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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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!

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Then why don’t we act on the obvious solution and solve the problem!

She napped for over five and a half hours today.  She napped for over three and a half hours during the day yesterday.  I can’t remember how long she napped the day before that.  Isn’t it obvious?  Just keep her up during the day and she will sleep through the night.

I just read an article in the online newsletter from ScienceNews.  Apparently a recent study using rats associates sleep deprivation with an increased risk of experiencing Alzheimer’s Dementia.  The assumption was that the sleep problems were a result of the disease.  It now seems possible that they are part of the disease process itself. (Yes, I, too, wonder how a technician can determine if a rat has Alzheimer’s Dementia —  actually, I do know the answer to that, but I am not saying here — suffice it to say, once the information is obtained, the rat no longer needs his/her pension.)

Back to the solution.  Why not just keep her up all day?  I am sure that solution seems obvious.  If it is hard to keep a two-year-old awake when those eyes fall shut and that little body goes limp, if it is hard two get a two year old up early from a nap without a major meltdown, imagine trying to get a strong-willed, independent adult who has a right to make her own choices up from a nap when she wants and needs very much to continue sleeping.

I can remember a day some weeks ago when I managed to keep her up all day with trips here and there.  She was restless that night anyway, up and down for most of it.  On the other side of it, while things may change at any time, after having that more than five and a half hour nap today, she was tired and went to bed early this evening.  She has been sleeping soundly for the three and a half hours since then.

Obvious solutions don’t always work.  With that said, I admit that it would make sense to try to get her to sleep less during the day to increase the likelihood of sleeping soundly at night.  One of the struggles with being very assertive in waking her up is that when she is napping, I have time to myself.  I am able to concentrate on tasks and accomplish things that can’t be done when Mary Ann is awake, up and about.

Today was a spectacularly beautiful day, warm and breezy.  With the video monitor on the table next to me, I was able to sit on the deck and read, while enjoying weather, the waterfall, the birds (hummingbirds buzzing over me regularly).  I finished the book on weight control (The Volumetrics Eating Plan) with time left over for a snack of potato chips (just kidding).  I did try to get Mary Ann up a number of times after the first three of the five and a half hours, but she just couldn’t do it.  She had said she felt pretty bad when she laid down this morning — no wonder after two nights of almost no sleep.I knew she needed the rest.

I guess, if I appreciate the time the daytime napping gives me, I shouldn’t whine about the restless nights.  I concede the point.  The glitch is that I am not getting much sleep either.  I could try to nap whenever she naps.  That also makes sense.  Were I to do that, my every waking moment would be centered around her needs.  To survive and remain useful to Mary Ann, I need some time to myself when I am awake.

Sometimes obvious solutions don’t really work as well as logic would suggest they should.  I suspect that those looking in from the outside lose patience when obvious solutions are not used to solve the problem about which the Caregiver is complaining

As I was preparing to write this post, I thought about the legions of Caregivers out there.  First of all, every parent has experienced the challenges of caregiving, unless they have abandoned their responsibility to their child[ren].  Single parents, especially those with more than one child have challenges I can’t even begin to comprehend.  There are many who have responsibilities to their children (they never end, no matter how old the children become) and at the same time responsibilities in caring for their aging parents.  There are those who have severely troubled children, physically and/or mentally.  They struggle to care for them, some have to make tough choices demanding allowing others to do the care at a facility outfitted for that care, having around the clock staff to give that care.

I have the luxury of having only one person who needs my full time attention.  Gratefully, our children do not need our care.  In fact they are members of the sandwich generation, raising their children and concerned for our needs as well.

All in all, I guess I should stop whining.  I won’t, but I should.  I think those who are full time Caregivers need some whining time.  Blogging is great, since it creates the illusion that there are people listening.

Whether anyone is listening or not, it helps to talk about it.

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.

She suggested it!  “Let’s go to Braum’s for ice cream.”  Understand, the closest Braum’s is in Emporia, Kansas, an hour’s drive on the Interstate.  We usually take more scenic roads resulting in closer to an hour and a half drive time. 

Noble husband that I am, I will make the sacrifice, drive us to Braum’s, and out of the goodness of my heart join her in eating a two scoop Hot Fudge Sundae topped with salted pecans, real whipped cream and a cherry on top.  Sometimes I surprise myself with my generosity. 

Here is the rub.  When Mary Ann suggested going, it was too late in the day and storms were coming.  Thinking through that sort of information and making a decision demands using what is referred to as the Executive Function of the brain.  The mild Parkinson’ s Disease Dementia that has recently been added to the Parkinson’s Disease has dimished that particular function. 

The plan then was to go the next day.   As the next day progressed a combination of intestinal activity and fainting (Orthostatic Hypotension) flipped the nap switch in her.  I say it that way because the fainting spells sometimes drain from her the capacity to be up and about.  When the nap switch flips, it is sometimes a challenge to get her to the bed and settled there.  She may crumple to the floor wherever she is when the need for a nap hits. 

The next day included an evening activity, the Parkinson’s Support Group.  There was no moving fast enough to get the trip in before the meeting.  The day after that (yesterday) we planned to go again.  The day was completely clear other than the outing to Braum’s.  The weather was spectacular.   It didn’t happen.  It was a nap that filled the time we were going to use to make the trip.  This time it was not that the nap switch flipped, but it was the need that comes more and more often. 

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is a Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  It patterns itself differently than Alzheimer’s Dementia.  There is a different part of the brain affected.  One of the symptoms of the progression of the disease is daytime sleeping.  Some days there have been two naps.  The usual length of a nap is two to two and a half hours.  We never know when the need will arise.

Yesterday there was no trip to Braum’s.  Today, I was determined it would happen.  I planned to add another stop along the way.  I thought phoning a friend of Mary Ann’s to come along would make the trip more enjoyable.  Jeanne and Mary Ann enjoy each other, she helps when Mary Ann needs to use a public bathroom, and since Mary Ann is barely verbal, Jeanne adds to the conversation when we travel.   She was not able to join us for the trip, but I was still determined to go. 

Again, the day was beautiful.   We ate some lunch at home.  I made some surprisingly tasty chicken salad.  Those who have read many of the posts on this blog appreciate what a remarkable accomplishment it is when I make a meal, especially one that is fit for human consumption. 

Almost immediately following lunch, the nap need arose.  By the time Mary Ann awoke, the trip to Braum’s was again out of the question.

Why bother to plan anything?

I am a planner.  I get in my mind how the day will go, what needs to be done, and varying from that plan upsets my equilibrium.  The role of full time Caregiver has resulted in the dismantling  of my daily structure. 

Caregivers respond, they do not work a predetermined plan.  Mary Ann’s needs come when they come.  She cannot fill them herself.  That is my job.   The challenge is trying to figure out how to keep from going crazy since as a Caregiver, I have very little to say about what I will be doing and when I will be doing it. 

For eighteen years of my almost forty years in ministry before I retired, I worked with Youth.  The first three years in the ministry I taught religion classes and served as a Pastoral Counselor at a large parochial high school of some 900 students.  For the next fifteen years, working with Youth in a congregation was a major part of my portfolio.  When leading Youth activities and classes and retreats, I learned quickly that there needed to be a detailed plan in place but along with that plan a willingness to throw the plan out completely if circumstances demanded it.   

That is exactly the sort of planning needed to be the primary Caregiver for someone who needs help with most everything they do — without the Caregiver going crazy.  My goal from the day I retired has been to have options immediately available so that if Mary Ann’s needs eliminated whatever we had planned, something else could be substituted. 

What that means most of the time is that I need lots of small tasks that can be done here at the house while Mary Ann is napping, or interested in a televsion program.  The hardest part of adapting to this new pattern has been gaining the ability to let go of plans I have in my mind without becoming resentful and grumpy.  In that regard, I am still a work in progress. 

Today, when Mary Ann woke up, instead of heading for Braum’s an hour away, we went to the Baskin and Robbins on the other side of town, drove by the beautiful Ensley Gardens and came home.  A Hot Fudge Sundae made with Nutty Coconut ice cream with chopped nuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top goes a long way in calming the ruffled feathers of a planner whose plans have just been frustrated. 

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.