About 4am Mary Ann was up.  Then again once an hour until a little before 8am when we got up for the day.  There was some of the intensity that can develop into hallucinations and hyperactivity, but this time it did not get out of hand.

I suggested that after I wash her hair we should head to Perkin’s, where she always orders some pancakes and a couple of slices of bacon.  She liked the idea.  She did have juice and yogurt with her pills as usual, just not the bowl of cereal.  It took a while to get the morning chores done today, so it wasn’t until about noon that we actually headed to Perkin’s.  Then we headed to the grocery.  Even though I had a list, we ended up with more than intended.  Gratefully, it was all things that we routinely use.

During the morning, I began taking her blood pressure every hour or so.  Her blood pressure had been so high and the Cardiologist’s office on Thursday that it was pretty concerning.  Her morning meds included a whole Midodrine tablet with the purpose of keeping her BP up so that she doesn’t faint, on account of the Orthostatic Hypotension that has given her such difficulty.

I started at 8:17am, 220/115.  Then ranging from one hour to three and a half hours apart after that her blood pressure measured, 200/110; 160/85; 185/100; 200/100; 200/105.  I took it one other time when it the systolic was 200, but I didn’t get the diastolic.

I could not bring myself to give her even 1/2 of a Midodrine tablet for her midday and suppertime doses.  I know it is not good to stop meds cold turkey, but it just seemed crazy to give her meds that raise her BP when it was already dangerously high.  One thing that caught my ear was the Cardiologist’s ARNP mentioning the fear of a massive stroke.  I had mentioned that Mary Ann already had a stroke.  Angela responded immediately with that concern.  Mary Ann’s stroke was not a bleed, but a cluster stroke (bits of plaque, probably from the ulcerated lesion on her carotid artery).  Nonetheless, it is hard to accept blood pressure that high without major concern.

The last couple of days there has been some swelling of her feet.  She has not had that problem very often.  When she has had swelling it has gone down the next day.  Two days in a row catches my attention. She has not had the heaviness in her chest and the ARNP, Angela, did not hear any crackling in her lungs, the sign of problems with fluid build up.  I need to remember to weigh Mary Ann in the morning to see if she has gained any weight.  That is another of the signs of potential congestive heart failure.

Today, the hallucinations have emerged a bit.  When she started eating tonight’s two scoops of Baskin & Robbins, she asked Ashy if she wanted any.  She saw our youngest Granddaughter sitting in the transfer chair a couple of feet away from her. That Granddaughter is currently living in Kentucky, not in our dining room.

One of the choices we have to make for the remodel/addition of a Sun Room at the back of our town home will be vertical blinds to cover twelve feet of glass for the sake of privacy.  Stacey brought a sample book of blinds that seem ideal.  Mary Ann has gotten in her mind that there is another sort of blind that would be better.  The problem is, it does not exist.  She looked through the latest Martha Stewart magazine and has become convinced that she sees there what we should choose.  She said there are many examples throughout the magazine.  I paged through the entire magazine with her. There were a couple of pages that had what she decided she liked.  They were pictures of an open porch with no blinds, just greenery, vines and bushes in the yard the porch is overlooking.  Then on another page she pointed to some large pictures of pink and red nail polish she said were the weights at the bottom of the blinds.

I could do nothing but tell her that we could not find blinds that exist only in her mind but do not exist in a way that we could actually buy and install.  This one is going to be tough.  I have absolutely no doubt that as long as we live, she will  routinely mention that we did not get the blinds she wanted for those windows and sliding glass doors.

Mary Ann’s ability to feed herself simply was gone today.  At breakfast, I assisted her as she worked to get the pills into her mouth.  I fed her the yogurt and held the cup and straw to her mouth.  At the restaurant at lunch, after I buttered them, cut the pancakes into bite sized pieces and put syrup on them, she got the fork in her hand with my help and was determined to eat the meal herself.  After an interminable amount of time, in which I had long since eaten my entire meal, she was still frozen in place with her hand lying in the pancakes, holding her fork wwith her head down near the plate.  On occasion she tried to get the pancakes up to and into her mouth, but no pancakes ever remained on the fork long enough to make it in.

I offered to help a number of times.  A couple of times I moved her hand with the fork in it so that some pieces were stuck on the fork.  She still could not seem to get them to her mouth.  Finally, she agreed to let me put each fork full into her mouth.  I did the same with the bacon, and with the straw in her Coke.  She ate most of the food on the plate.

At supper at home the same thing happened, she could not get the food to her mouth.  What seems strange to me is that she refused to let me help her even though we were in a completely private setting.  She ate almost nothing.  When I returned with the ice cream from B&R, she could not manage that on her own either.  After a while she did let me help her eat the ice cream.  I can only guess that she really likes pancakes, bacon and ice cream, so she allowed my help.  She was not so fond of the ham and cheesy potatoes at supper, so she was not so motivated to accept the help.

After getting back from the grocery this afternoon, I worked on filling the pill containers for the week, while Mary Ann watched television.  Her head was hanging on her lap much of the time.  One of the times I came over to help her sit up, she said one of the things that always triggers feelings of guilt and some helplessness.  I don’t remember her words exactly, but message was: I am bored sitting here all the time doing nothing but watching television, and I am just wasting away.  The implication was: you aren’t providing me with enough activity and stimulation to provide a decent quality of life for me.

I have talked about this in earlier posts.  I do feel guilty about not providing her with more attention and engagement.  My rationalization is that my life already revolves around her wants and needs all day every day and all night every night.   There are two truths that sort of intertwine as I process what she said.  One is that I really should do more to engage her attention and improve the quality of her days.  The other is that she has Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and there are resulting consequences and limitations that I cannot fix.  I cannot give her the life that has been taken from her by the disease.

One goal in processing this issue is to keep my feet to the fire to try to come up with things that will keep her interest.  My hope was that the lunch out and the trip to the grocery would help.  Tomorrow I hope to get both of us going early enough to make it to the 11am worship service followed by a meal out at a nice restaurant that we both like.  Then later in the day will come the Superbowl.  She loves professional football and will enjoy watching the game.

The other goal in processing this issue is to accept my own flaws and imperfections and let go of the guilt and frustration that I am not doing more.  This has actually been a better than average week in one regard in particular.  I don’t think I have said a cross word to Mary Ann this week, nor have I felt like doing so.  Sunday morning’s experience seems to have had some residual effect.  I have no illusions that the change in attitude will remain, but it has felt good to set Grumpy Caregiver aside for a few days.

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This morning I thought the increased dosage of Seroquel had gone too far and put her into a sort of drug-induced stupor.  She was sleeping so deeply.  She would not arouse.  She had hardly moved a muscle all night other than two commode trips.  Yes, I wanted to get some sleep, but not at that cost.  I would rather endure the rampant hallucinations than lose her completely into some distant world out of touch with reality, with who she is.

At that point I decided that unless things changed dramatically, I would call the doctor and do everything in my power to find a way to reset her medication regimen completely — take it all away (medicine vacation) and re-introduce only what is absolutely necessary monitoring side effects with each addition.  Some of the meds can produce hallucinations.  I would do it at home or in the hospital or wherever necessary.  I refuse to concede anything to this disease other than what absolutely must be accepted.

As I did morning preparations for the time that Sunday morning Volunteer Edie would arrive, I tried to awaken her a couple of times so that she could be dressed and have eaten and taken her pills.  Her hair needed washing after the last few difficult days.  She was just sleeping too soundly to get up.

I headed up to the lake after Edie settled in with instructions for giving meds.  I assumed that when I returned, Mary Ann would most likely still be in that same deep sleep.

As I drove the half hour to my spot by the dam, I put on a CD done by Lisa Kelly from the Celtic Woman group.  Her voice has a very engaging timbre.  Most of the songs were ones that I had heard and enjoyed before.  When I settled in by the lake, no eagles in sight at that time, the music and my image of Mary Ann in that deep sleep, began to burrow in.  For some reason, even though well-rested from last night’s virtually uninterrupted sleep, it all began to well up.  It surprised me at that moment to hear a song I would not have expected on a commercial CD for the general public.  The title is “The Deer’s Cry” from a movie called The Pilgrim.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise to-day
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s eyes to look before me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ to shield me,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me.

I arise to-day

I am not embarrassed by this, but it has happened only four or five times since I was a child.  I have teared up, I have gotten choked up, but this morning I cried out loud. I just couldn’t stop. I was sitting in the car in the parking lot hoping no one would drive in and stop, as people often do since it is such a beautiful spot.

I don’t want to analyze all the whats and wherefores of what happened.  It was a deeply personal moment.  Writing it here risks trivailizing it.  I hesitated talk about it here, but it was too important to me for me to write about today honestly and not reveal it.  It just happened. I was overwhelmed with the vision of Mary Ann being lost in her own body.  She deserves more!

I refuse to be complicit in any way in treatments that make it easier to care for her at the cost of her being fully present to whatever degree possilble.  If I need to have paid help her overnight to be able to endure challenging behavior, so be it.  I wlll not lose her until the disease process itself takes her from me.

Yes, I am angry at this damn disease!  I don’t blame God.  The words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate in that song are what broke open the tears.  I sometimes forget how much I need what I sought to tell others all those years.  I am angry at myself for beginning too soon to accept losing her .

The recent decline and move into dementia has happened too fast.  Yes, sometimes declines happen so slowly that they are not noticed until they cross a certain threshold.  That can create the illusion that the change has happened quickly.  I remember a Neurologist in a Webinar saying that Parkinson’s progresses slowly.  If a change happens fast, it is not the Parkinson’s.  Something else must be the cause.  Lewy Body Dementia can change back and forth between getting better and getting worse quickly,  This decline and the increase in hallucinations has moved at a pace that suggests the need to look carefully, especially at the medications to see what other explanations there might be for the rapidity of the change.

I will accept only what must be accepted and will concede nothing more!  I am tired of just taking what comes and accepting as inevitable every decline.  While we choose to live in a certain denial day by day, I have no illusions about the general course of this disease. If anything, I know too much about what lies ahead, having read emails from other Caregivers struggling with this same disease in their families.

When I returned from the lake, I walked in the door to see Mary Ann sitting in her chair with Edie sitting next to her.  They were talking.  Mary Ann had gotten up shortly after I left.  She had taken her pills and eaten a good breakfast. She had drunk lots of liquids.  I had noted the color of Mary Ann’s urine in the commode this morning suggesting she might be getting dehydrated.  She had had a good BM (a big deal).  She had asked Edie about her new Grandchild.  She wanted to hear more about the baby.  She tracked the conversation, smiled and laughed at appropriate times.

After Edie left, we ate lunch — a sauerkraut and meatball soup that both Mary Ann and I love.  After much prodding, Mary Ann allowed me to help her eat. As a result she ate a good quantity of the soup and bread.  She had a big piece of carrot cake.  Not too much later she asked for and ate a bowl of ice cream.

She and I watched television for the rest of the afternoon.  She probably wondered what was going on since I did more hugging and telling her I love her than has happened in a while.  Neither of us is very demonstrative.  This morning messed up my controls for a while.

I got ready for the Evening Service, got things in the car, the garage door open.  I had been talking about going to church, as usual.  I put her shoes on.  She was tired and had been sitting there with her head hanging in her lap, napping.  When it was time to get in the car, she just was not willing to go out.

I gave her some supper.  Then she went right to bed.  She has now had her pills and is in bed, moving around a lot. I will be heading in soon.  Even though last night was a wonderfully sleep-filled night and today was a good day, tonight and tomorrow could be completely different.  We can take nothing for granted.  It will take some time to process all that happened today.  I am out of breath from the ride.

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Last night when I helped her to the commode, while sitting there, she told me she was in jail.  Another time when she sat up on the side of the bed I heard her say, “we are unarmed.”  Who knows what that was about.  This morning she was angry with me that I couldn’t understand that she had to pick up her Grandmother (of course gone for many decades).  Then when we went in to get her dressed, she said something about the fact that her Grandma died, and if it were my Grandma, we would be get there right away.

She is at the table in the heavy chair with the arms, subdued and dozing off and on, with her head lying on the table.  Yesterday I asked her often if she wanted to move. She always answered firmly that she was fine.  I am not bothering her so much today, but watching her moves using the A-V monitor screen by the computer at which I am sitting.

Last night was worse than the previous two nights, if that is possible.  Actually, the first part of the night, about 11pm to almost 3am, was within our more bearable norm of just being up a few times.  As I reported in my post last night, she was almost wild with the hallucinations and activity as if she was overdosed on speed before she finally agreed to get in bed.  It started again some time around 3am.  She started getting up on the side of the bed, talking and wanting to get up, dealing with the dream or hallucination of the moment.

In the 4am to 5am hour, the times up were as close together as three minutes.  She was very upset with me, as was I with her for that matter, that I insisted that she lie back down.  Finally shortly after 5am I just gave up and got her up to come out to the table and eat.  I knew it was too early to start the daytime pills.

It was not easy to get the food in her mouth, but she managed some yogurt and toast.  She was still hallucinating much of the time.  By about 7:15am, she was ready to lie down.  I went back to bed also since I have been pretty wasted with the short nights and challenging nights and days.  She slept about an hour. Then we got up, got her dressed and gave her the morning pills withmore yogurt.

With both of our kids, Lisa and Micah, emailing the same response at the same time that I had reached that conclusion, I have phoned Home Instead to see if someone could be found to stay with Mary Ann overnight some time very soon.  I will talk with them again on Monday.  At the moment, they have a number of folks out sick, so it will be some time before this can work out.  One option is their $150 for a twelve hour shift overnight.  That one won’t work for us, since that is only doable if the person staying with her is  up a maximum of four times to help her.  If that were the maximum times I was up with Mary Ann, I wouldn’t need the help.  That would be a great night in our world.  The next option is the hourly one. It runs $16-$18 an hour. It is certainly worth it to me for the sake of survival.  I will probably start with one night a week.

The problem, of course, is that the current situation is almost no longer doable.  It is hard to imagine being able to handle that all day long seven days and all night long six nights a week.

In checking with the online Lewy Body Dementia Spouses group, some others have had problems with Seroquel.  Some found it to be a problem at a larger dose, but workable at a lower dose.  One of them even used the description, “as if she was on speed.” that I had used before reading that post.

I have to decide whether to take the next step tonight by increasing the Seroquel from 125mg to 150mg.  This is not an easy choice.  The hallucinations had been increasing to an unbearable level before I increased the Seroquel from 100mg to 125mg.  I had been waiting anxiously for the batch to arrive in the mail, looking at the increase as the hope for returning the hallucinations to a manageable level. The first morning after I increased the dosage the first step, there was a hint of a little more lucidity.  That faded quickly and the frequency and intensity of the hallucinations ramped up even more.

Do I take the next step in hopes that the evidence is wrong, and it might begin to improve the situation rather than make it worse?  Do I respond to the evidence that it seems to be making the hallucinations worse and pull back?  At the moment, I do not know which I will do.  I don’t know how much risk there might be of another increase making the problem worse and moving us farther down the road permanently.  With LBD it is common for strong meds to cause a loss that cannot be regained.  That level of vulnerability is one of the ways LBD differs from Alzheimer’s Dementia.

Whatever I decide, assuming this does not improve, next week I will phone the Neurologist’s office at KU Med Center’s Parkinson’s Clinic and ask for a full review of her meds, to see what changes might have some hope of mitigating this pretty much untenable situation.

I suppose I will also make some phone calls, possibly visit, one or two places that could serve as options if this ceases to be doable at home.  In talking with my daughter, Lisa, the idea of hiring someone either to live-in and help out with Mary Ann a few hours in trade or someone to stay a couple of nights a week re-emerged.  We did have someone we hired for a few hours a week some years ago. I still have an active federal ID number and state withholding tax number just in case we go that route again. We have a finished basement with egress windows in the bedroom and living area, and there is also a large full bath (shower only). That space was finished to allow the option of live-in help if we needed it.

I guess we have been in the frog-in-the-kettle mode.  Things have been moving past being manageable at such a slow pace that I didn’t really realize how hot the water was getting.  I guess it is time to find a way to reduce the heat before our frog is cooked (or goose – take your choice).

Mary Ann stayed at the table, I got lunch for her, and she ate very little.  At about 2pm, after a trip to the bathroom, she stopped at the bed and indicated that she wanted to lie down.  She has been down for about an hour now.  It is such a relief that she is sleeping for her sake and for mine.  While sleeping during the day is not always a good idea, any time that she is resting and secure is a wonderful respite for me.

Our Son Micah phoned and will be coming over with our Daughter-in-Law Becky and Granddaughter Chloe this evening.  It is over an hour one way, and Chloe had indoor soccer and basketball games today, so we really appreciate them coming after a long day.  They arrived in time for us to order pizza.  Mary Ann was not ready to get up from the nap she started after lunch.  She did get up when supper came. 

She was moderately responsive, compared to having been almost completely unresponsive most of the rest of the day (other than the morning hallucinations).  She did eat a little of the pizza (cheese sticks).  She went to bed again while they were still here. 

It was very helpful to me to be able to sit and talk with them and hear how they are doing.  It was good for Mary Ann also just to have them around.  It was a low key evening, but just spending the time together seemed to lift for the moment the pall that has been settling over us last few days in particular. 

It is done.  I gave Mary Ann the fully increased dosage of Seroquel tonight.  One option that is unfortunately the more likely one is that by three or four in the morning at the latest. she will be bouncing off imaginary walls.  If and when that happens, I will be running after her as she does.   The less likely but preferred option is that she will finally sleep well and have fewer and less intense hallucinations tomorrow. 

And so the ride goes on! 

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.