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.

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.

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. 

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’ll bet you wish you had seen hundreds of Wilson’s Phalaropes swimming in little circles at a dizzying rate of speed, a White-faced Ibis, lots of Black-necked Stilts, a bunch of cute little Semipalmated (not fully, but only semi-palmated) Plovers, very many American Avocets and Hudsonian Godwits, not to mention the White-rumped Sandpipers and the Scissortail Flycatcher — all this along with forty-eight more varieties of birds.

I got a day off yesterday, and so did Mary Ann!  We both had a great time.  I spent the day birding with an experienced birder, a new friend that I now call Bob, and Mary Ann spent most of the day with our Son, Micah.

Arranging a day off is no small task for a full time Caregiver.  Those routines that provide the structure to the day and provide assurance that everything that needs to be done gets done, are not easily explained to someone who does not do them on a daily basis.  To write down instructions for all the routines and appropriate responses to the variety of situations that might arise would be almost impossible.  It would read like the instruction manual for a computer program.

To have a day off, I needed to have enough confidence in Mary Ann’s safety and security that I could let go of any concern, relax and enjoy the day’s activities.  There are pills to be taken, a medicine patch to be replaced, a wound to be dressed, bathroom needs to be dealt with, food to be provided, a commode to be cleaned out, maybe a shower and/or hair washed.  There are endless possibilities for problems to arise, from falls to heart pain to fainting spells.

I was able to relax completely.  Here is why:  For the last years of my ministry, we had an agency provide a paid person to do Companion Care with Mary Ann for three hours from 6:45am to 9:45am on Sunday mornings.  That was a time that it was not appropriate to ask a Volunteer to serve.  We have used two agencies mainly.  One is called Comfort Keepers and the other Home Instead.  Both are very good.  The one we have used most recently is Home Instead.  For the last couple of years of ministry, Debbie came each Sunday morning.  She became very familiar with the morning routine, including shower and hair washing, dressing, taking meds, providing breakfast, cleaning the commode and dealing with the fainting spells should they happen.  Debbie was available yesterday for the early morning shift. The cost is about $16 per hour.  It is worth the sixty dollars that it will cost to have her there, to have a day off for both of us. (Home Instead: http://www.homeinstead.com/; Comfort Keepers: http://www.comfortkeepes.com/)

For the evening three hours, Margaret was willing to come.  She is a very good friend to Mary Ann, as well as the Parish Nurse for our Congregation.  She has all the skill and experience anyone could ask for.  She has taught nursing for decades and, while retired, still keeps active, serving on call as a home health nurse for a local hospital along with serving full time as Parish Nurse — volunteering her time in that role.

During part of the afternoon, until a virus laid her low, Edie was going to spend a few hours.  She is also a good friend to Mary Ann and has dealt with everything right up to calling the ambulance to take her to the hospital when it was needed.

The best part of all was that our Son, Micah, was able to come from 9:30am to 6:30pm to be with his Mom.  Our Daughter-in-Law, Becky, and Granddaughter, Chloe, were on a Girl Scout campout this weekend.  That freed the time for Micah to come.  For a Mom to have her adult Son to herself for a full day is a treat beyond description.  Micah always brings out the best in Mary Ann.  She was alert and able to communicate.  They talked on the phone with our Daughter, Lisa.  They played some Scrabble.  Needless to say, the game only went a two or three rounds, but Mary Ann managed to come up with some of the words on her own.  She used to be merciless in playing Scrabble with the Volunteers.  They knew they were in the presence of greatness.  Micah took her outside for a trek to the nearby park, looking at flowers and enjoying the weather as he wheeled her along.  They ate some leftovers and then later headed out to get a milkshake from Sonic.  Micah and ice cream too!  Can’t beat it!

One of the special benefits of the day were the bits and pieces of conversation that Micah had with his Mom.  He got to have her at her best some of the time.  He experienced some of her hallucinations.  There were some times when she was not tracking, but much of the time she was.  While their conversations were between the two of them, one interaction that Micah shared was very revealing.  She wondered if it was not so that once a person needed to be fed, they would have to go to a nursing home.  He assured her that as long as there was someone at home willing to help, that was not so.  She has in recent days begin allowing me to help her with food, even in public.  That need must have been a great concern to her, carrying with it in her mind powerful implications.

As I processed the day, one thing popped into my mind when thinking about how good the day was for the two of them.  Mary Ann and I have enjoyed hopelessly spoiling our Granddaughter Chloe when she is with us before returning her to Micah and Becky to deal with the aftermath.  Turnabout is fair play, as they say.  After a day of Micah’s full attention, entertaining her and enjoying her every minute of the time he was there, I have to deal with the aftermath!

If there will be a Caregiver’s day off (as well as a CareReceiver’s day off), there are all sorts of things that need to be done over a period of time to allow it to happen.

For one thing, we had developed a relationship with an agency, using it on a regular basis, if only for a short time each week.  That way the option was available and familiar.  We  had already developed the booklet with all the pertinent information if any problem should arise.  (See this blog’s March 29th, 2009, post titled “Caregivers’, Carereceivers’, Volunteers’ Safety Issues” for more information on the booklet.)

We had allowed some good people to spend time with Mary Ann over the past eight or nine years, providing a cadre of people to call on, people comfortable with her, experienced in dealing with a variety of contingencies.

We planned the day far enough in advance to allow for the scheduling needed so that it could actually happen.

It was helpful to make a commitment to the day and to make the commitment to another person so that the motivation to follow through would be there.  It surprised me that I was ambivalent about going as the day approached.  I realized that as I have settled into the role of full time Caregiver, the role has come to provide a certain comfort and security.  I was apprehensive about being away for the day.  I have come to find meaning in what I do here to the extent, that it was a little uncomfortable to think of being away from that fulfilling task.

The day off was good for both Mary Ann and me.  We had a chance to be ourselves, each separate from the other.  It was reassuring that we both had a very good day. That the day went well encourages us to do it again some time in the future.  It took lots of planning, but it was worth the effort.

Caregivers, take a day off! It will do both of you a world of good.

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 I sit here at my computer writing this post, Mary Ann is in bed and secure.  Even though the door is closed and the bedroom is in another part of our small townhome, I can see her in bed.  Sometimes electronics actually help!

This afternoon we made a stop at Babies R Us.  I ran in and purchased an A-V monitor set.  It includes a camera, video display unit and a portable audio-only unit that can be clipped to a belt.  What is especially important for me is the size of the video unit.  it has a seven inch screen.  For me that means that as I look at the computer screen, out of my peripheral vision I can see her movements.

After ending up back at the Dermatologist’s office to sew up again a large incision that had broken open completely when Mary Ann fell directly on the stitched area, I decided that I needed to either be joined to her at the hip or find some way to see when she gets up from the chair even if I am not in the room.

I called the manufacturer before I bought this set to determine how to obtain a second camera.  That way I can have one in the bedroom aimed at the bed and one in the living room aimed at her chair.  On Monday, I am going to check on whether or not I could buy another kit (the cheaper one without the audio-only unit) and have two screens as well as two cameras.  I would like to be able to have one in a spot in the kitchen that will allow me to see her from there or from the dining room table, providing even more security. After she was in bed this evening, I was at the dining room table and barely heard her calling.  She had tried to turn over in bed and ended up on her knees on the floor next to the bed.

It just worked!  As I was typing the previous sentence, I saw her moving around.  I checked on her and found her trying to turn over to face the opposite direction.  I was able to help her.  Her Parkinson’s has taken from her the ability to move freely in bed.  I would rather help her when she begins the task of moving than wait until there is a problem that might result in damage.

This new monitor will replace the audio-only baby monitor that we have been using.  One problem for us with audio only is that her voice has gotten so low in volume that it is very difficult to hear her calling over the sound of the television in the bedroom.  The television is Mary Ann’s version of a night light.  While having the television on in the bedroom is not recommended by those who study sleep patterns, it is an important part of Mary Ann’s world.

The security that the A-V monitor provides is not just Mary Ann’s security.  The prime goal is to protect Mary Ann from harm.  Not far behind that goal is the goal of my freedom and peace of mind.  When she is out of sight, I am always aware of her potential for getting hurt, mostly from popping up out the chair and ending up on the floor.  I can feel the stress relief that comes with having her in view when she is in another room.

One of the heaviest burdens of Caregiving is the loss of freedom to move about at will.  When she fell, I had just gone into the kitchen to get something for her.  To lose the freedom to move about the house would be intolerable.  One of my primary distractions when trapped at home is the computer.  I need the freedom to head down the hall, away from the television and concentrate on what I am doing at this desk.  This monitor, as long as it continues to work, gives me that freedom without sacrificing her safety.

There is no way to guarantee that Mary Ann will not fall and be hurt.  What this does is simply add to the practical tools for creating as safe an environment as I can within the limits of available resources.  While we cannot control what happens, we do have some control.  This is another way to use what power I have to help create a safe environment for someone no longer able to keep herself safe.

The monitor I chose is a Summer Day and Night Color Flat Screen Video Monitoring System.  The model number is 02500.  It is available at Toys R Us, or Babies R Us.   If you want to check it out, the web site of the manufacturer is, http://www.summerinfant.com. There was also a monitor I checked on that has a smaller screen but has optional software that allows the monitor to be checked online.  That one is called a MOBI Bundle Monitoring System and Internet Kit.  The website at which I found it was http://www.ActiveForever.com.

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.

“Let me do it for you, Mary Ann, we are running out of time.”   “I’ll take that to the kitchen for you. ”  “What are you getting up to get?  I’ll get it for you.”

Someone made the comment to me that when Caregiver’s take over full time care of their Loved One, the Loved One’s ability to take care of him/herself tends to decline.  I don’t remember who said it.  I don’t know if the person who said it had any formal knowledge to validate the comment.  I just know that my own experience seems to allow the possibility that the observation was correct.

I feel responsible for Mary Ann’s well-being.  I am taking care of her.  I need to do for her what she cannot do for herself.  I am here to determine what she needs and wants and then see to it that she gets it.  She is virtually helpless to do even the most basic things.  I am her arms and legs.   My job is to figure out what she wants or needs when she is having trouble figuring that out for herself.  She has a right to have the highest quality of life that the Parkinson’s will allow. 

Caregivers are committed to take care of their Loved Ones.  The question is, can they do too much for their Loved Ones and do more harm than good in the process?  In other arenas, the term for helping too much is “enabling.”  Is it possible that in all our good intentions we may very well be doing less good than we thought? 

A less comfortable question is, do we sometimes take over tasks from our Loved Ones more for our own sake than their sake?  Are some of our generous acts of service rooted more in our impatience than their need?

Those are very tough questions quite reluctant to produce easy answers.  Mary Ann would love to be back in the kitchen.  There are knives there, very sharp knives.  The Cutco knives she purchased from a traveling salesman some time before we were married forty-three years ago, have recently been sent back to the company for sharpening.  A broken blade was replaced, as were the handles, and they were honed until razor sharp.   (By the way, all that was done only for the cost of shipping — the salesman was not lying.)  Those knives could cut to the bone in a fraction of a second.  When Mary Ann’s basic Parkinson’s medication kicks in, she has dramatic dyskinetic movements, arms waving around with involuntary muscle activity.  She falls easily.  Armed with knives she could easily do major damage to herself and anyone else within reach.  Hot pans with oil or water in them are equally dangerous in dyskinetic hands. 

The easiest solution is for her not to participate in any way in the food preparation process.  That is pretty much what has come to be.  It is much less stressful for me if she stays in her chair in the living room while I do whatever needs to be done.  That solution is the easiest one for me but not necessarily the best for her.  My need for her safety is one part of this solution, but another part is my seeking to avoid the stress of helping her do whatever part of the preparation process she can, while I am trying to get the rest of the preparation tasks done.  Our solution is easier for me but does not necessarily increase the quality of her life. 

At our last visit to the Cardiologist I asked about an increase in number and intensity of Mary Ann’s episodes of labored breathing.  One part of the answer from the Cardiologist was that her inactivity has diminished her muscle tone. 

Here is the major area of concern from my perspective.  Now that I am retired and at home with her all day long every day, I am right there, every time she stands up to go somewhere.   I ask where she is going and offer to get for her whatever it is she was going to get.   If she gets up to walk when I am not able to see her, when I do see that she is up and on the loose, I move as quickly as I can to offer her an elbow, or put my hand on the gait belt. 

One negative effect of my presence is that her freedom of movement is more limited.  Another negative effect is that she gets less exercise while I am so attentive.  Her muscle tone diminishes and the stress on her artery-blocked heart increases.  It takes less and less activity to trigger the labored breathing. 

The problem for me is that I am the one who picks her up when she falls, and I have seen again and again how close she has come to doing major damage to herself.  She has fallen and cut herself, resulting in a couple of trips to the Emergency Room to check for major damage and stop the bleeding.  I have seen her start to crumple and then lose consciousness for anywhere from a minute or so to ten minutes.  I have hurt my back trying to hold her up or get her up, putting at risk my ability to continue to care for her. 

How much help is too much help?  

Whenever we have any time pressure, or my impatience kicks in, I do little tasks that she might be able to do if she was allowed to do them at her pace rather than mine. 

When is the help actually more for the sake of the Caregiver than the one receiving the care?

Sometimes I am so available, that rather than doing a task herself, a task she could do, she lets me, asks me to do it.

When is help no longer help, but enabling behavior that slowly takes away the ability to do the task from the one for whom you are caring?

Caregivers can care too much.   We can do too much.  We can indulge our own impatience and steal abilities from the one we love. 

The challenge is to find the location of the place in between too much help and too little help.  If nothing else, asking the question, “Should I do it or let her do it,” allows the possibility of finding that place.

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.