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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Do you remember anything about last night’s bathroom ordeal?”  She answered, “I remember you saying there’s poop everywhere.”  I asked the question because Mary Ann so often has little or no memory of times that have included lots of fainting.  In fact, Mary Ann seems to remember very little of the difficult times.  What a blessing! I, however, do remember.

The night did not go well for the first few hours after the bathroom debacle.  Mary Ann was up every few minutes, sitting on the side of the bed, not sure why.  As a result, both of us were exhausted this morning.  Mary Ann was especially confused about most everything.  The fainting continued.  When she ended up in bed after breakfast, I decided to lie down also.

Both before and after our naps, the fainting was constant.  Every time she stood up, she fainted.  That meant that I needed to be within a few feet of her all the time.  It is interesting that even though she fainted every time she popped up, what would seem like a natural deterrent did not work.  Since she has no awareness of the fainting, it does not work its way into her consciousness when she feels the need to stand up.  Most of the times she stood up and started to try to get around the front of the chair, seemingly headed somewhere, she could not tell me why she stood up and where she was going.

As the day wore on, the fainting began to subside.  I suggested that we attend the Evening Service at church tonight.  While, as usual, there was no verbal response, a little while after I asked about church, she stood up.  When I asked where she was headed, she answered that she was going to get her shoes.  That was her way of answering my question about church.  It is hard to explain just how frustrating it is to have no verbal clues to help discover her thoughts or intentions.  I have to wait for some physical movement to determine what she has decided.  What is more frustrating is to ask, get one answer, and then seconds later discover by her movements that she is actually doing the opposite of what she said.  She said, “no,” she is not interested in doing whatever.  Then she immediately gets up to do what she just said “no” to.  It is just the nature of the misfiring that goes on due to the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, but it is nonetheless frustrating.

We did go to church.  She did very well.  It was sort of odd to realize that those who saw us, had no idea what we had just gone through with the fainting and bathroom nightmare.  It would have served no purpose to do anything other than just say, we are doing okay.  One commented on this blog.  She may have been aware of what we had gone through last night.  It does help to know that there are some who track how we are doing.  Caring enough to read about our days is a precious gift to us.

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This morning she said, “Let’s go some place and have some fun.”  Further interaction confirmed that she meant some sort of major trip this summer.  As we talked, she said, probably nowhere high [in elevation].  We had begun arranging through friends the use of a condo in the mountains of Colorado a couple of years ago.  After consulting with the Cardiologist, it seemed unwise to tackle a high elevation, putting stress on Mary Ann’s heart.

In the movies, a bucket list makes all the sense in the world.  Who could argue with doing anything and everything you have wanted to do before dying when death seems to be coming in the near term?  In the movies, whatever stands in the way can just be written out of the story line.

The dilemma in deciding what to do in response to the request for a major trip for fun, is that there are conflicting realities.  Each has validity.  One reality is Mary Ann’s view that is no longer reasoned through the executive function of her brain.  To her, the fainting, bathroom issues, problems with eating, falling, sleep problems, access to appropriate medical care, all are of little or no consequence.  She lives in a world in which she is constantly protected by those of us around her, taking care of whatever problems arise.  In that reality, there are no barriers to traveling wherever and whenever, just having fun doing all sorts of things.

There is validity in that view.  The various assessments of her physical/mental situation suggest that there may not be many years left to do all sorts of entertaining and enjoyable items on our wish list.  Assuming that is so, we need to get out and do anything and everything we can, as soon as possible.

The other reality is that we are on a roller coaster in which there is no telling if Mary Ann will be alert or completely out of it, whether she will be able to stay awake or will crash suddenly, whether she will be able to stand and transfer to the toilet stool or will crumple in a dead faint.  We don’t know if she will be able to eat or sleep or discern reality from hallucination/delusion/dream.  In the other reality, I am the one who has to figure out how to deal with whatever comes when it comes.  Not having the resources that are easily accessible here at home when problems come is a real issue.  This is not a movie.

The question is, how do we balance what is actually so in our little world with what we would like to be so.  My problem is determining how many of the barriers that I see are more my own concerns over what might happen rather than real barriers.  Now that we have made decisions associated with the transition to Hospice Care, the fear of not making it to a hospital in time may be unsettling, but it is no longer the primary issue.  We have already faced that demon and stolen its power.

I don’t want to stand in the way of Mary Ann having as good a quality of days as possible in these next months or years.  I also am not infinitely good and capable and strong and filled with limitless endurance for whatever may come.

In a recent thread of posts by members of the online group of Caregiving Spouses of those with forms of Lewy Body Dementia, there were some who talked about the struggle to do enough to provide adequate stimulation in their Loved Ones’ lives.  Some in that group have seen how others can draw the best out of their Loved Ones as they respond at a level referred to as “showtime.”  We have just come off three weeks of visits by friends and family.  Mary Ann has been at her best much of that time.  She has been engaged in conversation, she has laughed, she has connected and initiated interactions.  As Caregivers we want to provide that sort of quality all the time.

We can’t do it.  We can’t provide enough to compensate for their limitations.  Last night Mary Ann did not sleep well.  Today she made it through lunch, then crashed, fainting so much that she just had to lie down.  That was at about 12:30pm.  I tried to get her up two or three times, but it was 5:30pm or later before she got up.  We got some Dairy Queen, she came home and crashed again.  No matter how romantic it sounds to check off items on a bucket list, there are some parts of our reality that we can’t change.

For now, my intention is to think as creatively as possible about options for places that might be fun for Mary Ann.  I am willing to stretch beyond my comfort zone what we try to do.  She has mentioned the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky as a possible destination in the past.

…I have just been “scared straight!”  My comments above about two realities have just ceased to be a balanced weighing of conflicting views.  I have spent the last hour (not sure, lost track of time) in an intense battle with active intestines, in a fainting, jerking stiff body, fighting against every move to try to keep what was coming out off clothes and into its designated receptacle.

Mary Ann is only 113.5 at last weigh-in, but it took every ounce of strength I have to try to manipulate her into position, hold her up while trying to clean her up, while she would stiffen in a sort of mild seizure, or go completely limp becoming dead weight, all happening while trying to take clothes off or put them on or wipe off her body where it had spread or the toilet seat so that it didn’t spread again when she fell back down on it in a faint.

This was about as tough a time as we have had with that activity.  I describe out loud the difficulty I am having and my frustration with it as it is happening.  That is part of my getting out what would be tougher to handle if I tried to keep it in.  A couple of times when she happened to be conscious she told me to calm down. My most frustrating moments are the times her body is fighting against what I am trying to do to get her seated so it will go where it should go.  Once, she even said I should put her some place, to which I immediately responded, “I am not putting you anywhere!”

I have now rinsed the matter off Mary Ann’s pajama tops and bottoms in fresh toilet water, put them in and started the washer.  I have washed my hands fifteen times.  Cleaned the stuff from under her fingernails, gotten her in clean clothes and into bed.  There was one aftershock that included the fainting and all the rest except (gratefully) for the “stuff.”  She is again in bed.  I have taken a couple of Ibuprofen to take the edge off the back and muscle pain from the physical exertion.

You have just had a peak into something that is routine in the lives of many Caregivers.  Others in the online group have to do what I just did but with someone who outweighs them by a hundred pounds.  I have no idea how they do it.

Mary Ann will be fine; I will be fine.  It is just another day on our roller coaster ride.  This encounter with one of our realities has certainly suggested that traveling a long way may not be a very good idea.  It is hard to imagine doing what I just did, but in a motel bathroom.  At the moment, our bucket has no room for a list, it is full of poop.  Tomorrow is another day!

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He looks at his reflection in a window panel at deck level and attacks, again and again and again.  It is a wonder he hasn’t knocked himself out.  Coincidentally, just last week the Kansas Birders discussed this problem in a thread titled “Crazy Cardinal.”  An explanation on the Audubon site said that Cardinals and Robins are almost the always the culprits when this happens.  There is so much testosterone flowing at this time of the year that they will even fight with themselves for territorial dominance.

When I watched this strange behavior going on, I couldn’t help but remember the quotation by Pogo, which ended up the title of a book,  Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.

If I have read this correctly, there is a paragraph quoted in the forward to
The Pogo Papers, Copyright 1952-3, that comes from “Quimby’s Law (passed by the Town of Quimby after the Trouble with Harold Porch in 1897) on which the quote was based.  Whether or not I am correct, the paragraph includes an expansion of those words.

“There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

Watching that Robin expending so much energy fighting against his own reflection struck a chord with me about some of the battles I fight, battles that I suspect other Caregivers fight.  I have little doubt that this painful truth lies in the experience of most of us, Caregivers or otherwise.

It seems to me that sometimes I expend more energy and experience more frustration dealing with my reactions to problems than the problems themselves.  The problems themselves are just facts of our circumstances.  I have no control over them.  They just are what they are.  They have no sentience.  They aren’t seeking to make me miserable.  They are just the harsh realities of living with any other human being, let alone one with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.  Some of those realities are just stuff that comes with daily living.

We have been impacted by Parkinson’s for over 23 years now.  That is just a fact of our lives.  Everyone has something to deal with, most often lots more than one something.  It is a waste of time to try to determine whose trouble is worse.  The issue is not who has more or who has less to deal with, the issue is, what will I do in the face of my problems.  I have a finite amount of time and stamina.  I can’t afford to waste a whole lot of it battling my own reflection.

Let me try to make sense of that.  When something happens, Mary Ann falls, I can pull the transfer chair over, pull her up, see if she hurt herself when she fell and then get on with whatever is next.  That takes some time and physical effort but nothing of major consequence.

Other alternatives for responding include the response just described plus wondering what possessed her to get up in the first place when she knows she is vulnerable to falling; is she just trying to make it difficult for me; why is she so stubborn, how many times do I have to do this; what if she hurts herself badly, that will mean hospital or rehab or nursing home; she will hate it there and so will I, will I have to spend my days at the nursing home doing all the things the staff doesn’t have time to do, should I have changed the dosage on a medication to help reduce the falls, is there something that I should have done to anticipate the fall and stop it from happening, if she would just stay in her chair, I could get something else done, Volunteers would be more willing to stay– the more she falls the less likely they are to keep coming to be with her.

I don’t go through all that every time she falls, but when anything happens, there can be all sorts of reactions that use up precious energy that would be better used just doing what needs to be done.  Too much time gets wasted fighting against imagined enemies that are created in my own mind.

Mary Ann slept well last night, and we both ended up sleeping late this morning — much needed.  Hospice Aide Sonya came and helped Mary Ann with the morning prep tasks.  There was some fainting later that resulted in a nap, but it was a fairly short nap.  We ate out at McFarland’s.  She allowed me to help her after a while.  We had some of Maureen’s spaghetti and Kroger’s brussel sprouts from the freezer.  Next came the promised trip to Baskin & Robbins.

Mary Ann is in bed now, but I am not sure yet how well she is sleeping.  There seems to be some restless movement.  Hopefully, we will both rest well enough to enjoy the beautiful day predicted for tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She was sitting up in the chair in front of the television.  Her head started jerking forward and back up.  Her arms fell to the sides of the transfer chair.  She was out.   She had not stood up, she was just sitting there when it happened.  Medical folks call it Syncope.  You and I call it fainting. passing out. 

Why did it happen?  Her blood pressure dropped until it was no longer high enough to fight the pull of gravity.  There was no longer enough blood pumping to adequately supply her brain. 

It didn’t just happen once, or twice, or three times.  I lost count.  It was probably five or six times, one right after the other.  It has happened before, but never that many times in a row.  Only two or three times before has it happened while sitting down, unless it was right after standing up or walking or trying to get up — not just sitting down.

There is no explanation of which I am aware as to why the blood pressure is too high sometimes and too low other times.  It has been high almost her entire adult life.  That is called Hypertension.  She also has Orthostatic Hypotension.  That means, when she stands up, sometimes the Autonomic Nervous System [ANS] does not trigger the smooth muscles surrounding the arteries quickly enough to constrict to compensate for the additional gravitational pull down on the blood in her circulatory system.  Read the side effects on very many of the common medications we take.  They warn that there may be dizziness when standing up while taking the med.  That dizziness is a moment of Orthostatic Hypotension, low blood pressure when standing up. 

It sometimes happens to folks who have had Parkinson’s Disease for a long time.  It very often happens to those who have a form of Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is one of those forms.  Little bits of material called Lewy Bodies form on brain cells in the part of the brain that runs the Parasympathetic System of the ANS. 

What all that means is that there is an insidious process that makes life still more difficult to some who are already in a very tough battle.  I know what the explanations are for high and low blood pressure in Mary Ann’s circumstances.  What I don’t know, nor does anyone else, is why for many weeks it has hovered at a frighteningly high level with no fainting spells, and now it is running high at times during the day and plummeting at other times. 

She had fainted some earlier this morning when she was up and down, using the commode. When it happens there, I have to hold her up with my shoulder to keep her from slumping forward.   Then after maybe ten or fifteen minutes of multiple times fainting while sitting in her transfer chair in front of the television, the Hospice Aide Sonya arrived for her first time giving Mary Ann a shower, washing her hair and dressing her.   I thought there was not a chance that Sonya would be able to handle her, even with the new shower chair with arms. 

Mary Ann did not faint once during all the ups and downs of getting into the shower chair, transfering back to the transfer chair she sits in during the day.  Why not??  Why does she faint one time and not another.  This is such a nasty disease, refusing to submit to patterns that can be anticipated. 

Now comes the question, do I resume giving her the Midodrine, a medication that raises blood pressure?  Her heart and kidneys are being damaged by high blood pressure.  I will take her BP in the morning and decide what to do.  If it is exceedingly high, I will not give her the Midodrine.  If it is exceedingly low, I will.  Of course, it is not as simple as that.  If her BP is normal, what should I do?  Normal is not high enough to guard against moving too low when she stands.  It often changes from way too high when she first gets up to way too low in an hour. 

This is an old story heard many times by those who have reading these posts since I began writing this blog just about a year ago now.  You have heard me talk about this many times before.  Here it is again.  It no longer scares me.  It just makes it harder to deal with Mary Ann’s penchant for hopping up and heading off, especially when she is hallucinating.  I have to actually sit a few feet from her every moment she is awake and alert, since she will stand and may fall soon thereafter.   She is completely unaware of any concern.  She doesn’t know she has fainted after she has become conscious again. 

She surprised me and slept fairly well last night.  She did all right at breakfast, fainted for a while, had her bath, ate lunch as Hospice Nurse Jennifer filled out some forms and took her BP.  It was 100 over something, still very low.   Mary Ann sat for a while and then headed to the bedroom and slept for four or five hours. 

I got her up for supper.  We went out again to pick up ice cream and a tankard of PT’s coffee to reheat in the morning (I’m a hopeless fan).   Since she was again in pop-up mode, I needed to get her in the car, seat belted in, so that I could relax and know that she was secure.   The ice cream was just an excuse for getting her into a secure place for a while.  You believe that, right?

Not long after eating the ice cream, she headed off to bed.  In spite of the long nap, at least at the moment she is sleeping.  It may not last. 

One of the people in the online Lewy Body Spouses group lost her husband today.  She described in detail the rapid decline and the process of dying.  My words to her were these:

You have been a mainstay in this group for a long time.  You have put words to what we have been experiencing.  You described what awaits us.  My condolences are laced with anticipation, as a result, I feel vividly what you have just experienced and pray for the peace Charlie now has to free you to find peace here, understanding that the peace does not void the pain you feel.  That is the price of love. 
Peter”

Our turn will come.

It was only a cup of water, but it was 3:48am, and it ended up all over Mary Ann, and the bed and the floor between our beds.  The bed spread, bottom sheet and mattress pad were soaked in places. Everything needed a clean and dry replacement.

Those who are in the Caregiving Spouses of those with some form of Lewy Body Disease Yahoo Group would recognize this to be tiny on the scale of messes they have to deal with routinely.  It is just that it was one of those nights with rampant hallucinations, lots of times in need of my help throughout the night.  I had asked again and again for her just to stay in bed, since otherwise there would be no hope of sleep.  She decided to get up and get the water for herself from the bed stand.

I won’t deny feeling pretty annoyed, but I got things changed and put her back in bed.  There were additional needs increasing as we got closer to morning.  She was up early, in need of food and pills.  Needless to say, it is midday; she is napping; and I am, as usual, wide awake and sitting here at the computer (after having fed the birds, of course).

Before the troublesome night, I had thought today might be the day we could take in a movie.  It is almost 3pm and Mary Ann is still sleeping.  I asked her about the possibility of getting up when I gave her the last round of pills.  I hung around for a while talking with her about getting up, but she wasn’t ready to do so.  I am grateful to have most of last evening’s PT’s coffee refill left this morning, so I am avoiding the ugly caffeine withdrawal headache.

She finally got up around 4pm, ate lunch and began watching some television.  The hallucinations continue.  I had hoped that she would sleep them off with the long nap.  Just moments ago she fell in the bedroom but did not hurt herself.  As I was getting her up, I could see in her eyes that she was seeing someone.  She whispered that there is a man in the living room.  She insisted that I hide the coin jar on her dresser.  When I got her back into bed, she asked me to tell him to go to bed.  This morning, at one point she told me that there was someone in his bed, correcting herself quickly that is was my bde the person was in.  I wondered if it was another fleeting moment of the Capgras Delusion, thinking that I was a substitute.  By the way, that delusion was the basis for the Body Snatcher movies.

I just saw on the monitor that she was getting up.  I rushed in and she said she had something to tell Pete.  I told her that I am Pete.  I asked her if sometimes she thought I was an imposter.  She didn’t answer that clearly.  Then she talked about the people again.  She said, “Now they are eating here.”  She told me that the children were standing at the rail around the opening to the stairs to the basement.  That spot was about ten or twelve feet from the bed where we were standing.  She said the dad was in the kitchen making food.  I asked if there was a Mom, a wife.  She said that of course there was.  She did not say whether or not at that moment she could see her.  It is no wonder she has a hard time sleeping with all those people around.

Volunteer Patrice came over for a couple of hours this evening giving me a chance to run a couple of errands and begin a much needed clean up of my office.

It seems likely that we are in for another night with lots of interruptions.  I am now thinking about going over to the Hospice House Administrative office to check on the option of Mary Ann staying a night there.  They have an Adult daycare program in one building and offer rooms in the Hospice House for occasional night time care (having nothing to do with the Hospice program itself) at a reasonable (I think) cost.  If there are too many sleepless nights in a row, I will need to have an option for getting some sleep.  I will take Mary Ann along so that she can see what the rooms are like.  It is a beautiful place in a lovely setting.  As pleasant as the setting is, it may not be a workable option.  If she is not comfortable with the situation, I will not be able to sleep at home knowing she is distressed.  That would then defeat the purpose.

For now I am just hoping for a decent night’s sleep some time soon.

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“How long do you intend to keep caring for Mary Ann at home?” he asked.  “Until I can’t handle it any more.” I answered.  Then the hardest of all, “How will you know when that time has come?”

Since we live in a world of denial that provides us the emotional and psychic room to live each day without constant dread, those questions are not often asked and answered.  First of all, I don’t know the answer.  I have intentions about how I intend for this story to end, but I have no answers to questions about how the future will actually play out.

Two days ago I was asked those questions with which I began this post.  Today I experienced to some degree elements of the answer I gave.  As I have said in earlier posts, my intention is for the two of us to stay together here at the house at least until one of us dies.  My intention is to use as many resources as I can locate and afford to help make that possible.  That intention is not just an intellectual decision about how I intend to proceed.  That intention lives in insides.

With that said, I had to answer the question rationally.  I intend for Mary Ann and me to be together here at the house until I can’t handle it any more.  The question that has to be addressed, the hard question is, how will I know when I can’t handle it any more.  I stumbled around some as I tried to answer that hard question.  The two things that came to mind are hallucinations that get out of hand and grow into a steady stream, and the inability to get any sleep.  The two are related.

Today was an example of those two problems converging.  Last night Mary Ann was up multiple times, as many as a half dozen in an hour.  Almost every one of those times, there were people, or raccoons or other visual images not actually present outside of her mind.  The lack of sleep during the night meant that the hallucinations came in a constant stream this morning when she got up.  She asked if we were the only ones in the house, implying that she thought we were not the only ones.

By the way, yesterday, as she was eating the last piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie with ice cream (pie she had eaten with great enthusiasm for the two days before), she decided that the filling in this last piece of pie had somehow changed into tomato sauce. She ate the ice cream, but left most of the huge piece of pie. I am afraid of the day when I can’t get her to eat enough food because of what her mind is seeing.

Today, she grabbed the bedspread as I was folding it at the foot of the bed preparing for her nap.  She said there was a sheet of stamps or stickers stuck to it.  The bedspread was right in front of our eyes, she had her hand on it, convinced that she was pulling off what was stuck on it.  She told me to turn on the bright lights on the ceiling fan over the bed so that I could see the sheet of stamps.  When the light went on, she reluctantly admitted that they were not there. On the way to the bedroom tonight, she stopped and told me to get rid of “that” and then stepped over something that was not there on the floor in front of her.

This morning, when the hallucinations were at their steadiest, Mary Ann simply could not sit down for more than a minute or some fraction thereof.  She would jump up to go to one spot or another to get a good look at or pick up whatever it was she saw.  I had to jump up every minute or fraction thereof to grab hold of her gait belt so that she did not fall.  Once she was so dyskinetic when she jumped up that it was all I could do to untangle her feet and help her sit back down before she fell into a couple of tables next to her.  The activity was so steady that I could do nothing but follow her from one hallucination to another, or one task she had in her mind to do, pretty much always losing track of whatever it was by the time we got wherever she was leading me.

If hallucinations came at that pace constantly, I would soon be completely unable to cope.  The lack of sleep impacts both of us.  The less she sleeps at night, the more she hallucinates, the stronger and more vivid and more frequent they become.  The less she sleeps, the less I sleep.  The less I sleep, the less able I am to cope with the hallucinations.  They compound one another, lack of sleep and hallucinations, and my capacity to cope.

Here is how my inability to cope expressed itself this morning.  I told Mary Ann that I had been asked about how long I could keep her at home.  I told her that my answer included two things that could make it impossible, lack of sleep and streaming hallucinations like the ones that we were dealing with this morning.  It was cruel to say that to her.  I have no excuse.  My frustrating inability to cope with the constant following her to one thing and then another, after having a very poor excuse for a night’s sleep was the context, but I chose to say those harsh words. She has Parkinson’s Disease Dementia!  She didn’t choose the disease!  She didn’t choose the hallucinations!  She didn’t choose the frustrating behavior!

I guess there was a part of me that hoped the words would get through to the healthy part of her mind that has some ability to control her actions.  What she said next, broke my heart.  “Then what would happen to me?”  Usually, whatever I say just bounces off with no reaction.  This time it broke through.

I need say just how hard it was to actually write for all to see those last paragraphs revealing what I said to her.  I am ashamed and embarrassed.  I can only hope that someone reading this post has been there and said things of which you are not proud also.  I have chosen to face my own flaws head on without pretense, since it is just too hard to pretend to be someone I am not. My hope is that facing the flaws head on, will allow me to grow into someone better able to cope, a better Caregiver.

In answer to Mary Ann’s question about what would happen to her, I immediately told her of my intention for us to stay here together until one of us dies.  I told her I would use paid help here at the house to help do the care when I could not handle it by myself.  I told her that if I die first the kids would take care of her, keeping her close to them.

All I wanted to do was to get her to stop hopping up, responding to the various things she saw. She did stop hopping up, and I was able to get my shower done, make the beds, write an email or two and finish getting her ready for the Public Health Nurse’s visit.  I don’t know if what I said had any impact in that change in behavior, but even if it did, I feel no less guilty about being so harsh.

It is at times like this that I am very grateful to have a God who has openly addressed our flaws and stolen from them the power to ward off the Lord’s love of us.  That is why the song is called “Amazing Grace.”  The power of that gracious love is transformational.  It frees us to face our failures.  At the same time it challenges us to grow and change, cradled in the arms of that love.

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Last night Mary Ann contiued her confusion.  While lying in bed, she asked about the group of people somewhere behind me or in her view in the living room — was it the Thursday group.  She asked if it was time to get up a couple of times, once at 9:20pm and again at 10:30pm.  She said something explaining what she was thinking, something that just did not compute, something about her relationship in location to others.   Once she got to sleep, she slept pretty soundly.

This morning, when she got up and was eating breakfast, I was looking through the Christmas card list.  I mentioned one couple at one point and she reminded me where they lived and that their daughter had twins.  These are folks with whom we have not interacted in decades, whom we remember mostly just at Christmas Card time.  I did not remember about the twins since it happened a year or so ago (I think).  Mary Ann asked about a former parishioner, whether or not she had died.  About a month ago she had gone into a Hospice House here, but had since stabilized and gone back to her Assisted Living apartment.  That Mary Ann remembered her situation was a surprise.  Mary Ann’s Bible Study about three weeks ago may have talked about it.   She said she wanted to go out to lunch today.   When I asked where we should go, she immediately said, “the Irish place.”   What a contrast to yesterday!  The place is called O’Dooley’s.  She always orders bangers and mash there.  Since she has never been an adventurous eater, it surprised me the first time she ordered it.  It actually is pretty straight forward, mild sausages and cheesy mashed potatoes. 

After an hour or so of alertness, she fell (while I was taking a shower), but as usual was not hurt at all.  After I finished showering, I got her back in the transfer chair — she fainted.  It was apparent that there had been some intestinal activity during or after the fall.  She became tired and asked to lie down.  There was some more intestinal activity and some major fainting on the stool.  She is now napping.  This was a particularly speedy trip down, up and down again on this roller coaster ride.

After her nap, we did go out to O’Dooley’s.  She had the Bangers and Mash.  I enjoyed the Portobella Mushroom sandwich with home made potato chips with a very tasty cheese dip and a Black and Tan (Guinness Stout and Bass Ale).   And I wonder why I am 25 pounds overweight.  When exactly is it that those New Year’s Resolutions go into effect?

What was sort of entertaining about the time at the restaurant was that when I asked the waitress if we had met, since she looked so familiar, she reminded me that during the five years she worked at G’s Frozen Yogurt she had often waited on us.  She remembered our usual order of two Turtle Sundaes, one in a larger cup so that Mary Ann could handle it better.  More reason for the extra twenty-five pounds.  It is still not fair that Mary Ann eats those good things and refuses to gain a pound.  That she brought half of her meal home and they didn’t even have to wash my plate since I licked it clean, might have something to do with that apparent lack of fairness. 

In addition to knowing the waitress, a young man from the kitchen caught me.  I recognized him as a former member of the parish I served before retiring.  He came over to the table, and we talked for quite a while, mostly about his future plans.  Both of the two were within a few years of high school.  It always pleases me when young people take the time to talk to us Geezers.  He also made a point of acknowledging Mary Ann by name as he left to get back to the kitchen.  That was a very thoughtful gesture, since so often someone in a wheelchair gets ignored.  Now that I think about it, I guess I am complicit in that problem, since I did not make a point of introducing him to Mary Ann. 

We rented some movies and watched one this afternoon.  After the Law and Order Marathon yesterday, I was grateful that we had been given a gift card at the local Family Video.  The movie was not very entertaining to us.  We were grateful when it was over.  Mary Ann was tracking well enough to recognize that she wasn’t impressed with the movie (“He’s Just Not That Into You”).  A customer in the video store had recommended it. 

Mary Ann went to bed very early again tonight.  I was in the living room when I heard the telltale thump of her falling to the floor.  She did not hurt herself, but she was pretty confused and seemed unable to come out with any words that made sense.  She was willing to lie back down and has been sleeping since.  That was about an hour ago.  By the way, she has had a stroke in the past.  This fall seemed like a pretty ordinary one.  The confusion afterward did not include the kind of speech pattern that is a telltale sign of a stroke.  She had no weakness on one side of her body.  Of course there are no guarantees since the range of some of her reactions often overlaps stroke symptoms.  We live in a narrow range of functionality.  There is a vulnerabilty we have just learned to live with.  Most folks who have lived very long are not unfamiliar with that vulnerability.

One especially pleasant phone call was one from Mary, who schedules Mary Ann’s Volunteers.  There are already ten slots filled for January, beginning tomorrow morning.  Those slots vary from two to three hours in length.  The weather may interfere with those visits, but it is a help to both Mary Ann and me that they are scheduled.  We have not had much time away from one another in the past week or so due to the blizzard and its aftermath. 

The ride the last couple of days has taken us up and down with rapid changes between the up and the down.  We continue to hang on for dear life during the down times and celebrate the up times. 

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.