Finally!  We came home around 3:30pm today.  While the staff at the hospital was wonderful, and Mary Ann had excellent care, the dementia has increased dramatically.  Physically, she is fine.  We are back to normal, riding the margin between heart issues and Autonomic Nnervous System issues (fainting due to sudden drops in blood pressure).  It is not, of course, where we would choose to be if we had a choice, it is just what is so.

From the very first sleepless night, the first night we were there, the decline has been steady.  Last night was terribly difficult.  I put up the rails on the bed so that she would not get up and try to walk by herself on a very slippery, very hard floor.  She just could not accept that the catheter allowed her to stay in bed rather than head to the bathroom.  She saw people and animals and messes here and there.  Today she described in detail a busy cluster of bees on the floor at some time during the night.

I sat beside her on her bed for fifteen minutes to a half hour a number of times during the night.  At one point when she was awake, in the middle of the night, I checked my watch to see how much time there was between the need for me to get up and respond to her or help her.  The time was usually between ninety seconds and two minutes.

I realized that if we were required to stay another night, I would need to arrange for a paid companion so that I could get some sleep.  The constant nighttime needs are more than I can handle and remain rational, patient and helpful, after just two or three nights like last night.

Talking with the doctors helped clarify just how important it was to get back home to a stable routine and familiar setting.  They agreed that the additional tests being considered would not serve any real purpose.

While there were differing opinions by the two doctors and the Physician’s Assistant, two out of three felt that there was no compelling reason to expect more vulnerability to Congestive Heart Failure than there has been since the first bout five years ago.  We are going to return to our pattern of life to the degree the dementia will allow.

Mary Ann decided to go to bed at 5:30pm this evening. She has been up and down a a few times already.  Of course, I won’t know how tonight will go until morning.

I had mentioned in passing to one of the nurses that I appreciated having all the folks at the hospital with the care recognizing that Mary Ann and I would pretty much be on our own to deal with the aftermath when we got home.  I suspect she mentioned it to the Social Worker at the hospital who came in to talk with me before we left.  It is the norm that a Hospital Social Worker will check to see what if any needs there might be when a patient goes home.  This time the questions indicated some extra effort at listening to our situation.

The Social Worker mentioned that the nurses had spoken well of the care being provided Mary Ann.  Since I am no longer in a role that provides opportunity for external validation it was especially meaningful to hear those words of affirmation.  The Social Worker seemed to feel very good about the support system we have, from family and the congregation.  She sees folks who have little or no support as they try to care for a Loved One.

The day tomorrow is a full Wednesday.  It will be interesting to see how Mary Ann does with all that will go on.  I am going to continue our activities based on the assumption that alertness and the ability to track will return and the hallucinations will diminish. It that improvement does not come, we will adapt.  It is what we do.

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This is one of our most dreaded experiences.  Mary Ann felt some chest discomfort after a long nap Saturday afternoon   We had returned home from Eureka Springs Friday late in the day.  We were in the car when she mentioned the discomfort.  I gave her a Nitroglycerin pill (sublingual) and we drove to the next stop to give it a chance to work.  It did not seem to help.

She described the pain as a heaviness in her chest rather than a sharp or focused pain.  I recognized that as the Congestive Heart Failure sort of description of discomfort.  We stopped at the house to pick up a couple of things and headed off for the Emergency Room.

Sure enough, she was in heart failure.  There was Pulmonary Edema, fluid build up in her chest.  There also were slightly elevated heart enzymes which could indicate a heart attack of some sort.  The blood tests since then have indicated that there was not a heart attack, just the Congestive Heart Failure.

She was admitted so that they could go through the normal series of tests to check things out.   Of course, since it is a weekend, any tests other than xray and blood tests need to be done on Monday.

Hospital stays are dreaded not because there is something wrong with the hospital or the staff.  One problem is that the complexity of Mary Ann’s cluster of problems and the many medications taken at very specific times are hard to handle with rotating shifts and rules that are constructed to cover any liability for mistakes. That complexity demands my staying with her in the room 24/7 until she goes home.

As usual, she was up the entire first night.  And, of course, so was I.  Gratefully, she did sleep much of the night last night.  I had anticipated being up all night every night, so getting some sleep last night was a treat.  Of course there were very many times during the night that vitals were taken, blood was taken, and various other activities woke us up often.

Getting the meds from the hospital pharmacy is tedious and frustrating.  There are patterns that need to be followed that sometimes result in the timing of pills changing in ways that don’t make sense in terms of the result that is sought from taking them. The staff has been willing to accept my input, making that issue less of a problem.

The doctors are tugged in so many directions with emergencies often tying them up for long periods of time (a good thing for those having the emergency) that there is no knowing when they will come in for the report, to answer questions and give instructions.  As a result those of us who are Caregivers have to remain in the room until they arrive — no matter when in the day that turns out to be.

This morning we are waiting for the doctor to tell us if Mary Ann will need a heart cath (unlikely at this point).  Just in case the test is to be done, she can have no food or drink.  It is after 9:30am (10:30am according to her body clock since the time changed yesterday) and she has been begging for food or drink since about 6:30am.  She was pretty tired and unresponsive yesterday, so had very little food, only a couple of snacks.

One of the most difficult problems to negotiate at the hospital is that the combination of the stress, lack of sleep, medication changes, and the changed routine results in lots of confusion.  The hallucinations increase.  There have been lots of people in the room (not actually here), needles, threads, water, and just a few minutes ago, a ten dollar bill on the floor.  After confirming that it was not there, I suggested that she keep working on that one and make it a twenty.  She immediately responded “greedy.”

Sometimes in the past she has gotten pretty resistant, sometimes unwilling to do what she is asked, sometimes pulling out tubes, getting almost belligerent.  This time there has been just a little of that, at least so far.  It has been manageable.

Our Son, Micah, came for most of the day yesterday, so I had a chance to go home and shower.  It was too bad she was not able to stay awake or respond much to him.  She still appreciated his presence.  They have a good time together.

I am pleased that there is wi-fi here so that I can check email and write this.  Last night the connection was going on and off so often that I never did get this finished and posted.  I was too tired to keep waiting for the connection to return, so I gave up and fell asleep.

That is all I will write for now.  We hope to be home soon, but will, of course, deal with whatever comes.

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.