Here we go again!  Last night included a number of times up, suggesting that we were cresting the hill on the way back to hallucinations.  During the night, they were not as intense as I expect them to be the next couple of nights (hopefully only a couple) before there is any realistic hope of a break from them.

This morning she started trying to get up very early.  I managed to get her back in bed a number of times until about 7am.  I gave up on that strategy and got her up.

The truth is, I am more frustrated with my reaction to the hallucinations than I am the hallucinations themselves.  I want to become able to take them in stride and respond without getting grumpy.  I apologized for being so grumpy and explained to her that I was frustrated from trying to deal with them for so long and feeling helpless to do anything about them, especially with no medical help from a competent doctor at the moment.  I was a little surprised that she responded in a way that suggested what I said had found a path through the hallucinations to Mary Ann herself.  She seemed to understand what I was saying, recognizing especially the issue of trying to deal with this with no doctor in the picture yet. In fact she managed to describe of whom she was thinking well enough to determine that she was suggesting a local Neurologist whom we have used in the past (when she had a stroke), a doctor we like.  He is not likely to have the specialized knowledge that we need, but it is worth a try.

At the moment, I have not received return calls from two contacts made last week.  I am disappointed, since in one case a nurse from a dementia clinic was supposed to phone with answers to my questions about Lewy Body Dementia.  In the other case, I left a message on an answering machine. The only option from which I have the information I need that would allow us to proceed is the one I find the most distasteful.  It would involve a few days in the hospital.  The hospital has always thrown Mary Ann for a loop.  In each case there was pretty much a psychotic break from which we never really regained the lost ground.

Today, after our conversation, Mary Ann managed to stay seated long enough for me to get a shower.  I gave her the morning pills and got her breakfast.  It was not too long thereafter that she ended up back in bed.  She said she wanted to go to the bathroom, but she fainted to such an extent that I could not get her on the toilet stool.  I put her back in bed and she has been there ever since.  That was around 9:30am.  It is now almost 4pm.

Volunteer Tamara, came at 10am to give me a chance to nap if we had had a difficult night.  The timing was perfect since this was the first bad night in the last five.  When Tamara was with Mary Ann last Monday evening in a regular Volunteer slot, it was obvious to her that I had not slept much either in the prior 8 days of Mary Ann’s intense hallucinating.  She suggested the option of adding a nap time option on Saturday and one other day next week.

Volunteer Coordinator Mary and I are talking about adding a Saturday time slot regularly just for that possibility.  There is no way to be sure when bad nights will come, but having the time to nap or just get away for a while is helpful.  This morning I was able to nap for a couple of hours and also leave the house to do a couple of errands before Tamara was due to leave at 1pm.

While, since Mary Ann has slept so long, I would have been able to nap today, I would not have been able to get out to do the errands.  I could not have known in advance that she would sleep most of the day.

What lies ahead is still unknown.  Of course, that is always true, but there are not even clear expectations.  The pattern from before the increase in dosage of Seroquel was that Mary Ann would hallucinate for two days and three nights, then sleep for two days, then have a transition day during which the most lucid moments came. Then the hallucinating would begin again.  Since this disease is so erratic in its presentation, using the word “pattern” is pretty silly.  It does what it will do when it chooses — and that is that.

…It is about 9:30pm now.  She slept through until about 6:30pm.  She had indidcated that she wanted something to eat, but by the time we got to the table, she was no longer able to speak intelligibly.  I couldn’t figure out what she wanted or if she still wanted anything.  I just held her for a while.  At that point, she couldn’t sit up straight — almost fell off the chair.  I did manage to get her to take some spoonfuls of applesauce.  Finally, she just could not respond in any way.  It was tough to get her from the dining room chair to the transfer chair.

I managed to get her to the bed, but by then it was apparent that there had been some intestinal activity.  She was almost completely limp, but I needed to get her to the toilet stool, cleaned and changed and back into bed.  If last Saturday’s struggle with that task was a 10, this one was a 9.9.  It all got done and she ended up back in bed.  I was physically as exhausted as I was last Saturday.  I was not as emotionally exhausted.  For whatever reason, I kept my cool during this one.  I just did what needed to be done.  I hope some progress has actually been made in dealing with that problem.  Admittedly, I was much more rested today than I was last Saturday.

I settled on the deck for some devotional reading.  It was a beautiful evening, warm, but with a pleasant breeze.  After a short time there, I saw on the video monitor that Mary Ann was moving.  I went in to check.  She was able to speak more clearly.  She wanted to eat something. This time it was some vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and pecans.  After eating, she watched Dr. House for a half hour or so, and has now taken her bedtime pills and gone back to bed.

Today while she was lying in bed, on occasion she would be there with eyes open, talking to people only she could see.  While we were sitting next to one another in front of the television before she finally went to bed, she was doing the same, this time with her eyes closed.

Sleeping all day and having moved into the hallucination cycle leads me to expect a more difficult night tonight than last night.  She appears to be restless at the moment.

…This time it was another trip for #2.  This time it was at least a 9.95 compared to last Saturday’s 10.  She was sort of dead weight thrughout, but including enough involuntary twisting and moving her weight against what I was trying to do as I sought to hold her up, that I almost could not get the task done.  If nothing in this short and chubby body gets broken, pulled or herniated, I am going to be a force to be reckoned with physically.  This is like going to the gym multiple times a day.

I had better close, otherwise I may be writing all night and have nothing left to write about tomorrow — unlikely!

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I have to wonder how long this has been going on.  I wondered about it right after coming home from the hospital last November.  There were none of the usual symptoms that were different from the symptoms of the problems already diagnosed and being treated.  It seems unlikely to me that such an infection could have been going on since November, although there is a chronic version of this diagnosis.

Hospice Nurse Emily phoned shortly after lunch time today to report that Mary Ann’s urine had tested positive for a Urinary Tract Infection [UTI].  In fact it is apparently a fairly serious one.  She reported that the doctor had insisted that Mary Ann manage to get in both the morning and evening doses yet today.  We have now done so and Mary Ann is in bed.

The medication is an anti-biotic called Cipro.  It is a strong anti-biotic whose sheets of warnings and side-effects (three pages of small print) read like a Stephen King novel.  The good news is that the Hospice doctor has a current list of all Mary Ann’s meds and a chart that includes all her medical problems.  The Hospice Staff have regular Team meetings on each patient.  It is a fairly small Hospice organization, serving only about thirty patients.  We regularly get a copy of the Team meetings.  Each report includes hand-written notes by each member of the team, including the doctor.

It certainly is a challenge to discern the signs of a UTI when every one of them matches something that is normal for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, Heart Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (a Dementia with Lewy Bodies), Hypertension, Orthostatic Hypotension, Chronic Kidney Disease, Hypothyroidsim, Urinary and Bowel Incontinence, a stroke victim who has also had a life-threatening bout with Pneumonia.

Here is an interesting item on the list of those symptoms that are often indicators of a Urinary Tract Infection:  “Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI).”  Imagine trying to catch that symptom in someone with a Lewy Body Dementia that has as its central symptom, mental confusion that comes and goes.

On the Medline Plus web site from which I got the information in this post there is a list circumstances that increase the likelihood of getting a UTI.

The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

  • Diabetes
  • Advanced age (especially people in nursing homes)
  • Problems emptying your bladder (urinary retention) because of brain or nerve disorders
  • A tube called a urinary catheter inserted into your urinary tract
  • Bowel Incontinence
  • Enlarged Prostate, narrow urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine
  • Kidney stones
  • Staying still (immobile) for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
  • Pregnancy

Mary Ann is not pregnant, does not have a prostate gland or kidney stones, nor is she diabetic, but all the rest fit to one degree or another.

I will admit that this diagnosis seems like good news in the sense that it provides a glimmer of hope for some positive change.  Mary Ann declined pretty dramatically after her hospital stay (during which a catheter was used).  It would be wonderful to be surprised by improvements coming with progress in treating the UTI.

Mary Ann (and I) got a pretty good night’s sleep last night.  She seemed to be doing somewhat better today but still had some confusion periodically.  There was a little more of the fainting and bowel activity.  She had a nap of a couple of hours during the mid-day.

We had a special treat today.  This afternoon Pastor Mike and Judy came to visit for a few hours.  They are warm and caring, as well as strong and intelligent people who have made their mark for great good in a central city area in Kansas City, Kansas that has had all the struggles that often come with older city neighborhoods.  I have tremendous respect for them as they have stayed engaged with and present in that community for decades.  Without fanfare or tangible rewards they have continued to serve in creative ways people sometimes gasping for air just to keep from drowning in a sea of failed attempts at trying to get by on their own.

We have known Mike and Judy since the early 1970’s.  I was a few years ahead of Mike at the Seminary we both attended in St. Louis.  Mary Ann and I have  listed Mike as the requested preacher at our funerals.  He and Judy have known Mary Ann since before the Parkinson’s.  As well as the personal fondness we have for them, they share with us an understanding of church that is deeply rooted in some core faith issues.  We have great conversations.  Judy especially made a point of talking with Mary Ann one on one, so that Mary Ann’s thoughts and words were not lost in the energetic talking of three others.

After spending time at the dining room table talking with Mike and Judy, we moved on to the deck.  It was a glorious day here, about 70 degrees and abundant sunshine.  As we sat on the deck, the pair of Mallard Ducks wandered back and forth, in and out of the waterfall, munching at the ground level platform feeder a few times.  They just sort of hung out with us, maybe twenty feet away.  The birds were singing their spring songs probably meant to impress some potential or current mate.  At one point a black Grackle (with that shiny deep blue head), Blue Jay, Cardinal and bright yellow Goldfinch were in view at the same time in the branches or on the ground in the immediate area.  A couple of Robins were nearby also, as well as the Mallards.  It always strikes me that colors no designer in his/her right mind would put together in the same space, work very well when in proximity in a natural setting. It would seem there might be some other artist at work weaving colors together.

Yesterday, our system here seemed on the verge of becoming impossible to sustain.  A good night’s sleep, some time during Mary Ann’s nap to get a few sort of recreational chores done (filling bird feeders, more weeding in the waterfall area), relaxed time visiting with good friends, has pulled us from the verge of impossible back to possible.  Since we live in a fairly small space between possible and impossible, I will not venture a guess as to where we will be tomorrow.  We will deal with that when tomorrow becomes today. Speaking of which — it is time to go to bed.

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One night and day like this are about all I am up to.  Last night the hallucinations fired up.  When I say that we got less than half a night’s sleep, I mean that if the night were to be sliced down the middle, lengthwise, there was sleep that totaled less than half the available time.  In other words, there was about twenty minutes out of every hour that may have included some sleep, at least for me.  As I write that, I suspect that I am exaggerating some.  I doubt there there was twenty minutes in any hour that was not spent trying to explain away hallucinations and convince her to lie down and go to sleep.

Once after I had pointed to her quilt on the wall and the family pictures on two other walls in the bedroom.  She stared me in the face and said in a very belligerent tone: “All right, now just take me home!”   At one point she was crying uncontrollably during a dream.  Almost immediately after I hit the publish button on last night’s post, she got up and then fell down in the corner of the bedroom. When I got there she was talking utter gibberish in a loud voice like the sounds she makes sometimes when she is starting to faint.  They are awful sounds.  They may have been some sort of wailing that was part of a dream that was going on when she fell.  I was afraid she had had a stroke, but when I got her up, she seemed to have awakened from whatever form of dream she was having.  She was still not at all lucid.

After having clear and healthy looking urine all day, up until the time she went to bed, she started showing some blood in her urine. I phoned Hospice, grateful to have someone to call.  The Hospice Nurse said she would bring over a kit to gather urine so that she could be tested for a urinary tract infection [UTI].  We agreed that it would be okay to wait until morning to bring it over.

After an entire night of getting up and down again and again, trying to get her to settle, she got up very early.  I had set the alarm early so that I could get a shower in before the nurse came.  Mary Ann was up before the alarm went off.  She was in hallucination streaming mode.  I simply cannot endure that for very long.  She hops up immediately after sitting down, needing to go somewhere, not always sure where.  She was in fainting mode, so each time she insisted on getting up and walking somewhere, she ended up on the floor.  I was with her each time, so I had to let her down to the floor, sometimes dead weight, so that she would not hurt herself.  Then I got the transfer chair beside her, pulled her up on to her feet and back into the chair.  As soon as I moved her back to her spot, she would pop up and the procedure would start again.  I could not begin to count how many times that happened.

I did manage to get her fed, no small task since she was hallucinating and paying attention or talking to whatever or whomever she was seeing.  I am utterly helpless to do anything about problems created by people or objects that have no corporeal presence.  They just don’t exist outside of Mary Ann’s plaque laden brain cells.  Whether or not they are real, they are so to Mary Ann.  They elicit the full range of feeling and frustration and fear that they would if they actually were real.

I had to sit two or three feet away from her every minute, or she would get up and move someplace where she could be hurt.  I could not so much as get in a fifteen minute shower.  The Hospice Nurse had to be late, since a client had died and she had been up with them all night.  I followed Mary Ann around, picking her up again and again for two or three hours, until just minutes before Nurse Emily arrived when Mary Ann simply crashed and had to go back to bed.

Nurse Emily dropped off the urine gathering kit for me to use later, but she was also willing to stay for fifteen minutes extra so that I could take a shower.  During that time Volunteer Edie came to stay with Mary Ann.  As always Edie brought lunch. This time it was a favorite of both Mary Ann and me, a Greek style meatball and veggie soup.  Mary Ann slept about three hours, beginning before Nurse Emily and Volunteer Edie arrived and ending just after Edie left.

We ate lunch, and afterward, Mary Ann started the same pattern as the one that had almost driven me crazy (short drive) before her nap.  A number of times when she popped up in the afternoon, she was irritated that I didn’t get her into the car to go to the Evening Service at Church.  The service is at 6pm (ten minutes away from our house) and she started popping up around 2:30pm.

The afternoon pop-ups included four or five of them beginning a trek to the bathroom, where the fainting and intestinal production ending up in the wrong place happened a number of times.

We did manage to get to the Evening Service, but I was wasted and worn out, and Mary Ann was not able to participate much in the service. There is enough structure to the service, that we could at least make it through the service.  Church and supper did not change the pattern.  We ate supper, Mary Ann sticking her spoon in the Pepsi and her napkin in the soup, often seeming to try to eat the napkin with the spoon.  Sleepless nights wreak havoc on her dementia.

I won’t deny that I had been hoping all afternoon and evening that she would go to sleep again.  She did not.  Now finally she is in bed.  She has been continuing to pop up and down, sometimes thinking it is morning.  I have had to talk her out of getting up and dressed.  I don’t know that I have another night like the last one in me.  I guess I don’t have a choice.

What I have written may make no sense, I am so wasted that my eyes keep shutting.  I need to get to bed. (Too tired to edit. It goes out errors and all.)  [I am adding this sentence to indicate that I have now edited this post, and Mary Ann and I did get some sleep last night.]

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The short string of good days ended, beginning last night.  The remote control sitting two feet from her was a candy bar.  That and some other comments hinted at what was coming.  Last night she was up at least once an hour throughout the night.  She got up early this morning.

As I sat next to her in the living room she spoke with a very rational and clear voice asking about some things.  She asked if the blond young man who had come by was Daughter Lisa’s boy friend.  There was no blond young man, and Lisa, husband Denis and the girls in Kentucky are absolutely secure.  No amount of talking by me or Lisa has managed to remove that from her repertoire of hallucination/dreams/delusions.

She wanted to be sure to get the Tom Mix Western back to the library.  We haven’t been to the library and certainly have never taken out a Tom Mix book.  He was a western hero in the movies from before Mary Ann and I were born.

She wanted to make a list of things to send to the kids, all she could think of was a blue tennis shoe for a baby she concluded they had left here.  She looked outside that decided that there had been an avalanch.  I asked if she was referring to the waterfall.  She said it was under the waterfall.  She was struck by the orange-green tree in bloom in the back yard.  We do have a Tulip Poplar that has orange and green blossoms early in the summer.  There were barely any leaves on the tree yet.  Where she was looking when she said that was not where that tree is located.

She decided that the eyelets on my hiking boots (which I wear every day now that I am retired) were jingle bells.  She tried to make them jingle but they would not work.  She told me in that matter of fact voice that her oldest Brother’s widow had changed her last name, having married someone whose name was new to me.  I am confirming that such a thing has not happened.

We talked for a while about the fact that I knew the things she had said not to be true outside of her thinking and dreaming.  She said there was no reason that I would lie to her about it, espeicially about our Daughter.  She said she just felt that people were keeping things from her.  I explained that all the folks I read about online shared that their spouses suffering from the disease that she had talked the same way about things.

I recognize that telling her it is the disease is not going to convince her that the dreams/hallucinations/delusions are not real.  I just want to be consistently telling her the truth as I understand it since sometimes she is lucid and seems to understand that they are not real.

She was not up for long this morning before wanting to lie down.  She slept for over five hours.  I knew that I should insist on her getting up periodically to go to the bathroom, but she seemed unable, certainly unwilling to get up at the two hour intervals at which I gave her a pill.  There was bedding to be washed and pj bottoms to be washed.

She finally got up to eat a late lunch around 4pm.  We were invited to head to Neighbors Carol and Eddie’s house for ice cream and goodies.  I thought we could try.  Mary Ann wanted to do it.  She was having trouble with hallucinations as well as trouble sitting up without fainting.  I asked her again, and she insisted that she was all right. I called to say we would be coming over in about an hour.

Immediately after doing so, she moved to her spot in front of the television and her head went down on the little table with the pillow.  After a bit the deadly combination of fainting and intestinal activity began.  I was able to get to the phone to cancel just before it began in earnest.  Gratefully, it did not last as long as it had that last and most difficult Saturday evening.  As always, it was very demanding physically.  It has to be hard on her, but she remembers very little of it.

She is in bed, but seems to be in the sort of mode that is likely to result in lots of night time activity.  That remains to be seen.

I spent the time she was napping in deck therapy and more sunflower seedling removal.  I reread the article from Weavings that I read yesterday.  I also got the latest newsletter from a nearby Spiritual Formation retreat center called Shantivanam.  The newsletter has a short series of segments for meditation.  The birds were fairly active again.  By the way, the crazy Robin returned this morning to challenge his reflection in the lower window on the deck.  They had quite a battle.  I am not sure who won, but he finally left after a half hour or so.

A few minutes ago, Mary Ann needed a commode trip and asked if the people were settled down and in bed.  I just couldn’t bring myself to follow the general wisdom and just say yes.  I told her that while I could go along with the hallucinations, I wanted her to know that I would always tell her the truth whether she wanted to hear it or not.  I told her that there are no other people here.  It is just the two of us, and we are in this together.  Whether it is the best way to respond or not, it is the one I have chosen.

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It has been a very long time since there was so much fainting in one day.   Anyone who is not okay with explicit talk about BM’s should probably pass on this post.  I was grateful for a three or four hour nap in the middle of the day and more grateful when the ordeal was over this evening and bedtime arrived.

I am a seasoned veteran in what I call waste management.  It is just part of helping someone who no longer can handle those duties on her own.  I am used to the fainting spells.  They no longer scare me.  It is when the two intertwine for all the hours she is awake that it calls into question my physical capacity to do this task.

I am not grossed out by it.  I am not pushed to a high level of frustration by it.  I am just tired and sore, grateful for a break from it now that she is in bed.  Yesterday, I mentioned that Mary Ann’s blood pressure was a very low normal when the Hospice Nurse took it.  I observed that resting blood pressure that low did not bode well for what might be so when she stands up for a while.

I meant to take her BP this morning, but did not remember to do so.  As a result, I am not sure yet about whether or not to start the Midodrine, which raises her BP and reduces the fainting but keeps her BP dangerously high.

Mary Ann got up fairly late today.  It was apparent from the morning trip to the bathroom that the fainting was a problem.  We managed to get her breakfast done.  Then the bathroom trips began.  She felt that she needed to go, but there was little production.  Each time she got on the stool, she fainted.  Each time she stood up from it she fainted.  My role, as I have mentioned before, is to hold her upper body back so that she does not fall forward off the stool.

She was fainting so much that she couldn’t even sit up in her chair when I got her back out into the living room.  I just took her into the bedroom and got her into bed.  She slept for three or four hours.

After she got up, I fed her lunch and the bathroom trips began in earnest.  There was more production during the afternoon.  Once down there would be a some activity.  Then I would pull her up, hold her up and do clean up, almost always including (sorry) getting out some that would not come on its own.  Then as that was going on, she would faint again.  Trying to get her into the sitting position when she is only partially conscious and holding herself stiff, takes all the strength I can muster.  The torso has some pretty powerful muscles.

Each time we went in, there would two or three repeats of that same pattern with occasionally a few minutes of just sitting there holding herself up. During those times, I stayed close to her so that I could get there immediately when she popped up.

Most of the next couple of hours contained those trips, each about the same in terms of my role.  When Mary Ann was not in the bathroom, she was in pop up mode.  She has absolutely no awareness of the risks of getting up no matter how often she faints or how much I remind her not to get up without my helping.  At one point, I had to click the seat belt on her transfer chair to slow her popping up so that I could finish folding the clothes from the dryer.

What I have described above is a very normal activity for Caregivers of those with Lewy Body Dementia.  I can hardly complain.  Others have a far more difficult time than do I.  I write in such detail first of all for selfish reasons.  It helps me to put into words and sort of “get off my chest” just how difficult a day can be.  I hope that the detail also provides a point of contact for those who are experiencing the very same thing but have no one to talk with about it.

I also hope that those of you who have friends or family or acquaintances who are caring for someone, will realize what they are going through and cut them a little slack.  If they are whining, they are doing so for good reason.  You don’t have to try to fix their situation, just listen patiently without immediately changing the subject to something that is going on in your life or tell them about all the other people who have it worse than they do.

Tonight, I am wondering if there is a direct correlation between the low blood pressure fainting issue and Mary Ann’s ability to keep on track mentally.  Shortly before going to bed, she stood up and called me over.  I asked what she was doing.  She seemed distressed and said she was leaning against a wall.  Her eyes were open, not slammed shut as happens sometimes.  She was in the middle of the living room, in front of the television.  When I said there was no wall, she responded, “Did they take it down?” (Probably a memory of the removal of walls in during the sun room construction.)

Moments later in the bedroom, she asked what day it was.  I answered, “Saturday.”  Then she asked me if I was preaching tomorrow.  I asked her when the last time I preached was.  She said, “Last Sunday.”  I asked her if she remembered that I had retired almost two years ago and had not preached since.  She just looked puzzled.

While she does get confused and have delusions and hallucinations and dreams that she cannot tell from reality, those interactions tonight, seemed a little extra odd.  That raised in my mind the question of the impact of so many times today that her blood pressure was too low to keep an adequate supply of blood flowing to her brain.  I am wondering what sort of cumulative effect that has.  If that is the case, it complicates the current decision not to give Mary Ann the Midodrine that raises her BP to harmful level.  There is nothing easy about dealing with this combination of diseases and debilities.

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Not yet, but there are seven guys with trumpets of rams’ horns followed by a large crowd who have been circling the house for some days now.  Should I be concerned??

The addition of a sun room that will change exterior space into interior space adding a six foot by nine foot sun area with twelve feet of floor to ceiling glass (six feet of which is sliding doors) is now in the process of construction.  The new exterior walls are almost done.  The old interior walls will be removed some time in the next few days, probably Monday.

We now spend most of every day and night in this little townhome, 1150 square feet upstairs — easy to care for but somewhat confining.  The large pondless waterfall that we put in last summer is wonderful, but not visible from inside the house.  When this project is complete, the waterfall will be in full view.

Mary Ann’s assessment of the project is that I have really gone overboard.  I think when all is said and done, she will like it very much.  She has never enjoyed going out and spending time on the deck.  This way she can see the beauty of the area behind the house from the warmth or the cool of the house.

I will make no pretense.  This is for me.  I am nurtured by the outdoors.  I crave light.  This will provide access to both while still in the same space as Mary Ann, keeping her in full view.  When the project took shape and the deal was consummated, it was not so clear that Mary Ann was declining to the degree that is now apparent. It seems to me that the timing is actually working out well.  This is a helpful distraction from the focus we have had on preparing for the next phase of our lives.  The project feels very life affirming to me.   Yes, we are spending the Kids inheritance!  They know it and have encouraged us to do so.

The last couple of days have included two nights of adequate sleep, interrupted, but not too often.  Yesterday she ate well for two meals and missed the third, sleeping through it.  Bath Aide Zandra did do a shower since Mary Ann’s leg strength seems to be returning.  She had problems with her, but got the job done.

Today has included lots of fainting, even just sitting in the chair.  I hope that will subside for a time.  A huge rolling shower chair has now been delivered.  Hopefully, that will make a difference.  The Hospice Aide will come tomorrow for the first time.  This way Mary Ann will get three showers a week.  Since she is incontinent much of the time, it is good to keep her clean.  We change disposables very often (cost adds up fast, but worth it) to avoid urinary tract infections [UTI].

The hallucinations were in a challenging mode.  Mary Ann was popping up to go somewhere and do something much of the time she was out of bed.  I, of course, needed to get to her immediately to keep her from falling.  When I got there, she usually didn’t know what she was up for or where she was going.  A few times she had a need that was created by a hallucination. A few times when she was lying down but awake, she was having a waking dream and talking to me about things that had no connection with reality.  I am sure the hallucination/delusion/dream times are distressing to her, and they certainly are very difficult for me to deal with.

The Hospice Chaplain stopped by to introduce himself.  It is a frightening thing to put two preachers together.  Poor Mary Ann couldn’t have gotten a word in edgewise even if she tried.  He would come at whatever intervals we chose.  Since we have a good support system, I suggested once a month.  His time will be best used with those many who do not have an active support system.  It is nice to have an option that is not part of in our organization or denomination.  He spent a good portion of his career in Brazil.  I suspect he has plenty of interesting stories.

Later in the day friend (and former parishioner) Don came by to check out the project.  He had a couple of good suggestions.  More importantly, he brought a cup of coffee from PT’s.  We stood there talking long enough that the workers thought they might put us to work.

For supper we enjoyed a small Lasagna that Daughter Lisa had made and put in the freezer for us when she was here.  Afterward Mary Ann was willing (of course) to head to Baskin & Robbins to get some ice cream treats to bring home.

She is now in bed.  I suspect, given the hallucinations today, tonight may be a difficult one.  We will see how it goes.

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The fax is working!  It seems to be a great way to maximize the quality of the communication with the doctor.  Even though Mary Ann’s appt. is not until Monday, the Neurologist, Dr. Pahwa, has read the fax.  Through his Assistant, Stepanie, he contacted us by phone with a couple of things to think about before Monday. 

The first is that we think about whether or not we will want a referral to a Psychiatrist to deal with the decisions about what meds will serve best in dealing with the hallucinations.  I will, of course, ask for a referral to someone who knows Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia and what differentiates it from Alzheimer’s Dementia.  It needs to be someone with a large enough patient base of those with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia to be able to speak from experience as well as from book learn’n.

The second suggestion was to think about a referral to a Hospice program.   Medicare and many other insurer’s require a prognosis of six months or less.  I have not yet phoned a Hospice program to be sure what their requirements are, but the marketing materials often talk about a Palliative program that is a longer term intervention that provides a transition to the full Hospice care.  

Having been a Pastor for forty years, I have interacted with Hospice and many who have used it.  The reactions have been almost unanimously positive.  Many in the online Caregiver Spouses group have used Hospice.  Most in that group have had positive experiences. 

Whatever insurance and Medicare do or do not require, there is an expectation that the person being enrolled will not be resuscitated if they experience a cardiac arrest.  There is the rub.  I am not sure that Mary Ann and I are ready for that.  Four months ago, I doubt I would have seriously considered it.  Now, as much as she has declined in the past few months, I am willing at least to consider it.  I am not sure Mary Ann would be willing to accept a DNR order.   Actually, not long ago, our Daughter-in-Law had relayed a suggestion to us from a friend who had read this blog.  That suggestion was to check into hospice.  At that time I started thinking again about the DNR issue.  Mary Ann has declined considerably since that suggestion and its consideration. 

This Wednesday evening, our Daughter, Lisa, will arrive from Louisville, KY, to stay with her Mom for three days, while I have three days of respite at a Center for Spiritual Renewal in a beautiful rural location in north-central Oklahoma. 

In talking with Lisa this evening about the Hospice suggestion, she admitted that it was something she was intending to bring up during her visit.  She has been an Administrator at a very large CCRC, mult-layered complex for older adults.  She supervised the construction and staffing of a dementia building there.  She has also served on the Staff of a Hospice program in South Carolina, working with Volunteers. 

My hope is that our Son, Micah can come from Kansas City so that we can all talk about the matter of Hospice and the DNR that will be required if we choose to enroll MaryAnn.   Our Daughter, Lisa, and our Son, Micah have been a tremendous support.  I respect their ability to process the options with wisdom and rational thought laced with love and concern for both Mary Ann and me.  

Last night was another difficult one.  She was up for a number of times, not as many as some nights, but at least six or eight times.  There were dreams to be dealt with.  She needed to get up very early again, but this time a little single serving applesauce won us another hour or so of sleep. 

One of the times, around 6am, I heard her and awoke to see her standing by the bed.  I rushed over to see what she needed.  I asked if she needed to use the commode.  She seemed to say no, but then talked very fast with slurred words that were unintelligible to me.  She did that a second time.  I tried to manipulate her to sitting back down on the bed. 

It was not until the moment I reached around and got her moving into the sitting position that I realized that she had pulled down the pj’s and disposable and there was soft stool to be dealt with (sorry!).  There followed moving her quickly to the commode, changing clothes and rinsing out bedding so that it could be washed. 

At that moment I started thinking about how to title this post in a way that would change yesterday’s title “Difficult Day” to whatever comes after that that would indicate the next level of difficulty. 

Gratefully, the day improved some.  Actually, Mary Ann had a pretty good day.  I was glad for that since friend Jeanne had visited last week and Mary Ann slept almost entirely through the time she was here with Mary Ann.  Jeanne had a good part of the day able to interact with Mary Ann today. 

One odd moment came when I returned from some errands to find Jeanne very excited about the fact that our Daughter, Lisa was, according to Mary Ann, pregnant.  Mary Ann was convinced that I had told her Lisa was pregnant.  She, of course is not pregnant.  The fact that there simply are no boundaries between dreams and reality for Mary Ann creates some very interesting and sometimes bizarre results. 

Mary Ann is still in hallucination mode, but it has been a little more manageable today.  She did nap for a time this afternoon.  She ate very little supper and was not interested in my help.  She did not even eat the ice cream treat from Baskin & Robbins.  That actually is distressing since I have counted on at least being able to get some calories in by giving her ice cream.   Mary Ann’s recent weight loss seemed to Lisa  be especially relevant to the discussion Hospice Discussion.

Mary Ann is in bed now, and has not so far needed my intervention.  That has no bearing on how the rest of the night will go, but it is allowing me to write this post with fewer interruptions.   Here is hoping for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep tonight.

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This was one of the difficult days in the cycle we are in.  As much as I want her to be present with me, I was grateful when she took a couple of naps.  I don’t really know how to explain how difficult it is when Mary Ann is weaving hallucinations/delusions/dreams with moments that seem lucid, at least on the surface.

This mode demands full and constant attention.  Since she can’t differentiate what is real from what is not real, I am expected to deal with things that are not there.  Every task demanding my participation is multiplied exponentially in difficulty.

Of course she started trying to get up between 5am and 6am.  Then she was in the intense sort of mode that has a bit of an adversarial tone.  On days like today, she may be mobile on her own one minute and then weak and confused with her eyes shut the next moment.  When she is in that mode she often can’t connect with the simplest things.  If I ask her to sit down to put her pants on, she may stand up.  She may think we are in the bathroom when we are in the bedroom.

Eating is a nightmare.  When she will allow me to help, she often moves her hands in the way of the food as if she has food in her hands, or put her head down in a way that won’t allow me to put the food in.  She tried to drink the chips from the little pyrex dish, then she tried using a fork on the chips.

In this mode she will often not answer a question or say a word that doesn’t fit, then get angry with me for asking her again.  Sometimes she will say no to a food, but eat it when I put it to her mouth.

It is almost impossible to find out what she wants or where she wants to be.  At one point, she wanted to write a thank you note to a fiance’ from fifty years ago whom she decided had come by to visit.  Another time she just said she wanted her chip autographed.  I said back to her those words, and she confirmed that is what she said.  I, of course, have no idea what that was about.

It was a difficult day also because I find it physically very taxing to lift, move, twist her into the transfer chair or the chair at table when her eyes are closed and she has no spatial awareness to help.  Constantly getting her into and out of bed, turning her from facing one side to facing the other, demands physical strength that is right at my limit.  So much of the time in days like today, she is minimally helpful in that moving.

I tried to nap this morning during her first nap, but it was a restless one for her, so I needed to be up, helping.  Very soon she was up again.  Finally, this afternoon, I was able to rest in bed for about an hour while she was napping more soundly.

She has been incontinent in bowel activity and having bouts of mild diarrhea.  The tasks that are associated with that problem have been increasing and were included in today’s struggles.

I am disappointed in myself that it takes so little time when she is in this sort of mode for me to feel as if I am at the limit of my capacity to cope.  It would seem as if I should recoup when she has the sleeping days or a good day, and then be able to keep things in perspective, dealing with great patience on the bad days.

What seems to happen instead is that as soon as there are even signs that one of these especially frustrating times is coming, the dread emerges.  When the day comes, of course, it is after a challenging night.  With the difficult day comes the awareness that this is what is likely to be the norm more and more as the days and weeks and months and years go by.  As much of a struggle as today has been, it is only a taste of what is likely to be in store, judging from the experience of others.

I understand that the difficulties today are just for today.  Tomorrow may be better or worse, but that will be for tomorrow.  Were I perfectly rational and dispassionate, I would be able to take each moment as it comes without feeling the weight of past struggles and ones yet to come.  I am not perfectly rational and dispassionate.  I am alive, able to feel the frustration and helplessness and sadness to the core of my being.  With that comes the capacity to experience the full range of what it means to be alive, feelings of joy and exhilaration.  I guess the trick is to retain the capacity to experience fully the extremes that come with truly being alive without getting lost in one or the other.

Mary Ann’s friend, Jeanne, phoned today and will come tomorrow for part of the day to be with Mary Ann.  She came a few days ago to spend time with Mary Ann while I met with a friend, but Mary Ann slept the entire time Jeanne was here. Tomorrow’s visit will give me a chance to get the van serviced.  I was having difficulty figuring out how to get that work done given Mary Ann’s current condition.

Needless to say I am hoping for a better night and a better day tomorrow.  I can hope.

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The lack of sleep finally caught up with Mary Ann.  Last night, it took her a while, but finally, she settled.  She slept through the night with only a couple of commode trips.  She got up early.  I was hoping she could sleep a little longer since Wednesday is the weekly 7:30am Spiritual Formation group. 

Since she got up at about 7am, I assumed that since there was no morning Volunteer I would need to stay with her upstairs, eliminating my attendance with the group in our downstairs.  While it did take a long time to get her needs met, pills and food and television in the bedroom set, I was able to get downstairs.  I had to head back up a few times.  I take the monitor downstairs with me so that I can see if she is secure in her chair in the bedroom.  That way I know when I need to go up and help her.

The hallucinations were less intense, and, while she was up from her chair a few times, she finally settled there and just put her head down on her lap as has been so when she is awake, but not in hyperactive mode responding to hallucinations. 

When Bath Aide Zandra came, she had some difficulty getting Mary Ann to sit up enough to get her through the bath and hair wash routine.  When I came in to put on her Exelon patch, she could not sit up at all and was hanging on the edge of her chair.  Zandra had tried to use the seat belt on the chair, but that was not working well. 

As soon as they were done, I helped Mary Ann back into bed.  That was at about 9:45am.   Mary Ann slept for six hours!   There was a new Volunteer who had asked that I stay while she was with Mary Ann since she was unsure of being able to handle her physically.  Doris ended up looking at magazines for the entire time of her stay from 11:30am to 2pm. 

I managed with great difficulty to give Mary Ann the mid-morning pills.  I gave up on the next set.  I had not caught Zandra early enough to ask her to put a nighttime disposable on Mary Ann.  I knew that there would be leakage to deal with by letting her sleep so long.  First of all, she was sleeping so soundly that there would have been no way to get her up sooner.  I talked with her, urging her to get up and go to the bathroom a couple of times.  She just couldn’t.

Given how hard it has been to deal with her current level of confusion and the intensity of her hallucinations, I was grateful to have a rest from it.  I hoped that the combination of the a night and day of sleep might help diminish the hallucinations and hyperactivity. 

When she finally got up a little before 4pm, she was able to function better, hallucinations somewhat subdued and relatively calm.  The hallucinations were still active, just not as intense. 

I was able to help her eat a half sandwich.  She ate a few chips and drank some Pepsi.  She sat in the chair by the television for a while, bothered some at first by the hallucinations.  Then she put her head on her lap for a time.  I reminded her about some left over B&R ice cream she had not finished yesterday.  She ate some on her own and then let me help her finish. 

She headed to bed at about 7pm.  It is hard to know whether tonight will be part of the catching up time, or a restless one since she has slept so long in the last twenty-four hours.   She has been up a number of times already, responding to hallucination/dreams, once intending to get up for the day.  The time then was 8:50pm. 

I spent some of the time Doris was here working on a fax to send to Dr. Pahwa, Mary Ann’s Neurologist at KU Medical Center.  I want to see what tonight and tomorrow bring so that I can add that to the informaiton on the sheet.  I am asking him if it would be appropriate to do a review of her meds with an eye toward adjusting them — hoping, of course, to reduce the hallucinations. 

One side note: while it was good that I also got a little more sleep last night, I did not manage any daytime sleeping to do some catching up of my own.  The next three days do not include any time with Volunteers here.  If the next few posts seem to be written in Na’vi (a tribe of the native population on the planet Pandora in the movie Avatar), you will know that sleep has been elusive, and hallucinations intense. 

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This is the person whose Autonomic Nervous System has not been able to maintain a consistent level of blood pressure for the last few years.  It has vacillated up and down and down and up again.  Now the pressure gauge in her body seems to be stuck on high.

After consistently high blood pressure readings yesterday (see last night’s post), this morning at 2am I decided to take her blood pressure.  We spent a couple of hours up most of the time between 1am and 3am.  At 2am it was 200/105.  I decided to take a reading this morning when she first got up so that I could decide whether or not to give her the morning dose of Midodrine.  The Midodine raises her blood pressure to keep her from fainting from the Orthostatic Hypotension — sudden drop in blood pressure when standing, resulting in fainting, what the doctors call syncope.

Her blood pressure reading at 8:45am was 220/120.  Needless to say, I chose not to give her this morning’s dose of Midodrine.  I will keep track of her blood pressure and phone the Cardiologist tomorrow if it is still stuck at such a high level.  Actually, I will call no matter what to report this long stretch of high BP and ask if there is something that would be safe for me to give her to lower it when it is this high.  I also need to try to take her BP when she is standing to see if it lowers then or remains high.  At the Cardiologist’s office last Thursday, her BP was consistently measuring higher than yesterday and today’s numbers here at home even when we stood her up and ARNP Angela measured it.

Last night was not an easy one at least for part of the night.  I went to bed very early for me.  By around midnight or a little later, she started getting up, disturbed by the people.  At one point she wanted to get up and out of bed for a while to get rid of the people in her head.  I was encouraged by the way she said that, realizing (or saying for my benefit) that they were in her head, not actually in the house.

I reacted differently from the past when I have gotten irritated and insistent with her.  I encouraged her and helped her lie down, reminding her that staying awake would make them worse instead of better.  Each time she lay down, I returned to my bed but stayed awake, listening intently to her.  Whenever I heard her mumbling or moving around, I asked if I could help.  In some cases I went over at talked with her a bit.  At one point when I was in bed, she asked what the man was doing in my bed, meaning me.  I reminded her who I was.  It was odd that she seemed to be talking to me but at the same time about me as if I was someone else.  I assume it is a version of the Capgras Delusion I have talked about in earlier posts — the perception that a person has been substituted for another (as in the body snatcher movies).

I stayed awake most of the time for about an hour and a half as we interacted off and on.  Then she settled and slept through until morning, other than the usual commode trips.

I got up earlier than usual this morning so that I could get ready for going to the 11am worship service.  When Mary Ann got up, she asked what we were doing today.  I helped her tune in to the fact that it was Sunday, and that I was planning for us to go to the 11am service, then out to eat at the Brick Oven, and watch the Super Bowl later in the day.

When eating the yogurt, drinking juice and taking pills, she was in eyes-tightly-shut mode.  I needed to feed her again this morning.  When I offered the usual options for cereal, instead of picking one, she said she was tired and wanted to lie down.  She was pretty unstable from the time she got out of bed.

I did make a point of weighing her to see if she is retaining fluid.  Her feet have been swollen the last couple of days, including this morning. Her weight was almost exactly the same as it had been the last time she weighed herself on that scale.  I will continue to monitor that as long as her feet remain swollen.

After she made a trip to the bathroom, when I asked her if she still wanted to lie down, she said her stomach hurt and, yes, she wanted to lie down.  She was concerned about lying down, knowing that I wanted to go to church.  Those words and actions, stomach hurting and wanting to lie down, usually asssociate with intestinal activity at some point. I knew that major intestinal activity would be far easier to deal with here at home than at church.  There would have been no way to manipulate her into going at that point, nor would it have made sense to try given those circumstances.  It is now well past the time church would have started and she is still sleeping.  I am sitting here at the computer with my suit pants on.  I guess it is time to change into stay at home clothes.

She slept for about four hours.  I should have gotten her up at some point to go to the bathroom.  Even though she had a night time disposable, it leaked. The bedding needed changing anyway.  The PJ’s and bedding are in the washer. I waited a little longer than I should have to give her a pill and get her up since I had ended up sitting down and reading, listening to the waterfall and birds in the back yard through the speaker made to bring outdoor sounds in.  Last night’s time up with Mary Ann caught up with me and I wanted to have some extra time just to rest.  She called for me soon after the time her med timer had gone off.

I took her blood pressure when she got up.  The reading was 165/105, not good but better than earlier in the day.  I cooked a bratwurst at her request.  Bratwurst and chips sounds like good Super Bowl Sunday food.  She handled the bite-sized slices of bratwurst on her own, as well as the dish of ice cream from the supply we bought at the store yesterday.

After lunch I asked her if she was willing to let me check her blood pressure while she was standing.  It was considerably lower, 130/80.  It was a little harder to hear clearly through the stethoscope since she was moving some.  It may have been a little higher than that, but certainly not lower.  When she has had problems with fainting, her BP has been very much lower than that when standing, and sometimes sitting.  Both numbers have been under a hundred.  The time she took the Tilt Table test at the hospital to verify that she had Orthostatic Hypotension, as soon as the table moved her from a lying position to 70% of a standing position, her BP dropped from a high reading, to 50/30.  A few minutes later she fainted.  I will keep checking her BP, but I would rather have a little fainting than allow it to stay as high as it has been the last few days.

A few minutes ago she showed me her glasses.  The ear piece on one side had come out of the hinge completely.  It will need to be reglued — hopefully possible.  We will take it in tomorrow.  I can only guess that spending so much time with her head down on the dining room table or the little table in front of her chair has resulted in loosening that ear piece.  I finally found an old pair of glasses she could use in the mean time.  It was almost comical in a sad sort of way that I found two old pairs that were not useable since she had fallen on them, in each case scratching one of the lenses so that it is completely useless. One of those falls took her to the Emergency Room with a giant hematoma on her forehead the size of her fist.

At suppertime Mary Ann’s blood pressure measured 165/95, again, too high, but not as high as this morning.  She struggled to eat supper and refused to allow me to help.  The last time I offered and she refused, I asked her why she wouldn’t let me help.  She was completely shut down, her face almost in the plate, getting nothing into her mouth.  Her answer was, “It is all I have left.”

She went to bed at about 7pm, watched the game from there, took her pills.  It was not long after that that she needed a snack — no surprise since she had eaten very little at supper.  She seems to be sleeping at the moment.  That, of course, can change at any time.

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.