It was a little less than a year ago that we headed off for a major trip again.  This one was to Kentucky to visit Daughter Lisa, Denis, Abigail and Ashlyn.  When we had done it in one day, it usually took us about eleven hours to get there.  This time, we stopped at a motel at about the halfway point.  We got plentyof rest, had a leisurely morning, and headed on to Louisville around noon.  Mornings always were extended by the time it took for each step in preparation for getting ready to go anywhere.  It was just a part of our reality. 

On other occasions we had stayed in the downstairs at Lisa’s.  Mary Ann’s Orthostatic Hypotension made that a challenge.  When she stood, her blood pressure would drop making her susceptible to fainting.  It was almost comical to see us help Mary Ann up the stairs.  One odd characteristic of Parkinson’s is that while feet may freeze on the level, stairs are no problem to negotiate.  The challenge was to get her up the stairs before the low blood pressure no longer provided an adequate blood supply to her brain to keep her from fainting. With one of us beside her and one in back, we raced up the stairs to a waiting chair.  On some of our visits, every time we arrived at the chair, she would faint.  On some visits she had less difficulty with it.  There was nothing we could come up with that explained why some times were better than others.

By this time last year, the OH was bad enough that it was no longer an option to stay in the downstairs.  We chose to stay in an extended stay motel.  It worked out well.  We took whatever time we needed in the morning at the motel, and ended up at Lisa’s house around noon.  We spent time with the family as long as Mary Ann’s stamina held out, and then headed back to the motel. 

We headed out in the car with the family, often to visit Huber’s winery and garden produce market and bakery (and ice cream parlor) in Southern Indiana near Denis’s family, with whom we visited.  Usually there was a trip to a restaurant.  There was lots of time watching Abigail and Ashlyn doing a variety of things.  There were many hugs, lots of pictures drawn and colored.  We had a good visit.

When we left, rather than coming straight home, we made the relatively short drive to Columbus, Indiana, to visit Brother Dick, Dee and the family.  Dick is a retired Pastor, fourteen years my senior.  We are almost from different generations, but have come to know and love each other as the years have gone by, as has been so with Dave, Gayle and Tish, our other siblings. 

I have described the setting at Dick and Dee’s place a couple of times before.  They live on a five acre plot with trees and ponds and gardens everywhere.  There are bees that provide honey, fish to be caught, vegetables to be picked from the garden and either eaten right away or canned to be eaten later.  Freshly baked bread and home made granola are mainstays.  There are birds constantly at the feeders attached to the rail or sitting on the deck right outside the floor to ceiling windows. 

We enjoyed a wonderful meal.  Then came the miracle.  Mary Ann had declined to the extent that walking more than a few steps had pretty much ceased to be an option — we thought.  When she tried to walk, many times the blood pressure would drop and so would she.  When we arrived at Dick and Dee’s, it was a little challenging to get the wheel chair where it needed to be.  Mary Ann just got up and walked the length of a long hall to the living room.  Then when we looked around the house, she walked and did not fall.  Later, we went over to see the magnificent house their Daughter Jill (our Niece) and her husband had built to house their three boys, by then in junior high and high school.  The house was perfectly outfitted for the boys having friends over to hang out together. 

Dick drove Mary Ann over in the golf cart he and Dee use to get around on the acreage.  We didn’t take the wheel chair.  Mary Ann toured the main floor of that huge house on foot, never falling once.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing.  After spending the night in a nearby motel, we headed back home the next day.  This time we made  the trip in one day.  For some reason, going home always seemed to go faster.  Part of that sensation was due to the fact that we crossed a time zone creating the illusion that we had taken less time. 

After we got home, the walking continued for weeks.  Before we left, I would jump up every time Mary Ann got up so that I would be ready to catch her before she fell.  I would, of course, try to convince her not to get up without warning me so that I could come and help.  After we returned, I relaxed and stopped jumping up when she stood.  That change made our days much less stressful.  That miracle made our last fall together a pleasant one. 

In the next post on this sight I will describe the subsequent trip to a Bed & Breakfast in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the one that would be our last trip. 

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Mary Ann lay down after lunch for a nap.  The moment she is settled in bed, I start doing tasks inside or outside, confident that she is very likely to sleep for a couple of hours without stirring.  Not so this afternoon.

When I came back in, her eyes were open.  She said that her esophagus hurt and she needed a Tums.  It seemed to be hurting more than usual.  She used the bathroom and had a fainting spell immediately after I put the Tums in her mouth.

The pattern we use is that Tums comes first.  If it does not help, a Nitro pill comes next.  If that hasn’t eliminated the pain in five to ten minutes, another Nitro pill is taken.  She has to be lying down for that since Nitro pills lower blood pressure dramatically.  Since she had just fainted, it was apparent that her BP was already fairly low.

Hospice Nurse Emily came to the door for her weekly visit as we were waiting for the Tums to work.  Mary Ann said that it seemed to be helping.  The new twist was that when Emily checked her oxygen saturation level (98%, very good) and heart rate with the finger monitor, Mary Ann’s heart rate was 111, almost double her normal, which is about 59 or 60.  Nurse Emily took her blood pressure, which was in a reasonable range for Mary Ann, 150/96.  It is always a puzzle that it can be that high just minutes after she has fainted from a drop in blood pressure.  She had stood up and sat down when the fainting happened, but she was lying down when Emily took her BP. Blood pressure usually measures higher when lying down than when sitting or standing for anyone..

Nurse Emily measured her heart rate a second time, and it had come down to 85.  After Emily left, Mary Ann said it was hurting again.  I gave her a nitro pill.  Her heart rate was over a hundred.  After a little less than ten minutes, her chest/esophagus was still hurting.  I gave her a second Nitro pill.  About ten minutes later I checked again.  By that time she said the pain had subsided.  I took her blood pressure at that time and it was 110/50.  As expected, the nitroglycerin had lowered her BP.

The concern, of course, is an unexplained increase in her resting heart rate.  I just pulled out the three pages of information on Cipro.  One of the bullet points under “Other serious side effects of Cipro include” is “Serious heart rhythm changes”.   The next sentence is, “Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have a change in your heart beat (a fast or irregular heartbeat), or if you faint.”  Okay, Nurse Emily was here when the heartrate was almost double her normal.  It did not seem to strike her as significant.  As is so with anyone who has been a Caregiver for a while, I never give away responsibilty for Mary Ann’s medical care.  I will check with Mary Ann periodically tomorrow.  If there is any discomfort I will check her pulse.  If it is racing, I will call Hospice to check with their doctor about how to proceed.  Since Mary Ann’s and our intention is that she not be resuscitated (those words are hard to see appear on this page as I write), we have to be thoughtful in how we proceed.  (Mary Ann has not yet had a chance to sign the DNR form in front of a non-family witness yet — not sure whether procrastination or denial on my part.)

She has been fine the rest of the day and is now in bed, hopefully, for the night.  She went to Bible study this morning and, according to her report, stayed awake.  She had lamented when she first got up this morning that she sleeps so much during the group time, that it seemed fruitless to attend.  She then admitted that getting out with people was good, and that was the only regular time with others she had.

I had an especially good time during the Bible Study,  I had a chance to talk for a time with a cluster of the staff with whom I worked at the church from which I retired.  I realize just how much I miss having those folks to talk with.  When there was some experience or encounter, one of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, it was nice to have some place to report whatever it was.

I headed over to the coffee shop (of course, PT’s) and ran into one of the owners I have known for many years.  As usual, he had just returned from another part of the world where coffee is grown, this time somewhere on the continent of Africa.  He is always entertaining.  I followed that with a visit to the Wild Bird House.  There I could review the experience with the Mallards yesterday and hear some stories about rahabbing ducks.  I didn’t realize that bullfrogs ate ducklings — not a pleasant thought, but interesting to know. Melody rehabs the birds, and Todd is a sort of Renaissance man, who plays in a group and teaches guitar, creates websites from scratch, and builds decks, as well as running the store with Melody. He and I talked deck issues — my bowing crosspiece.

We headed for the store, loaded the car with gas and the back seat with half gallons of ice cream, as well as Mary Ann’s Sesame Chicken dinner.  That is the lunch following which the problems began.  She had the same for supper without any discomfort, at least yet.

This afternoon, while Mary Ann was having problems and then napped, I took on the task of taking up the Snap-Lock mesh flooring in the bathroom to spread out on the driveway, spray with a fungicide, clean with a broom and bathroom cleaner wih bleach in it.  It is  a dreaded job.  The ceramic tile in the bathroom beneath the mesh gets the same treatment.  Tomorrow, Kristie will come and do her monthly cleaning.  This time she will also clean the ceramic tile now that it is uncovered. (The mesh is on the floor to avoid Mary Ann being hurt badly when she falls.)

This evening, Volunteer Jolene came to stay with Mary Ann.  I used the time to do a few things here at the house and then headed to Dairy Queen to take advantage of this week’s special — buy any size Blizzard at full price and get the same or smaller sized second Blizzard for 25 cents.  They are celebrating the 25th birthday of the Blizzard.  We are happy to help them celebrate.  After eating the Blizzards, I headed out again to check on getting a roll shade for the east end of the deck.

It was a full day for both of us. The central concern is Mary Ann’s heart rate.  Since she had a number of silent heart attacks that we missed seven or eight years ago, I do not take this lightly.  Those heart attacks were masked by what we thought was esophagus pain.  It certainly never gets dull around here.

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.

“I am cherishing every moment we have together.”  That is what I said in last night’s post after the challenge of feeding Mary Ann.  I lied!  As terrible as it sounds, I don’t cherish every moment.  At 4:15am after having been aroused for one thing or another multiple times an hour (the last one only five minutes before) Mary Ann insisted on getting up.  I did not cherish that moment with her.  I got her up and out in front of the television in the living room and went back to bed for an hour.  Then she was ready to lie down, at least for a while.

I guess I am a terrible Husband and Caregiver to admit to not cherishing at all times my sick wife on the last leg of her journey from here.  Yes, I do feel guilty about it.  I sound so sweet and loyal and loving when I say I cherish every moment with her.  I am not all those things!  I am just an ordinary selfish somebody trying to live out my life and my relationship with Mary Ann with a degree of honor, expressing my love for her.  I do cherish most of the time with her, extending even into waste management.  I just get grumpy when I don’t get my beauty sleep.  (Who is going to be the first smart-aleck to suggest just how clear it is that I am seriously sleep-deprived?)

Is it the Amantidine that we resumed that is making the hallucinations and restlessness so intense, or, since she had slept four days, were we just due for the usual return of that behavior?  God only knows, and He ain’t telliin’.  How about the idea of somehow trying to get God a wireless router so that he could just email responses to prayers and cries for help??  How getting on that, Steve, Bill?

When Daughter, Lisa was here last week, her Mom slept all but about four hours of Lisa’s visit.  “Lisa, I would gladly have traded last night for one of the sleep days or nights you had when I was gone.”  Yes I am grateful that Mary Ann is napping now.  I gave her the morning dose of Amantidine, still hoping that she will regain the use of her hands and the ability to assist with her leg muscles when being transferred from her chair to the bed or toilet stool or dining room chair or car, should we be able to get her out again.  This almost 67 year old body is beginning to show its age (the mind is still 25 years old, except for the memory which is pushing 90).

At one point last night Mary Ann was convinced that she was not in her bed, but another bed like hers.  She was convinced this morning that the dining room table was not our our dining room table.  In fact when I first tried to transfer her to the dining room chair for breakfast, she refused since she didn’t want to sit next to the bride.  At least when I checked with her, the bride wasn’t Lulu (the woman I married after divorcing her in one of her dream/hallucinations).  She didn’t know who the bride was.  When I asked if she wanted me to turn on the television she said it was “his” television, not ours.

She has been napping for about three hours now.  Yes, I am grateful for the break.  I just don’t want her to sleep too long.  She had a good breakfast, but she has not yet had lunch.  It is after 2pm.  Our Daughter-in-Law Becky relayed an email from a close friend who works for a Hospice.  In that email, she said that people come to need less nourishment at this time in life, suggesting that I can relax if a meal is missed.  Mary Ann always “ate like a bird” — one reason she has never gotten overweight (very annoying) in all our years together.  Other than ice cream, she usually eats what would be the equivalent of a child’s portion (a pre-teen child).

This morning Bath Aide Zandra brought a helper with her since Mary Ann had fainted so many times the last time she did her shower.  Zandra was concerned that Mary Ann had hit her head because she couldn’t get into the right position soon enough to stop her from falling off the shower chair.  She asked about the possibility of getting a secure three sided shower chair so that Zandra could stand in front and be sure she wouldn’t fall to the side.  We had a tubular metal rolling shower chair that we obtained a few years ago.  It turned out to be unsafe because of the reinforcing bar across the front, making safe entry and exit from the chair virtually impossible.

Zandra was a bit distressed to see how much Mary Ann had declined since her visit last Wednesday.  Today Mary Ann could not assist at all in getting from the transfer chair to the shower chair and back.  Mary Ann’s hands were fine last Wednesday but swollen and clubbed (nor sure that is the right word for describing the claw-like form) today.

I just called our Hospice Nurse, Emily, who listened carefully to what we needed for the shower.  She said she would try to find it for us.  In fact, she said that if we didn’t hear from her, one would be delivered tomorrow afternoon.  Holy Mackerel!! That is an unbelievably fast response.  I have seen PVC pipe chairs that looked sturdier, but the last time I searched a couple of years ago, I didn’t see one without a bar in front.  I hope the supplier Hospice uses has something workable.

Mary Ann had an appointment with the Dental hygienist for her much needed quarterly cleaning scheduled this afternoon.  I did try to get her up in time to go, but she declined.  That was at about 1pm.  It is now 2:45pm and she is still sleeping.  Again, she didn’t want to go to bed until after 11pm last night and spent much of the night, especially from 2am or 3am on, up and down.

She slept until some time after 5pm. She ate a good supper, sat in front of the televsion for a while, then headed back to bed about 7:30pm.  At about 8pm she was hungry and wanted a bowl of ice cream again.  After taking some Ibuporfen for back pain and then later taking her night time meds, she is now lying down.  I am not expecting her to settle in without lots of restlessness tonight.  We will see.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

It was an odd night.  Mary Ann struggled with the hallucinations and restlessness again last night.  I was up late working on last night’s blog post. After settling, she slept reasonably well.  I got up this morning to get her ready for Bible Study.  Her need to sleep trumped her will to get to Bible Study.  It was clear that she would not be able to get up.

I had showered and cleaned up in preparation for getting her ready to go.  When it was clear that she would not be going, I laid back down on the bed, since I had accumulated a need for sleep also.  It was not until almost noon that I woke up.  She got up about forty-five minutes later.  As I was getting dressed she asked if we could use the Visine again this morning.  She had not yet opened her eyes, which is not unusual for her — one of the collection of problems that come with the Parkinson’s and the medications used to treat it.

When she lay down for me to put the Visine on her eyes I saw it.  There was a swelling about the size of a small marble, more accurately, the size of a garbanzo bean (how is that for descriptive) in the corner of her right eye next to her nose.  It looked as if a tear duct might be clogged.

Mary Ann has had problems for a long time with her eyes.  She has had the struggle to open them frequently.  They have on occasion started watering profusely.  It has not been unusual for her to ask for the Visine.  In recent weeks sometimes there has been a large quantity of matter at the edge of her eyelids, usually her right eye.

Today’s swelling precipitated the call to the Ophthalmologist (an Eye Doctor with an MD).  At first the call was a little uncomfortable.  The receptionist seemed almost annoyed that I was calling about an appointment.  She tried to get us to go to our Primary Care Physician or Optometrist first.  I made the point that we would just end up back with the Ophthalmologist.  I had explained what was going on with Mary Ann, and finally she said she would try to talk with the Dr.’s nurse.  Gratefully, when she returned, there were a couple of options for tomorrow.  We will see the Doctor at 2pm.  I was puzzled that from the moment the call began the tone of the receptionist seemed to suggest that I had no business calling to get an appointment. I have met the doctor before, years ago when I had a cyst on an eyelid removed.  She seemed very pleasant and very competent.

This afternoon we had another appointment with Stacey about the remodel.  She brought some great options for window coverings for the new sunroom, and a book of samples of cork flooring for that new space.  The look of the cork, its durability, the warm feel of it, its ease of installation and its ability to cushion a fall have all combined to convince me that the cork is the way to go.  One thing drawing me to it also is that it is not one thing pretending to be another.  Ceramic tile would hurt Mary Ann if she fell.  The laminates look great, but still try to look like something they are not.  There is more deciding to do, but we seem to be progressing.

In reflecting in last night’s post on my retirement and the grief work that needs to be done as I let go of a life-long career and identity, I concluded the post this way:  “I now serve here at my house.  The need here is clear.”   The grief work that is going on at this point in my journey involves letting go of what has been.  It also includes making the transition to what my life is about now.  I suspect that transition is not yet complete.  One of the reasons writing these posts is so helpful is that doing so provides me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what is going on in my own heart and mind as we tackle the Parkinson’s and its consequences in our lives.  Sometimes my mind is in one place and my gut in another in acceptance, feelings of fulfillment, and finding meaning in what we are doing her together.

The journey goes on, the processing of each experience is another step in that journey.  Just as is so at this time of the year in the thawing streets of this city in Kansas, there are a lot of potholes to be negotiated.

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.

Have aliens come and stolen my Mary Ann, replacing her with with a look alike imposter???  She ate the whole thing!  Mary Ann ate the chicken salad that I made from scratch with my own culinary-challenged hands. 

On three or four different occasions in the last few days, I put a couple of spoonfuls of that home-made chicken salad on her plate.  It is shredded chicken (from the freezer, prepared by our Daughter Lisa when she was here), grapes, pecans, celery, Miracle Whip, some fresh dill and a little onion powder mixed together.   She ate every bit of it every time I put it on her plate.  Potato chips and Pepsi rounded out the meal each time. 

If that is not enough, when I listed the options for supper tonight, she chose the beef, potatoes and carrots I had cooked in the crock pot the other day — and she ate it!!!  Now do you understand why I have posited the alien imposter theory?

On another matter, last night I asked three questions of the people in the online Caregiver Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia: 

The first question was about Mary Ann’s hair.  It seemed as if there was more hair than usual coming out on the brush when washing and combing her hair recently.  I asked if others’ Loved Ones had experienced hair loss.  Some Loved Ones have lost their hair, with no explanation from their doctors.  Group members mentioned the dry air at this time of the year, stress, too much washing, thyroid problems, and Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).  Since the problem seems to have subsided, I suspect it was just a natural occurance with no long term implications.  Needless to say, I will pursue it if there is more evidence warranting it.   Mary Ann’s hair is thick and dark with some gray mixed in.  She routinely gets compliments on how nice it looks. 

The second question had to do with disinfecting items in need of washing.  At the risk of being indelicate (I have been painfully explicit many times before), when there is need for cleaning matter (euphemism) off clothing before putting it in with other wash, I use Clorox in the water in a downstair sink we had put in for such things.  The last time I used the Clorox to disinfect some clothing, it was new red plaid pajama bottoms from LLBean.  I moved very quickly in the task of putting the pj bottoms in the water, swishing them around to get all the matter off, then rinsing and squeezing a number of times to get the Clorox water out of them.  Needless to say, they magically turned from red plaid to pink plaid pajama bottoms.  The suggestions from the group included OxiClean and Vinegar.  After some checking, it appears that OxiClean may and Vinegar certainly does disinfect pretty well.  I will probably substitute a 5% vinegar solution for the Clorox water when this need arises again. 

The third question had to do with disposable underwear.  The latest marketing tool is to replace unisex disposables with disposables specifically for men and for women.  The problem is that the women’s are made to be more comfortable for daytime use by enlarging the leg holes.  The net result is that  while they may be fine when up and walking, they leak badly if there happens to be a daytime nap.  Daytime naps are routine for many who need disposables.  I asked the group for suggestions of disposables that work for them.  I have had no responses to that one yet.  I suspect one reason is that the vast majority of those in the online group are women caring for their husbands.  The needs in this area are gender specific. 

One other note concerns a member of the congregation that I served before retiring.  He has had Parkinson’s longer than Mary Ann, over thirty years.  He fell and ended up in the hospital.  He has a strep infection that is interfereing with the healing of the arm on which the skin was broken when he fell.  In Emailing back and forth with his Daughter, I noted that people in her Dad’s and Mary Ann’s circumstances live in a narrow margin of functionality.  This fall and infection are taking Norm to the Rehab Unit of a local nursing home for a while.  He has been declining for the past few weeks.  Apparently, the treatment for the infection is helping him regain much of what he has lost in the last six months.   

In a sense, we are living on the edge.  In reality, all of us are living on the edge.  Anything can happen at any time.  Those who are in circumstances like Norm’s and Mary Ann’s are just more aware of it.  We can choose to live in terror of what might happen, or we can just choose to live. 

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.

Whatever happens today, last night we both got a good quality, long night’s sleep.  Mary Ann is still sleeping.  It is a little after 9:30am.  Because of Veteran’s Day yesterday, Bath Aide Zandra did not come.  She has arranged to come later this morning, so Mary Ann will need to be up soon.

Later: Mary Ann made it up in time to get her meds taken before Zandra arrived. She has had another loose stool (sorry!) which has been happening for many days now.  It raises the question as to whether or not there might be some sort of bug causing some of her problems.  We will wait it out.  So far it is manageable.  i just want to be sure Mary Ann doesn’t get dehydrated.  Checking urine color (sorry again!) should provide evidence one way or the other on that.  We will not involve doctors and hospitals unless there is something clearly demanding that involvement.  If the weight loss continues, I will probably phone the GP’s office for a recommendation of a supplement.  Actually, I will also check with the LBD Spouse Caregivers online group.  They have far more experience with what works than any medical professional.  It seems clear that Mary Ann is just not getting enough calories in to maintain her weight.  Oh how I wish I could painlessly transfer about twenty pounds from me to her. I tried to get her to eat a some spectacularly sweet and tasty and moist cherry (homegrown and canned) and nut coffee cake that Maureen brought yesterday.  She just wouldn’t eat anything.  I, of course, had a huge piece.

After the intestinal activity, Mary Ann decided to lie down again.  She has seemed very tired since getting up this morning.

Gratefully, whatever strain lifting Mary Ann from the floor the other night seems to have been healing on its own.  The physical demands on Caregivers are often substantial and constant.  When I read the online posts of other caregiving spouses, I wonder how on earth they can do it.  Most of them are women, many of them my age or older.  Some of them have husbands who weigh two or three hundred pounds (one is a former heavy weight boxer).  I have no idea how they deal with the demands.  Many have a Hoyer lift to use when necessary.  We have one also, but have needed to use it only a couple of time in the years we have had it.

The physical demands of course include helping Mary Ann up from the floor when she falls.  Our system is not necessarily recommended by physical therapists, but has worked for us for many years.  When she has fallen, I work at sliding her (by pulling on her legs) into an open space where she can lie on her back with her feet toward me and her head away from me.  I put my feet together in front of hers so that they won’t slide, she reaches up and I take hold of her hands.  I rock back, using my weight as a counter balance so that my back is not involved in the process of lifting.

The risks in that approach are mostly to Mary Ann’s arms and shoulders.  Again, since she is not heavy and we have been doing it for so many years, her arms and shoulders seem strong enough to manage.  So far there have been no noticeable side effects to that process.

One of the movements that has created problems for me in the past, is that which is required to turn Mary Ann in bed and move her to the center of the bed so that she doesn’t risk falling off the side of the bed (been there!).  We have single, adjustable beds.  For many years she has been able to climb on all fours on to the bed and flop down one way or another.  She has come very close to flopping right off the edge of the bed on to the floor.  Now, most of the time she simply cannot negotiate that movement.  When she tries, she usually gets stuck on all fours on the bed or with one foot still on the floor, unable to move any farther in the process.

Now, most often she sits on the side of the bed, and if she wants to lie on her left side, facing the television, I cradle her and twist her in a sort of dramatic swinging motion until she is facing the appropriate direction.  Then I lean forward, slide my arms under her and pull her toward me to center her on the bed.  That is the motion that has caused back pain in the past.  Now, I squat down and let my body weight (lot’s more than her body weight) pull her to the center of the bed.

If she wants to lie on her right side, the side of choice for her, again, she sits on the side of the bed.  I let her head down to the pillow and reach with my right hand to lift her feet on to the bed.  Then I travel to the other side of the bed to pull her to the center.  Since the size of the bedroom does not allow much space between the two beds, I often can’t seem to get accomplished the motion using my body weight.  Most often, I slide my arms under and just pull her to the center with my arm muscles, a movement not unlike doing a curl.  Again, that keeps from involving my back in the process.

Now with that image in mind, imagine the nights she is up every few minutes.  One of those two actions of moving her to the center of the bed happens every time she gets up, even just to sit on the side of the bed.  When I watch her on the monitor, if she begins to move at all, I head in to see what she needs.  Sometimes she just needs to be turned from one side to the other, or the covers have gotten twisted out of place.

When we travel, the large beds pretty much preclude my reaching under her to move her.  I can do some manipulating to help position her, but most of the options are simply won’t work.  If I try to move her much, it puts my back at risk.  It won’t help her if I am debilitated.

At the moment, one of the activities that is the most risky for both of us, is the trip to the commode.  I pull her up to a sitting position on the side of the bed and pull the commode close enough so that it only takes a transfer with a few side steps to get her into position, pull down her Pj’s and disposable and get her seated on the commode.  That part is pretty straight forward.

The risky part comes when she is finished.  I pull her up and hold her so that she can use the TP I have handed her.  Most often, she just cannot balance well enough to stand on her own.  I hold her with one arm, feeling her weight against it, knowing that if I let go she would fall back down on to the commode and over the back of it into the wall (does that description ring of experience?).  While holding her with one arm, I have to reach down first to pull up the disposable (we call it a pad), which of course binds since I can only pull from one side, the other hand attached to the arm holding her up.  It is hard for her to remember and then to have the dexterity to move her knees apart enough to get the pad through and pulled up.

Then come the pajama bottoms next.  They have always gathered at her ankles.  Reaching down all the way to the floor with one hand while holding her with the other high enough to be above her center of gravity so that I can keep her from falling challenges my flexibility and strength.  When I think of it, I remove the PJ bottoms so that I can put them on her in a separate action while she is safely sitting on the side of the bed.

The commode trips come very often since one of the problems of a compromised Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous System is the need to urinate frequently.  The last time Daughter Lisa stayed with Mary Ann over a couple of nights, she shared with me that she was pretty concerned about the risks associated with the night time commode trips.  Both of our children are very concerned about the precarious nature of our situation.  They recognize that it would not take much to mess up our system.  If I am not able to handle Mary Ann, either due to her physical condition or mine, a whole new set of challenges would emerge.  None of us wants even to think about it, although it is hard not to do so.

One other activity has become more challenging since the hospital.  There are more times when she can’t open her eyes, and/or is almost too weak to walk making the short trip from the door to the car pretty difficult.  If this continues, I will set up the aluminum ramps and roll her down the two steps to the door of the car in her transfer chair.  Oddly, steps are far less problem to handle than walking on a level floor to those with Parkinson’s.  Steps usually are her best thing.

While I need cardio-vascular conditioning exercises, I think I am getting plenty of upper body strengthening in this caregiving role.

It is still only mid-day, but this has gotten far too long — as have most of the recent posts.  She is still sleeping.  I hope to get her in the car and to the grocery store this afternoon.  We will see.

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This time I have made sure that we have all the back up bottles of medicine. The last trip brought more than one medicine crisis — trips to the local 24 hour pharmacy in Louisville.  This time we are heading to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I have just done something almost unheard of in my travel pattern.  Everything is packed and most of it is already in the car.

I am not sure I can remember when last I actually packed before the morning of the trip.  As I have mentioned in former posts, packing is no small task when packing for two, one of whom is not able to participate in the process.  Portions of the day were spent bringing Mary Ann’s clothes out of the closet for her to go through.  Last trip, she was not pleased that I had managed to forget the nylons that went with her fancy pants outfit.  By the way, on the last trip, those pants caught on her wheel chair when she was sitting down and obtained a very large vent where the seat of tht pants should be.  So much for those fancy pants.  I think we have covered the bases with clothes for warm and for cool.

The black case is a must.  That is the large catalog case with first aid supplies, straws, wipes, plastic silverware, Clorox wipes, Miralax, Tums and anything else I can think of that we might need along the way.

We have been to the library to pick out a few books on CD to choose from as we travel. One is already loaded into the CD player in the car.

There is a bag of snacks, granola bars, bananas, licorice, and breakfast fruit bars.  Sometimes when we stay in a motel, we don’t make it up in time for the breakfast hours and need items to eat so that the morning pills aren’t taken on an empty stomach.

We have lots of the disposables along.  The intestinal issue is not completely resolved.  I am expecting there to be a major production some time soon  That is as delicately put as I can manage while revealing one of the significant challenges Caregivers often face.

I took the role of the bath aide this morning so that we would start the trip at our best — squeaky clean.

We have far more along that would seem necessary for a three night stay at a Bed and Breakfast.  Since the trip is eleven hours one way, we need to break it up into two days for the trip there and two days for the return trip.  We have on occasion had to lengthen a trip for one reason or another.  The one to Tucson, Arizona a few years ago was lengthened by a few days in the hospital.  Those experiences remain in the back of our minds each time we set out on a trip.

And so we are heading off for another adventure.  We cannot know how it will go.  We know far too much about the possibilities for how it might go.  We have tried to prepare to the degree possible.  I just added the booklet we have made with all the pertinent information, doctors’ names and numbers, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Medicine list, family contact information.

With all the preparations made, we actually will relax and enjoy the trip to the extent that circumstances allow.  If there are problems, we will deal with them.

We will be gone for about a week, so the posts will be few to none.  There is a computer to which we will have some access at the Bed and Breakfast.  I hope to provide an occasional update, whether anyone is interested or not!

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.