Mary Ann slept reasonably well last night — back to a more normal pattern of getting up to use the commode.  She was up before 6am for some food, but was willing to lie back down for a while.  She got up at 7am for food and pills.  She did pretty well, handling most of the consumption on her own — just a little help with some of the yogurt.  She continues to be able to hold her head up, at least for a while.  She is communicating a little better.

She was up for about two hours and is now back in bed.  Yesterday late afternoon she was up for about two and a half hours.  I am assuming that as time goes by she will be able to stay up during most of a full day, but there are no guarantees that will be so. I am certainly feeling better about how she is functioning now than I was two days ago.  There is a way to go yet to regain the pre-hospital norm, if that is to be the case.

One of Mary Ann’s friends from Junior High days is celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary today.  This was the 50th anniversary year of Mary Ann’s graduation from East Aurora High School  East High is, of course, an arch rival to West Aurora High from which I graduated a couple of years later.  We have been married almost 44 years — and they said it couldn’t work, a girl from East High and a boy from West High.

Cherri is thrilled with the celebration.  In these times, it is a remarkable thing to have longevity in a marriage. They have children and grandchildren that bring them great joy.  Cherri shared words of love and concern for Mary Ann, recognizing the contrast between her mobility and the options that mobility provides and Mary Ann’s plight.  She and Joy and Terry, along with Mary Ann made up a foursome to be reckoned with.  When they are together it is as if not a day has passed since they hung out together so many years ago.  They all care very much for Mary Ann and hate seeing that feisty lady they have known, trapped in a body that won’t cooperate and diminishing in mental acuity.  She has had such a wonderfully wicked sense of humor that could get you when you least expected it.

Along with the sadness at what has been lost, is something that is not so obvious, something that is important.  It is something that has not been lost, but found.  It is something that is there, available to all of us if only we will pay attention.  It is something that our situation makes more visible.  It sounds very trite to say it this way, but it is not at all trite.

Mary Ann and I live at the very core of life all day long every day.  There is deep and profound meaning in the simplest of tasks.  There is not a trivial moment in our days.  While there are great limitations on the options available to us for activities, there is no limit to the value of our time.  Our lives are filled with meaning.  Whether there is sleeping going on or time on the commode or eating or going in the car or sitting on the deck or watching the computer screen saver move through pictures of our Grandchildren, there is value attached to each moment.

Anyone who has lived long enough to have gone through painful times is likely to be aware of the meaning attached to the time we have.  Every moment we are in, contains all the time there is.  It is a moment of life, which my spirituality understands to be a moment intentionally given by the Someone who gives us life.

While the heart of Christianity often gets clouded by caricatures shaped by the loudest voices who seek to define what Christianity is, the truth is, it is a relationship created and sustained by a kind of love that is ultimately beyond human comprehension.  It is not a set of behaviors or a political position but a connection with One who produces good behavior to the degree we don’t ignore that connection.  The core is the relationship, not the behavior.

Back to Mary Ann’s day.  Edie spent the morning with her.  Apparently, Mary Ann got up and spent the morning engaging in conversation as well as watching and talking about the preparation of the meal.  We enjoyed a hearty meal, watched football for a while (of course, the Chiefs lost again), and then Mary Ann decided to lie down again.

Tonight is the time we usually attend a worship service.  At the moment, I am not very confident that will happen.  She has not yet dressed today.  I would be surprised if she would tolerate preparations to be out with people.  We will see.  It is still a couple of hours to Service time.  She is sleeping soundly at the moment.

As expected, she was not ready to try heading out in the car and attending the Service.  She was up for a while, ate a little, watched a little television and headed back to bed.

Tomorrow begins with the bath aide and includes an afternoon trip to the dentist.  It will be interesting to see if she has the stamina to do both.

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This has been something of an odd day.  Mary Ann woke up seeming fairly alert. Very soon, she shifted to a minimally responsive mode.  For much of the day, her head hung down on her chest.  She seemed ready to roll forward out of the transfer chair.  The bath aid when she was here, Volunteer Margaret (our Parish Nurse) when she was there or I needed to hold her shoulders up to keep her from going over.

She had a routine Mammogram this afternoon.  It was quite a struggle for two techs to get her positioned and hold her up for the x-rays.

She did a little better after a mid-afternoon nap, but resumed the head down position again after a bit.  Supper was a challenge for her, but she did get a fair amount eaten.

The hallucinations have continued.  I have been back and forth a number of times as I have been trying to write this post.  For the most part, she is saying things that don’t really make any sense.  She starts to say something and then stops, apparently losing track of it or recognizing that it makes no sense.  This has been one of the more challenging times in our journey.

I recognize the head on the chest problem from many of the posts of those in the caregiving spouses of those who have Lewy Body Dementia online support group.  Again, I am hoping that this is just a temporary dip into the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.  Since we live so close to the boundary between lucidity and confusion, there is always a fear that we will move over that line permanently.  This particular type of dementia, is very unpredictable.  People can move in and out of lucidity and functionality seemingly at random.

There have been only minutes between needs for the last hour or so.  The last trip was for another visit to the commode, just five minutes after the previous trip to the commode.  As we were taking care of that, she asked if we were going home.  I said that we were home and pointed out her quilt hanging on the wall in the bedroom.  That seemed to satisfy her for the moment that she was in her own bed.

It is these times of utter confusion that are among the very hardest for me to handle.  The constant needs that cannot be satisfied since either the words make no sense or what she sees has no substance are very wearing.  Right now it appears that this will be another sleepless night filled with constant frustration.  Then again, maybe not.  The signs are not good at the moment.

Another trip to help her sit up — lots of words that made no sense.  She did agree that she wanted to go back to bed.  We will see how many minutes pass until her next need to get up for something indiscernible.

Five more minutes, another trip to the commode.  This time she wanted something to eat.  She decided to go to the table for a snack container of applesauce.  She took my arm to walk (our usual pattern), then she wanted to continue with the walker (very difficult for her to handle), then she recognized that she needed the wheels (transfer chair), and finally we made it to the table.  All those changes happened in the span of about twenty feet from where we started at the bed to the table.

She usually feeds herself when she has the applesauce, but that wasn’t working for her tonight.  I offered and she chose to have me feed her.  After some difficulty with her trying to get something off the bed, something that was not there (didn’t I see that pile of whatever it was), she is now back in bed for how long — I don’t know.  It is about 11:30pm.  She said that Zandra would soon be here.  Zandra is the bath aide who comes in the morning two days a week.  Zandra was here this morning.

She seems to be stirring again.  Let’s see what it is this time.

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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.

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