This has been something of an odd day.  Mary Ann woke up seeming fairly alert. Very soon, she shifted to a minimally responsive mode.  For much of the day, her head hung down on her chest.  She seemed ready to roll forward out of the transfer chair.  The bath aid when she was here, Volunteer Margaret (our Parish Nurse) when she was there or I needed to hold her shoulders up to keep her from going over.

She had a routine Mammogram this afternoon.  It was quite a struggle for two techs to get her positioned and hold her up for the x-rays.

She did a little better after a mid-afternoon nap, but resumed the head down position again after a bit.  Supper was a challenge for her, but she did get a fair amount eaten.

The hallucinations have continued.  I have been back and forth a number of times as I have been trying to write this post.  For the most part, she is saying things that don’t really make any sense.  She starts to say something and then stops, apparently losing track of it or recognizing that it makes no sense.  This has been one of the more challenging times in our journey.

I recognize the head on the chest problem from many of the posts of those in the caregiving spouses of those who have Lewy Body Dementia online support group.  Again, I am hoping that this is just a temporary dip into the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.  Since we live so close to the boundary between lucidity and confusion, there is always a fear that we will move over that line permanently.  This particular type of dementia, is very unpredictable.  People can move in and out of lucidity and functionality seemingly at random.

There have been only minutes between needs for the last hour or so.  The last trip was for another visit to the commode, just five minutes after the previous trip to the commode.  As we were taking care of that, she asked if we were going home.  I said that we were home and pointed out her quilt hanging on the wall in the bedroom.  That seemed to satisfy her for the moment that she was in her own bed.

It is these times of utter confusion that are among the very hardest for me to handle.  The constant needs that cannot be satisfied since either the words make no sense or what she sees has no substance are very wearing.  Right now it appears that this will be another sleepless night filled with constant frustration.  Then again, maybe not.  The signs are not good at the moment.

Another trip to help her sit up — lots of words that made no sense.  She did agree that she wanted to go back to bed.  We will see how many minutes pass until her next need to get up for something indiscernible.

Five more minutes, another trip to the commode.  This time she wanted something to eat.  She decided to go to the table for a snack container of applesauce.  She took my arm to walk (our usual pattern), then she wanted to continue with the walker (very difficult for her to handle), then she recognized that she needed the wheels (transfer chair), and finally we made it to the table.  All those changes happened in the span of about twenty feet from where we started at the bed to the table.

She usually feeds herself when she has the applesauce, but that wasn’t working for her tonight.  I offered and she chose to have me feed her.  After some difficulty with her trying to get something off the bed, something that was not there (didn’t I see that pile of whatever it was), she is now back in bed for how long — I don’t know.  It is about 11:30pm.  She said that Zandra would soon be here.  Zandra is the bath aide who comes in the morning two days a week.  Zandra was here this morning.

She seems to be stirring again.  Let’s see what it is this time.

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It seems so unfair to complain about frustrations with someone who is suffering from such a terrible cluster of diseases, Parkinson’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, and heart disease on top of all that.  My aches and pains and various annoyances are tiny by comparison to Mary Ann’s challenges.

Someone in the Lewy Body Dementia Spouses online group replied to me this way [I am paraphrasing]:  You may not have the disease, but, as the primary Caregiver, you suffer from it too.

Those of you who know Mary Ann love her and respect her very much.  Those who know her best know that she has a chip on her shoulder that refuses to allow her to let anyone push her around.  It is one of the things that drew me to her and one of the things that drives me crazy!

With this complex and maddening combination of symptoms that come and go and come again, sometimes in minutes, dealing with the ordinary daily activities can be utterly frustrating.

Mary Ann can move from concluding something completely untrue and impossible in her less lucid moments, seeing things that simply are not there, to being completely clear in her thinking, remembering events more accurately than can I. One result of the times of dementia and lucidity being interwoven together, is that I am not sure whether to take seriously what she is saying or not.  I am not sure if she is confused about something, unaware of what she is really saying or doing, or she is willfully exercising pushback, proving again that she can do what she chooses no matter what effect it has on me.

Last night was a restless night.  No amount of begging her to stay settled in bed could keep her from getting up.  Again, there were multiple trips to the commode, even when there appeared to be little or no actual need to use it.  There were changes in the covers, shifts from facing one direction to facing another, need for a snack.  Then this morning she decided to get up at 6:45am to eat and take pills.  Normally, she sleeps until 8:30am or 9:30am.  I was up with her most of the first half of the night.  There is no point in my trying to get to bed and to sleep during her restless times.

After pills and breakfast she wanted to watch television.  Once she is up, I have to be there with her, awake and accessible to her since she gets up and walks, subjecting herself to the likelihood of a fall.  Her schedule determines mine.  She reluctantly agreed to lie back down in bed.  Gratefully, she slept for almost three hours, allowing me to do the same to try to make up for a very sleepless night.

The frustrations continued with our at least daily battle over what to eat.  There were available to her, chicken salad that I had made, fresh sliced smoked turkey and provolone cheese, some lasagna from the freezer, some roast beef and vegetables from the freezer, eggs, bacon, fresh strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe. seedless white grapes.  I spent at least forty-five minutes trying to get a response on what she would eat.  She came out to the kitchen in her search for something else different from what I had offered.  I asked about the lasagna, which she had liked very much.  She said it wasn’t as good the second time.  That one pushed me to the edge.  I asked again about the smoked turkey.  She said no.  Then, after almost an hour of this, she mentioned salami.  We had gotten that when we got the turkey at the store. It was hard for me to accept that it took that long to find our way to something she was willing to eat.

My assessment of her goal was that we go out to eat.  Since we can’t afford to eat out every day, that goal is frustrating to me.  We had gone out the last three days.  To waste all that food in the refrigerator because it just didn’t measure up to the wants of the moment is an intolerable thought to me.

The rest of the day was spent watching reruns of the most depressing and demoralizing accounts of the criminal behavior presented in vivid detail in a marathon of one of the incarnations of the Law and Order Series.  Since the house is small and I need to be very accessible to Mary Ann, it was hard to avoid at least seeing portions of some of them.

We did manage to get out for a while (a very hot day) to get some ice cream.  Then there was church tonight.  We had some freshly made food brought over to the house by a parishioner and friend later in the afternoon.

In writing this post, I have risked diminishing Mary Ann by speaking so candidly about my frustrations.  She has reason enough to be frustrated with me at least as much as I am with her at times.  She does not have the luxury of writing out those frustrations for others to read.

As unfair as it is, this is one of the ways I process my frustrations so that I can maintain my equilibrium as I serve her needs all day every day — and night.  My hope is that by putting my frustrations into words here, I can be a better husband and Caregiver to her for as many years as we have left together.

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There is no clear and consistent reason that is obvious to either of us that explains the restless nights that come at random — and far too often.  Sometimes there have been a couple of long naps during the day that might explain it.  Not this time.  Sometimes there is caffeine later in the day; there was a little in the mid-afternoon.  Sometimes there has not been enough in her stomach, occasionally due to poor timing of an ice cream treat, stealing her appetite for supper.  Sometimes there is an activity the next day that has caught her attention and refuses to allow her to relax.

Sometimes it is the hallucinations.  That was the presenting reason two nights ago.  When I was using the monitor to watch, her head would lift up quickly and the she would look intently at something.  Her head moved in that way every minute or so, often less than a minute.  Often she would be up on her elbow, many times up and sitting on the side of the bed.  It lasted until some time between 3:30am and 4:00am.

The hallucinations were the usual ones, animals, threads, needles, people.  While I recognize there is a disease producing the problem, nonetheless, I got more frustrated as the night wore on.  There was, of course, no reasoning away the hallucinations.

Not long after we both finally got to sleep (a couple of commode trips during the sleep time), it was time for me to get up, since Wednesday morning is the Spiritual Formation group that meets on the deck at 7:30am.  I get up at 6:30am each Wednesday and move as quickly as I can to get myself showered and dressed, the coffee made (the most important task), set up the deck, get Mary Ann’s pills and yogurt and ice water and granola bar opened.

Normally on Wednesday mornings, I set up all the above items in the bedroom on a table next to her transfer chair so that if she wakes up before the group is done, she can get her pills taken and food in her stomach on her own.  She almost always sleeps until the bath aid comes around 9am.

Not yesterday!  After being awake and active until perhaps 3:45am, she got up shortly after 7am.   As a result, I needed to stay with her rather than go out to join the group.  After about forty-five minutes, she chose to get back into bed for a while.  I was able then to go out and participate in the group for a time.

It is embarrassing to admit how selfish I am, but I was mostly concerned about the pain in my back and the fact that both the night and my morning were being stolen from me.  I should have  been  more concerned about the challenges the day would bring Mary Ann, since she would be tired and the hallucinations would be worse  than usual.

The day went surprisingly well yesterday.  I began this post last evening but was too tired to finish it.  I just shut down.  We both got a decent night’s sleep last night.  For a few hours today, we had the wonderful gift of a young lady who lifted the wheel chair in and out of the car for a grocery store trip and our Parkinson’s Support Group meeting.  Since then a challenging commode trip and return to bed has irritated my back again, but it still seems to be improving some.  She appears a little restless at the moment, but I hope for some rest tonight.  As always, we will just see what tomorrow brings.

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.