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.

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.

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.

It was a perfect time to be on the deck.  The temperature was in the high 70’s and there was a breeze blowing.  There were some hazy clouds occasionally filtering the bright sunshine.  The deck was partly in the shade and partly in the sun.  The sound of the splashing waterfall echoed providing accompaniment to the raucus squawking of Grackles and Blue Jays.  I read and thought and pondered and read and pondered some more.  It was a wonderful couple of hours.

I got Mary Ann’ s breakfast and pills done; then showered, shaved (yes, even though I wear a beard), and dressed.  The plan was to head to the grocery and then out to eat.  She stood up from the transfer chair for a moment and flopped down into it.  Whatever the switch is that turns off her ability to function, it switched her off.  The plan dissipated and a long nap ensued. 

Adapting quickly to a change in plans has never been easy for me.  If I got into my mind what we were going to do, frustration was my usual response to being derailed, a disabling frustration, leaving me grumpy and annoyed.   Today, video monitor in hand, I just headed out to the deck and had a great time.  In some ways I am learning to cope with the vagaries of the Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

When Mary Ann awakened from her nap, I got her dressed and ready to head out for lunch.  When we started the often endless task of picking a place to eat, she popped up with one we had not been to in years, Red Robin.  It seems to cater to the younger crowd, with a sort of boisterous atmosphere and very expensive burgers. 

I was happy that a decision came so quickly.  I mentioned the possibility of splitting a sandwich since they are large and costly.  I remember the first time we ate there.  It had just opened and there were lots of folks waiting for lunch.  Our name was on the list, but it seemed that others who had come after us were being seated.  I went in and asked why we had been waiting so long.  Somehow our name had been skipped.   As we were being seated, a manager came over and said that because of the long wait, lunch would be on them.  That was music to these frugal ears (big, but frugal).  Giddy with the thought of it, I decided to buy a beer, a Black and Tan (Guinness and Bass in the same glass).  As I was enjoying my beer, a bartender came by with a Black and Tan looking for the person who had ordered it.  He concluded that there had been some confusion, and I might as well have it.  While I just couldn’t manage to get two full beers down in one sitting (college days are over), it felt sort of luxurious to have them both sitting there for me to enjoy.  We had just had two full meals, a Coke for Mary Ann and a couple of imported draft beers for three dollars and change.  Yes, I did leave a tip based on the full price had we paid for the meals. 

This time we weren’t so lucky.  We got seated right away.  I had talked about our splitting a burger before we went in.  Then as we looked at the menu, both interested in the Salmon burger (made with a Salmon filet, not a salmon patty), I asked Mary Ann if we should go ahead and split the sandwich.  She always eats half and we take the other half home.  The burgers at Red Robin are between ten and eleven dollars each.   She said no.  It surprised me, since her normal response would have been yes.   I asked again just to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood.  She again said no. 

We ordered the two meals.  She finds it easiest to eat a sandwich if I cut it in half, and then cut the half in half again.  A quarter of a sandwich is about all she can manage to hold with her hands.  The fingers stiffen and lose dexterity when she is trying to hold on to something.  When she was working on the second quarter, she said, “I thought you were going to eat the other half.”  I am not sure exactly what happened that we miscommunicated so badly.  Red Robins are particularly noisy, and Mary Ann’s voice is very soft due to the Parkinson’s.  Most of the time I end up reading her lips when we are communicating in public, or in the car (can be challenging when driving).  It was annoying to think that we were paying eleven more dollars than we needed to, but I have come to be better at accepting and adapting.

One thing, however, that I cannot seem to accept, to which I struggle to adapt, is the messiness that goes with the dexterity problems.  I find it very hard to deal with my reaction to seeing the sandwich squeezed in her hand until most of it falls on the table her lap or the plate, sauce running through her fingers and down her arm.   Notice that what is hard to accept is not the messiness, but my reaction to it.  The reaction is internal.  My actions were attempts at helping her get the sandwich pieces back in her hand, suggesting she use the fork, then afterward cleaning her hands with napkins and a wipe from her purse.  I know she was uncomfortable with the cleaning I did, since it seemed that she was looking around to see if anyone was watching.

The messiness bothers me more than it does Mary Ann.  Part of it is that I happen to have grown up in a family with a Dad who was meticulous about eating habits.  Part of it is that Mary Ann doesn’t have the view that I have from across the table.  She is focused on getting the food into her mouth.  I see what doesn’t get there. 

Mary Ann did not choose to have limited dexterity.  All she wants to do is eat.  She does what is necessary to get that task accomplished.  My struggle is not with her messiness, it is with my inability to just take it in stride and ignore it.  I am self-conscious for her, when she is not.  I am embarrassed for her, when she is not.  It is hard to admit this, since she is the one living with the Parkinson’s and its impact on her ability to simply enjoy a meal.  I feel very petty.  In this regard, she is healthier than I am.   At least I have the sense not to allow my feelings to stop us from going out.  

Anyway, when we go out to eat, I don’t have to cook and clean up.  With that payoff, bring on the messiness! 

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.