, she was willing to lie down again while I went out to walk for twenty minutes or so.  It seemed best not to start meds too early, since the two hour increments of medicine would end to early in the afternoon.  I put the Lifeline pendant around her neck, got water for her, the television remote for the bedroom TV and headed out.

Now, of course, I am feeling energized and positive.  You see how this Alien presence weaves his subversive plot?  Here I am writing this post and, again, it is morning — Monday morning!  I guess to be honest for those of us who are retired, there isn’t a Monday.  In fact we bought a clock from Radio Shack that shows the day of the week so that we would know what day we are in.

As I thought about Mary Ann’s increased ability to walk and the better nights, the domino effect popped into my mind.  The better nights have encouraged a change in my pattern of activity.  It seems more possible to do an exercise walk.  I am more rested and, as a result, more willing to get up in the morning to get in the walk. The walk perks up my metabolism, providing the stamina to write the post earlier in the day.

In addition, by getting up earlier, I am more ready and able to get to bed earlier.  Since I am writing the post earlier in the day, I can use the time in the evening after Mary Ann goes to bed for listening to music, or engaging in a Taizé devotion, following a reading by Fr. Ed Hayes.  The latest readings have come from his book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

All of the above has been about me, the Caregiver.  For Mary Ann, the good news is that she has seen little of Grumpy Caregiver and more of the patient and helpful Caregiver.  My confidence in her ability to walk has freed her from my constant presence, in her face, asking her to sit back down.  She has fallen on occasion, but still not often by comparison to the past. My confidence in her ability to walk has given me the feeling of being untethered.  That has felt  remarkably freeing.

It fascinates me just how interrelated all these circumstances are.  One domino falls, touches the next.  That one hits another, that one bumps one more.  Sometimes one small change can grow into something far more substantial.

I have no illusions.  Just as the dominoes can fall for good, they can fall for bad.  The hallucinations have begun to return.  Yesterday morning, there was a Raccoon in her bed.  When we drove into the garage after church last evening, Mary Ann in a matter of fact tone, noted that they hadn’t thrown away the quills.  I asked to what she was referring.  She answered, the Porcupine quills.  She saw them distinctly.  When I got out of the car, turned on the lights in the garage and helped her out of the car, she saw that they were gone.  She was, however sure there were some in the house.  When we got in, she went into the bedroom and looked around.  She didn’t comment further on the matter. Hallucinations, of course, can interfere with her sleep and keep her up for hours.

Since she got up early this morning, she may get tired and need a nap.  A nap might impact her ability to sleep.  The domino effect could take us back to more troublesome times.

To try to avoid that path, we have made a commitment to pick up a friend, head out for lunch and a ride.  My hope is that we can keep active until Oprah.  Once that time comes, she generally stays awake until bedtime.

We live on a very narrow margin of functionality.  We can do very well one hour or day or week, and very badly just as easily.  Right now we are on a side of that margin that has been very enjoyable.  Here is hoping for more time on this side!

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.

The Alien from Pedometer Prime chooses bribery to seek a permanent home!  Will he succeed?

[If you have not read yesterday’s post, what I just wrote will make no sense.]

This was a very cold and gray morning.  A blustery breeze from the north made it feel even colder when out walking.  Since there was a Volunteer this morning, I was able to go out to the lake where I usually sit in the car, read, listen to music and watch for birds and any other wildlife that may appear.

My regular routine includes moving to the Delaware Marsh below the dam to take a short walk with binoculars handy.  Today, the Alien overpowered my resolve to expend as little energy as possible and set me off at a brisk pace for a long walk around the marsh.

It is an insidious plot.  I started walking feeling as gray as the day, shuddering at every gust of the cold wind and rattle of the leaves on the Cottonwood trees.  The cold kept me walking as fast as I could on the rough ground.  Occasionally I heard or saw evidence of a few birds, but most of them had the sense to stay sheltered from the cold.

As I walked the Alien began to tempt me to let him stay in his new home.  I began to warm as the Alien slowly turned up the thermostat on my body’s furnace.  I walked past the spot my short walks had taken me in the past.  I discovered markers for a path that took me into new areas of trees and fields, marshland and ponds.  The cold air changed from an irritation to be endured to a fresh and inviting Siren.

Even the gray sky ceased to be a depressing presence and became a calming backdrop for trees and weeds and wildflowers.  The Alien was enticing me to embrace his presence rather than send him back to Pedometer Prime.  I made full circle around the Marsh, having had no idea prior to this morning that there was a path all the way around it.  I came around the last turn to an information sign posted on a stand that said I had just walked two miles! That evil and subversive Alien!!!

At the lake I had watched many thousands of gulls resting on the water and flying through the air.  On the drive back across the dam I passed one hawk sitting on a post almost within reach as I went by.   I spotted another hawk and stopped the car on the dam to watch it as it remained absolutely stationary in mid-air, only occasionally moving it wings to reposition itself against the breeze.  I watched that seemingly impossible aerial display for many minutes.  As I left the dam area and traveled a road among the trees to get back to the highway, a couple of deer with very dark coats of hair were standing on either side of the road.

When I arrived back home, there was a hot meal waiting.  As often happens on a Sunday morning (we attend the evening worship service), a Volunteer had come to stay with Mary Ann.  As always, Edie brought with her the fixings for a full, nourishing and tasty meal; she prepared it and set it out on the table for us. There is enough to allow at least one more meal.  No cooking tomorrow!

Now to the title of this post.  I just could not keep Mary Ann awake any longer.  It was tough to keep her up yesterday, but we just kept going, a trip to Sam’s Club at midday, a noon meal (thanks, Lisa, for the pizza muffins), a trip to the regular grocery store, and supper (steak and twice baked potatoes from Omaha Steaks — I hate cleaning the George Foreman grill).

Now with both of us sated after a hot meal, with football on the television, I simply could not convince her to stay out in the living room in her chair.  She is more of a professional football fan than am I.   The Kansas City Chiefs were playing (they just lost in overtime — no surprise they lost, just that they managed to take it to overtime).  The only team that would capture her interest more would be Da Bears.  I cajoled and encouraged, but she was clearly wiped out.  She is still in recuperation mode from the long trip from which we returned a couple of days ago.

The question remains: Will she sleep tonight?  After ten good nights in a row, none following a daytime nap, tonight seems likely to break the string.  There has not been a clear pattern correlating naps and restless nights, but common sense suggests there must be some correlation.  Here is hoping that in this case common sense does not prevail.

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.