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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“Are you going to pack up so that we can go?”  She thought we were still in the hospital.  After all the naps yesterday, the first part of the night was pretty tough.  She was up every few minutes sitting up, messing with the sheet.  She said she was making the bed.  It must have happened a dozen times with only minutes between each one.

When she thought she was in the hospital, I pointed to her quilt hanging behind the bed as I did once before.  This time she just said, “She keeps insisting,” which I understood to mean her “other self.”  She has not used that language before, but that sort of delusion is among the problems I hear about in the online Lewy Body Dementia Spouse Caregiver group.  That may not be what she meant, but it certainly sounded that way.

She settled down by about 1:00am.  Gratefully, she stayed asleep other than for a couple of trips to the bathroom for a number of hours.  This morning before 5am, she got up in need of something to eat.  I got her up and to the table for some juice and crackers.

Again this morning, she could not manage to negotiate eating the cracker without my feeding it to her.  She couldn’t manage the juice by herself either. She couldn’t seem to locate her mouth with the straw.  That has happened on occasion in the last weeks, even before the hospital stay.

Gratefully, after having the juice and crackers, she went back to bed and to sleep, and has been sleeping ever since– it is about 9:45am now.  She is moving around quite a bit in bed, but that sort of movement has been so from some years before the Parkinson’s was first diagnosed (22 years ago).  Vivid dreams with physical movements associated is one of the signs of future problems with this sort of dementia.  Of course, it is not a direct correlation, lest those of you who experience that think you are doomed to dementia.  It is somewhat predictive, but lots of other things come into play for problems with dementia to arise later in life — both genetic and environmental.  At least that is my understanding from what I have heard and read.  I am not an expert!!  Please don’t attach that burden to any observations I make.

I just glanced at the monitor again to see how Mary Ann is doing.  I did that automatic check that is natural to those of us who are Caregivers.  She was fairly still.  I waited and watched to see her body movement to verify that she is breathing.  Her current circumstances do not seem precipitous, so there is no special need to check.  It is just a normal response to her general condition.

Parenthetically, I didn’t trip the live trap soon enough this morning.  There is now another squirrel with a frightening tale to tell.

She has been sleeping now for many hours.  It is almost noon.   I am wondering who she will be when she awakens — the confused Mary Ann, or the one who is still mostly functional.  I am going to let her sleep as long as she can in hopes that she will “sleep it off” and return to the  version of normal we had before the hospital stay.

It is almost 4:30pm.  Mary Ann stirred for the first time today at about 4pm.  She got up to go to the bathroom.  We changed the disposable underwear, and I thought she would then get dressed.  Instead, she wanted to put her pajama bottoms back on and go back to bed.  That is where she is now. 

Once before she slept for almost two days after having had multiple sleepless nights which had resulted in much increased hallucinating.  She was significantly improved after that two day sleep.  I am, of course, hoping, planning, expecting that to be the case this time.  I am not so foolish as to count on it as a certainty.  She may be anywhere from completely lucid to virtually unable to function. 

As always, we will deal with what comes when it comes.  While I have in my heart of hearts ruled out residential care, this experience is causing me to reconsider at least thinking about the possibility.  I am still not actually considering it, but I am allowing a mental review of my position on the matter.   At the moment, all the options I am actually considering involve remaining here at home, adding whatever help or equipment is needed.

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