First there was little sleeping, then there was a lot of sleeping.  Not only did she nap for over five and a half hours during the day yesterday, she went to bed earlier than usual, slept through the night, and was slow in getting up this morning.

The question in my mind this morning was, have we increased the Seroquel too much.  Will she now be sleepy all the time and move to a lower quality of life on account of it.  Is my decision to add another 25mg of Seroquel hurting Mary Ann?  When we saw the Neurologist last, he increased the dosage by 25mg and said that if the increase was not enough to deal with the hallucinationa and restlessness at night, I could raise the dosage another 25mg.  That is what I have done.

While I don’t yet know the answer to my question about whether or not the increase is too much, today she has stayed awake.  Tonight when I asked about it, she said she was tired all day.  Her tiredness could be the result of the Seroquel.

It is so very difficult to adjust the medicine to just the right amount, what the doctors call titrating the dosage.  The variables are many and complex.  Sometimes it takes a while for a change in dosage to have effect.  Different people don’t always react the same way.  Seroquel is a potent drug.  There are risks, serious risks.  Probably the most serious problem that can emerge is Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome [NMS].  If I understand correctly, that problem very quickly can cause death.  It is an uncommon side effect of the drug, but nonetheless a risk.  Again, if I understand correctly (disclaimer: I am not a doctor), stopping Seroquel suddenly can also trigger serious problems.

Starting new meds, stopping meds, changing the dosage is like running through a grove of thornapple trees.  Someone might get hurt.  Mary Ann is always involved in the decision-making on the meds, but generally, she trusts my judgment on what she should take and when.  She is pill averse, so she takes as few as possible.  She will on occasion simply refuse to add more.  Most of the time she accepts what the Neurologist prescibes, and what I recommend.  That is not a responsibility that I relish, but, like it or not, it comes with the territory.

Caregivers often have a great deal of responsibility for how their Loved One does.  We are the ones who have a daily awareness of how things are going. Good doctors listen to us and take into consideration what we think is needed.  Again, that is a lot of responsibility to have.

I asked for help with Mary Ann’s (and my) sleepless nights and the disturbing hallucinations.  I asked.  The answer was to increase the Seroquel. I may have gotten more than I asked for.  This morning I was very concerned, actually, I was scared.  At the moment, since she was awake all day, I my concern has been mitigated a bit.  We will see how tonight goes.  The information on Seroquel suggests that the drowsiness that comes when it is first taken often diminishes.

What we both long for is for Mary Ann to be awake during the day, and asleep at night.  Is that too much to ask?  Probably, but we can hope.

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She sat on the bed,  fainted, and just slipped off on to the floor.  She had fainted moments before on the toilet stool.  I got her on to the bed, grateful for the physical strength that remains in this small in stature, 66 year old, pot-bellied frame. 

I finally just laid her down on the bed to nap.  It was her second nap of the day.   The third one came early in the evening.  We did manage to get out for pancakes during the mid-afternoon. 

As is obvious to those who read these posts, this story is getting to be an old one.  It is beginning to suggest that the Autonomic Nervous System is just unable to sustain her blood pressure consistently.  The muscles around her arteries just won’t respond as they should, at least as quickly as they should. 

We have increase the medicine that raises the blood pressure, but have to be cautious about that, since years of high blood pressure have already weakened her heart and kidneys.  The Cardiologist will get another call on Monday. 

The Cardiologist will want to know what her blood pressure has been running.  It is no small task to get a read on her blood pressure.  The battery operated blood pressure monitors are pretty much useless when trying to measure Mary Ann’s blood pressure.  More often than not, there is just an error message.  Either her BP is too high and cannot be measured, or the dyskinetic movements create noises in her body that confuse it. 

I have purchased a stethoscope and pressure band to take her blood pressure myself.  I can get the meter pressure high enough, but the variety of sounds have frustrated my ability to get a good reading.  At times I have been able to do it — not today.  Gratefully we have a parish nurse at our congregation.  She cares very much for Mary Ann and will come and help whenever we need her and it is possible for her to come.

I called Parish Nurse Margaret, who came over to take her blood pressure.  As always, she brought flowers from their flower garden and vegetables from their vegetable garden. 

She arived shortly after Mary Ann had taken her mid-day dose of the blood pressure raising medicine.  Sitting in her chair, her BP was 140/70.  Then we walked into the bedroom to test the effect of standing up and walking.  She sat on the bed and Margaret took it again.  Mary Ann was on the verge of a fainting spell.  Her BP was 108/78.  The lower number was higher than I expected, but she said that when the two numbers are too close to together it can cause the fainting.   

Then Mary Ann laid on the bed while her BP was taken.  That is when it is usually highest, since gravity is not pulling the blood to her feet.  I wanted to measure her BP at what would be likely to be its highest point.  Knowing that measurement would help provide the Cardiologist with the information needed to make a good decision on whether or not it would be safe to increase the medicine that raises her BP to keep her from fainting.  Lying down her BP was 142/100. 

After that Mary Ann moved into her transfer chair, and we moved to the living room.  Margaret took her BP two more times as we talked for a while.  Those readings were 140/80 and 150/8o.  By the way throughout the measurements there were no missed heart beats and her heart rate remained steady at 60 beats per minute. 

With all this information the question remains, is her Autonomic Nervous System’s ability to control her blood pressure simply broken, beyond correction, or can meds provide a return to the quality of life we had a few weeks ago.  A question that follows along beside that one is, will my physical strength be adequate to hold her up with one arm while she is fainting as I pull up clothes with the other hand after using the commode.  When will we pass the limits of my ability to handle her physically?

At the moment, I am still one tough cookie.  I can do it now.  That is all I know.  It is all I need to know.   I’ll deal with tomorrow when it arrives.    I have neither the time nor the energy to waste worrying about what it might bring. 

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It was a terrible sounding crash.  I had just gone into the kitchen to take my morning vitamins.  She had had breakfast and pills, was dressed, had been to the bathroom, was watching a television program she likes.  Normally, that is a safe time to walk out of the room for a moment.

Not this time!  It sounded horrible.  I ran out to see what happened.  She was not hurt.  That is the most important thing.  The table lamp was glass, gratefully, it had not shattered when it went flying.  Everything on the end table was spread out on the floor, the phone, a thick ceramic coaster was broken in half, a few other items that had been sitting on it were here and there.  The speaker on the stand next to the table had fallen to the floor.  None of it hurt her.

The end table itself was broken into pieces.  She wasn’t hurt.  That is the important thing.  It is just an end table.  Why did it upset me so??  People are more important than things.

It is odd that some things carry more symbolic significance than the thing or the event itself.  My Dad made the end table.  He was not much of a woodworker, but for at time after he retired he made a number of things out of some beautiful Black Walnut boards. There is a history that is embedded in that table.

My Dad grew up on a farm, but worked in an office his entire career.  Throughout my childhood, we went for rides looking for the perfect piece of property in the country to buy.  When I was eleven years old, he found it, twenty-six acres of woods and creek with a few tillable acres on the other side of the creek included.

One day when Mom and Dad were out there puttering, the weather changed.  They headed into a little seven by ten foot structure made of a few boards and some screens for staying out there on occasion.  When the storm ended, there were at least twenty full sized trees that had blown down, Oak, Ash and Black Walnut.  Three of them had fallen on three sides of that seven by ten, flimsy box they were in during the storm.

Those trees were cut into three-quarter inch thick boards and then dried at a local lumber yard.  The Oak and Ash trees became board and bat siding on the house they built to move into when Dad retired.  The Black Walnut boards provided paneling for the basement and end tables and book cases and lamps and candlesticks, a coffee table, and other items that reside in the homes of their children, the five of us, no longer children since now we range in age from 66 to 80 years old.

It is just an end table.  It’s demise is a reminder that nothing in the house is safe.  The fall itself is another reminder that we are out of control here.  I reacted with loud questions, “why didn’t you push the button?”  It sits right by her hand.  I come and help when that electronic doorbell sounds. She has been fainting numerous times a day in the last couple of weeks.  I have asked again and again and again that she push the button, that she let me help her when she is walking.

Seeing Mary Ann lying on the floor, seeing the broken table, a lamp that could have broken and cut her, carried with it the painful reminder of how close we are to not being able to sustain this here at the house.  I couldn’t stop it from happening.  She wasn’t hurt, the damage was not to her, just to material things.  I won’t tie her in the chair, but short of that, there is no way to stop her from putting herself and our fragile life here at risk multiple times a day.

A Volunteer came over shortly after this happened.  She has taken the table to friend who will look at it to determine if the pieces can be put back together in some form or another.  We will see.  Then I lunched with a friend who has finally had to move his wife to a nursing home because he could no longer do the very things we are trying to do here.  The challenges of sustaining that arrangement at the nursing home are also daunting.  It is difficult to find the boundary between being able to manage at home and needing to move to residential care.  It is analogous to the plight of the frog in the water on the stove, heating up until he boils, never realizing the danger until it is too late.

While I am physically able to care for Mary Ann here, I will do so.  The one dynamic that complicates that detemination to care for her here is the ability emotionally to do it.  I released some frustration by talking loudly about my feelings when I saw what happened.  Talking with a friend with similar circumstances helped.  Sitting for an hour in my beautiful spot on the hill, watching deer(among them twin fawns), listening to music, thinking, praying, all helped.  Thinking about and now writing this post helps.

As always, the hardest part of an event like this morning’s fall is handling the fact that I am not the sweet, thoughtful Caregiver who is always nurturing, helping without a word of complaint, the Caregiver I should be.  I shouldn’t give a rip about an end table.  She didn’t want to do it.  Later in the day she said, “I am sorry I broke the end table.”  It just happened.  I can’t blame her, but, just as she can’t keep from popping up to walk when at some level she knows she can’t do so without putting our current life at risk, I can’t keep from reacting in that first moment with frustration knowing that it didn’t have to happen.  I need not to pretend that I don’t have feelings of frustration and bury them in that pretense. Trying to do that really would make me crazy.

On the positive side, once its over, we just get on with whatever needs to be done.  My loud talking provides an immediate safety valve release of frustration.  We return to a loving relationship.  The glass lamp is now at the other end of the couch in a place she very rarely goes near.  There is a floor lamp taking its original place.  For the moment in place of my Dad’s table there is an end table that I made, a simple one that should be easy to repair if broken.  I will begin a search for something to put there that has no corners into which she could fall, something with room for the phone and a few items to reside.

It is just an end table, but at the same time it is a symbol of much more in our system of survival here, physically and emotionally.  The table is broken, we are not.

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It is becoming more likely each day that this decline is not temporary but permanent.  Increased Midodrine to raise her blood pressure and move us across the margin from fainting regularly back to fainting occasionally has not yet accomplished its task.  We began the change in dosage yesterday noon.   The medication may work better as the days go by but it has a very short half life, so it should have worked by now.  We will see.

What is interesting to me is that when I referred to the change in our circumstances earlier today, Mary Ann seemed puzzled by what I was saying.  I realized that from her perspective little has changed. 

Mary Ann has no awareness that the fainting is approaching before it happens nor does she have any awareness after she comes around that it has happened.  I have asked her more than once if she realized that the last thing she remembered was standing up, and now she is on the floor or in her chair.  She hasn’t always believed that she sometimes fainted — still has her doubts.

It is a good thing that she is not distressed by what happens.  The number of times she faints in a day does not seem to impact her in any way unless she has hurt herself during one of them.  As I have mentioned in the last couple of posts, she does often get very tired, maybe sort of tune out, and then nap, but napping doesn’t seem to register as a consequence of fainting. 

Her perception of the situation seems not to have changed while my perception has changed.  It is, of course, more than just a perceived change.  As the Caregiver, I am the one who holds her up in the chair or on the toilet stool or on the commode when she faints there.  I am the one who lets her down to the floor and/or picks her up when she falls from a standing position to the floor.  I am the one who marks time while she is napping two or three hours, watching her on the monitor so that I will be there when she begins to move.  When she awakens, she is just surprised at how late in the day it is. 

We have views of her reality that are 180 degrees apart.  She is looking from the inside of her circumstances out.  I am looking at her situation from the outside.  She seems far less distressed by very many of the problems she encounters than I am.  She is the one with the physical and mental limitations, but she reacts with equanimity.  I do not have the those same limitations, but I feel more strongly the frustrations of the roller coaster ride we are on.  I see what she can’t see in regard to what we are going through as a household. 

The role of a Caregiver is to create an environment for his/her Loved One that is comfortable and secure so that the Loved One experiences life as fully and completely as circumstances will allow.  By making sure there is food whenever wanted or needed, clean clothing to put on and help putting it on, personal tasks accomplished, a little variety and social contact, the Caregiver provides a sort of cocoon of comfort in an otherwise impossible situation.

While this Caregiver does lots of whining and complaining, for the most part, there is little awareness of just how much goes into creating that cocoon of comfort and security.  The declines are sometimes masked by the Caregiver adapting to the changes in a way that minimizes the impact on the one declining. 

She is pretty much unaware of the decline she is in.  That seems to me to be a good thing.  She is not experiencing pain and distress and fear triggered by the recent changes.  Her world is still in place — almost no changes from her perspective. 

Deck Therapy Addendum:  I was sitting on the deck just before 9pm toninght and out of the corner of my eye, there came mom and young’ns coming on the sidewalk and heading under the deck five feet from where I was sitting.  In fact I got up and watched from the deck just above as the last one squeezed through the lattice.  I scolded them and they came out right under my nose and left the way they came.  I sat again, was in and out of the house a couple of times, then sat out there again.  As I was sitting, there between the posts by the gate off the deck was a little face sticking its nose through looking at me, checking to see if I was still there.  That time I got the hose and squirted under the deck from the other side.  I couldn’t see if and when they left, but they weren’t visible for the next half hour that I sat out there.  They are bold as brass.  I brought into the house (as I did last night) the feeders they rob.  I can’t afford to keep up with the quantity they consume.

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The extension ladder is old and not very stable.  The years of very little exercise have stiffened this sixty-six year old body so that moving up and down a ladder is not such an easy task any more. Lifting the ladder off the hooks in the garage tested my wheelchair lifting muscles.  Then there was the matter of moving the ladder every few minutes along the gutter so that I could climb up with my bucket, hook it on a rung and grab handfuls of smelly rotted little seeds from the neighbor’s trees.

I am not much of a ladder person.  Heights are just not my thing.  I suppose I am sort of acrophobic.  I don’t mind riding in an airplane, although recent news events may change my opinion on that.  On Youth trips to a beautiful camp fifty miles northwest of Colorado Springs called Lutheran Valley Retreat, I joined in the climb up Cedar Mountain.  I still remember my first time.  I was terrified.  As a pastor and counsellor on the trip, more than ten years older than the oldest of the Youth, I was too embarrassed to admit it.  The way I got through the climb that first year was to convince myself that if thirteen year old people could climb it, at thirty, I ought to be able to climb it.  I decided that in spite of my insides being less sure of it, I was safe.

Other than the year the lightning almost got us, I felt safe from then on.  After the first year I was a seasoned pro, climbing with bravado.  Still, if I am not completely confident that I am secure, heights are very unsettling to my insides.  I will not walk to the edge of a very tall building to look out windows if they are floor to ceiling.  Vertigo sets in.

As I was climbing up the ladder to clean out the gutters yesterday afternoon, the issue of my safety came to mind.  The ladder sometimes slipped at the top toward one side or the other as I climbed up.  I started thinking about what I would do if it fell, where I would land, what way to jump if it started going.  It was not a particularly scary thought to me, just a matter of fact analysis of the situation.

As I was analyzing the dynamics of falling, it popped into my mind that hurting myself would not just be a matter of getting fixed whatever broke, arm, shoulder, knee, or something worse.   What about Mary Ann.  She needs me to do the most basic daily tasks with her or for her. Hurting myself would hurt her.  She counts on me. If I were to do something stupid, our ability to maintain our little world would be gone, at least for a time.  She would certainly be mightily irritated with me.

The way I responded to that realization was to become very methodical about setting the feet of the ladder, making sure it was flat against the gutters.  I stepped up the ladder more slowly.  I caefully hung the bucket for the sludge.  Thinking about my responsibilty to Mary Ann as Caregiver translated to more care of myself.  

What happens to me is not just about me.  Those of you who have children are likely to have come to the realization that the choices you make do not just affect you.  Riding a bike without a helmet, ignoring the seat belt, driving twenty miles over the speed limit (under ten is okay, right?), smoking like a chimney, whatever puts you at a significant health risk is more than an issue of your freedom to do as you please.  It is no longer just about you. 

There is also a frustrating flip side to the matter of keeping safe for the sake of our care receiver.  What would be fair, if fairness were an option, is for the one for whom we are caring to have the same concern for keeping safe.  It would seem fair for the Care Receiver to avoid taking risks so that their Caregiver would not have an even tougher time trying to deal with the consequences of their risk-taking gone bad. 

I hesitate to bring this one up again, but it is one of the most difficult areas in our relationship as Care partners.  It seems that one of us in this partnership is intent on taking risks no matter how likely the risk is to produce more work for the Caregiver.   The truth is, there is no thoughtful intent to make work for the Caregiver by taking unnecessary risks.  The kind of thinking that would be needed for that intent is no longer available.  The risky actions are just the reflex actions of a mind and body with the simple need for the freedom to move at will and do the same things that have always been done.  There is no fully conscious awareness that the disease process has taken away some freedoms. 

Nonetheless, it is very difficult to watch a Loved One assert that independance without regard for the consequences to herself or her Caregiver.  It is just part of the reality within which we live now that Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia have joined us in our journey.  Fairness is irrelevant to matter of safety. I need to keep myself safe so that I can continue to care for her.  She is free to do whatever she can no matter the risk. 

Nobody said life is fair.  If it was fair, she wouldn’t have to deal with the ravages of the Parkinson’s in the first place.  It is not fair, it just is.

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.

As we look back on today, it will be remembered as a good day.  Instigated by a birthday gift, we went out a couple of days ago and bought lots and lots of plants, plus potting soil with fertilizer in it.  Yesterday we bought the trowel and hand cultivator to help us do the planting. 

Today we did round one of the planting.  It was a very hot day, so the sweat flowed freely from both of us.  Mary Ann was in an old lawn chair, one of four, that serve as our deck furniture.  (No, kids, we still haven’t gotten decent deck chairs.)  There was a steady shower of little brown seeds from the neighbor’s River Birches.  The air was full of them. 

My job was to do the planting in the large pots on the deck and an area just off the deck next to the chimney, the only shady spot we have.  It seemed to take forever just to get everything ready to go.  We had intended to do this planting for the last three days.  I was doing a bit of procrastinating, but the timing of the daytime long naps filled the times that seemed most appropriate for planting.  When the need for a nap comes, Mary Ann almost collapses into the bed and sleeps for two hours, sometimes two and a half.  It can happen up to twice a day. 

It was a big deal to finally actually get started on the task.  Plans had been frustrated for three days.  Today we got started.  It took a while to prepare the three containers on the deck.   I always asked Mary Ann what she wanted to put where as I planted.   She had had a nap earlier in the day, but she was still having a little trouble processing any questions about what to plant where.  I would end up just saying how about this, and she would answer, yes.  It is what is called the executive function of the brain that is the first to go with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (a Lewy Body Dementia).  Things went pretty well as I got the containers filled with the plants. 

Then came the area next to the chimney.  Our kids had dug up the sod, put down landscaping fabric, covered the area with mulch, made a few holes in the fabric and put in some plants a couple of years ago. 

I headed to the garage to get a couple of rakes so that I could move the mulch to get on with the planting project.  All I did was walk from the back to the front of the house, into the garage, grabbed the rakes and headed around the house to the deck again.   Just as I was coming to the deck I heard the sound of her falling into the gate by the stairs to the lower area. 

As happens so often, when I was out of sight, she got up to do something, which she could not remember when I asked her afterward.  The falls are disturbing when in the house on the carpet.  On a wooden deck, against an open gate at the top of some steps was frightening.  My mind went immediately to the possibility of a trip to the Emergency Room. 

Gratefully, there was no damage to be found other than to our attempt at just enjoying a normal activity.  It was frustrating to me that it was the moment I was not there to help that she chose to stand up and walk.  It seemed impossible to continue doing what we had planned for so long and were enjoying doing.  The only safe thing seemed to be to go back inside where there was carpet and where with the monitor I could get to her quickly if she got up.  That decision would have stopped in midstream something we wanted to do, something that needed to be done soon if the plants were to survive.

I chose to continue the planting by the chimney.  Another time would be no better in terms of risk.  As I went on with the task, Mary Ann started to get up again.  I went up on to the deck and asked her what she was doing.  She wanted to see what I was doing.  The rail and the Air Conditioner condenser were blocking her view.  I helped her stand and asked her to hold on to the rail while I went back down to arrange a couple of plants so that she could approve their placement.  Before I went down, I pulled the lawn chair behind her so that she could sit right down if she needed to.  When I got to the plants by the chimney, I looked down at them for a moment and heard her fall into the lawn chair.  She had fainted.  I am grateful that she fell into the chair and did not go down on the deck again.  I ran up to her to hold her in the chair until she regained consciousness.

After that, she finally seemed convinced that she should not try to get up unaided again while on the deck.  I was able to finish the planting.  There is more to be done tomorrow in a couple of other areas.  We will manage somehow. 

Our version of normal includes the recognition that we may not be able to do anything we hoped to do, planned to do on a given day.  Yesterday, I had things in the car and was ready to take her to get something to eat, when the need to nap came on with a vengeance.   When that happens, she just slumps over in the transfer chair with her head on the arm or the table next to it. Today, the same thing happened shortly before we were to begin the planting.  It was delayed a couple of hours. 

Tonight I took a break three or four paragraphs ago to help her use the commode.  I saw on the monitor that she was moving.  When I got to the bedroom, she asked me to close the door because a mother and two children were outside the bedroom door.  Her eyes were wide open as she looked at what appeared very real to her.  Apparently the Thursday people (as she once called them) chose to come on Friday this week.  Of course there was no one there. 

As she got on the commode, she fainted and was out for many minutes.  Then I got her up from the commode, and just in trying to get bed clothes pulled back up, she fainted again.  Since the commode is right next to the bed (I pull it behind her to minimize the travel distance), I was able with much difficulty to shift her so that she was sitting on the bed.  After a bit, I helped her stand again to finish pulling up her PJ’s, and she fainted once more.  I finally just laid her on the bed and pulled them up as best I could, arranged her on the bed, her head on the pillow, covered her and now she is sleeping soundly.   

Our version of normal is not really very normal by most people’s standards.  But as the years have gone by, I have realized that there are very many whose normal is either like ours or much worse.  As I read the posts on the caregiving spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia, I can put our situation into perspective.  We have a quality of life that many would envy. 

The falls tried but did not steal the joy from our day.  Plans are hard to make, but can be changed now that I am retired and make no commitments.  Our normal is very liveable in spite of its challenges.  The plants will grow (hopefully), and their will be flowers on the deck to enjoy for weeks to come. 

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.

Count them, twelve prescriptions and three over the counter medicines make up Mary Ann’s daily regimen.  That translates into Mary Ann consuming twenty-one doses of that collection of meds most days. 

One medication is not supposed to be taken with food.  Another that is taken five times a day at two hour intervals, alternating between one half and one full pill, should not be taken with protein.  Another prescription is to be taken every four hours, a whole pill for the first two doses and a half pill for the last.  It is not to be taken too late in the day or if she is going to lie down for a nap (a need that comes without warning).  One pill is taken half in the morning and half at night.  Another is kept in her purse at all times to be used only if there is chest pain that is not diminished by taking a Tums, suggesting that it might be her heart.  She has to lie down to take it so that she doesn’t faint.  One over the counter med is to be mixed with juice or water and taken Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. 

One prescription is intended to raise her blood pressure so that she doesn’t faint.  Another prescription is intended to lower her blood pressure and help control heart pain. 

One prescription, when she first took it immediately after diagnosis, helped her keep movement, rather than freezing up.  It ceased to be helpful after about three years.  After a decade or so hiatus, it was added again to help diminish the extra movements produced as a side effect of the main medicine she takes to keep from freezing up completely.  Those extra movements are what Michael J. Fox often presents.  They are called dyskinetic movements, or dyskinesias. 

Side effects of the two meds that treat the movement disorder aspect of Parkinson’s increase the susceptibility to hallucinations.   The disease process itself of the Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia produce hallucinations.  That means there is also a prescription to help diminish the hallucinations.  That is a medicine which can produce a fatal side effect in the elderly.  You tell me just how old we have to be to qualify for that side effect.

The brain chemistry of Parkinson’s produces depression.  Wouldn’t a person with Parkinson’s have to be crazy not to be depressed once in a while?  There are some prescriptions to help with that chemical imbalance.  The side effect of one is to make Mary Ann sleepy, but some of the others make her restless. There is something added to help her sleep. 

Two of the meds thin her blood and help reduce the likelihood of her having another stroke.  The lesion on her carotid artery has a rough surface — not a good thing.  The list of side effects of most of her medicines includes the matter of dizziness when standing up.   That means they interfere with her autonomic nervous system, reducing her body’s ability to adjust her blood pressure quickly enough when she stands up.  The disease process of the Parkinson’s and Dementia are complicit in that nastiness.  The result of the low blood pressure is that she faints, increasing the likelihood of hitting her head and having another stroke or breaking the skin and producing a major bleed. 

The newest prescription is a patch to be put on her back daily.  It is intended to help her memory and alertness.  It’s main side effect is vomiting.  I can hardly wait!  One additional side effect can be diarrhea, but then listed among the side effects of most of the rest of the meds is constipation.  She, of course, takes a couple of over the counter meds to counteract the constipation.   

I could go on!

Every Saturday my to do list includes filling the pill container, four compartments for each of the seven days.  Mary Ann used to do that for herself.  There was a time when she had even more prescriptions and multiple doses of some of them.  When she was having trouble getting them all organized and in their spots without missing some, she devised a numbering system for the bottles.  By the way, the numbers go up to eighteen, seven more than she has now.  The job of filling the compartments is now mine, but I still use her system.  I have to follow a meticulous routine with bottles set out in certain places on the table if there will be any hope of my getting the job done accurately. 

Once all the compartments are filled, we are ready for the week.  Each morning, one of the day’s containers is snapped out of the holder.  The pills must be distributed into the pill cup for the morning pills, taken with yogurt (with active cultures), juice and maybe cereal.  Pills from the other compartments are transferred into two pill boxes with timers, one set for two hours and the other set for four hours.   The timers beep at ten minutes, five minutes and three minutes before beeping for a full minute to tell us the time has come to take the pill.  It is a miracle that I haven’t thrown then on he floor and stomped on them to stop the endless beeping.  The bed time meds are left for another cup to be set out at the end of the day. 

Do I even need to tell you what the frightening error was that I made one dreary morning a few years ago?  I was sleepy.  I got Mary Ann to the table and filled the morning pill cup — with the night time pills!!!!!  It wasn’t until she was pretty much out of it and back in bed that I discovered what I had done.  I called the Pharmacist and we worked through the implications and what to do.  Gratefully, the doses were all low enough that no damage was done.  After that experience, I now make sure that all the lights are on, my glasses are on, I look at the pill container three or four times, and Mary Ann always counts the pills and examines them carefully before she takes them. 

Every once in a while, someone asks me what I am doing now that I am retired.  After they regain consciousness from my having whacked them up side the head, I explain gently that Caregiving is a full time job. 

The pills are a wonderful gift.  They have helped provide a quality of life we could not enjoy without them.  It is tough to live with them, but we can’t live without them. 

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