The night went pretty well in spite of the fact that Mary Ann had long naps, and ended up getting up from the last one only long enough to change for bed and have a snack container of applesauce.

While having no supper last night has a lot to do with it, her appetite was good this morning.  She got up exceedingly early again (at least it seems so to me).  She ate a good breakfast at about 7am.  Then at about 9:30am, she asked for a sandwich.  She ate what she normally eats for lunch, half of a pretty good sized sandwich, lots of chips, Pepsi and Mary’s Jello dish (Cool Whip, lime Jello and cottage cheese) for dessert.

She has been down for a nap since about 10:30am.  It is 12:30pm now.  Actually, I was glad for the nap.  She had been in pop up mode for the morning.  When she is in pop up mode I am reluctant to head in and take a shower, expecting her to get up and fall.  She had at least one fainting spell this morning.

She got up shortly after 12:30pm.  Not too long thereafter we headed out to do some shopping for grandchildren’s birthday presents.  Mary Ann surprised me by being willing to go into Barnes and Noble and then Walmart to shop.  She had declined doing so yesterday.

We followed the shopping with a visit to Perkin’s.  I have been planning this trip as soon as she seemed to be ready to tackle eating in public.  I purposely planned to start with this spot, since she always orders the Buttermilk Three pancakes from the Senior menu, along with a half order of bacon.  I spread the butter, cut the pancakes into bite-sized pieces and add the syrup.  She can handle the bacon with her fingers.  She managed to eat about half the pancakes and all the bacon.  She was not willing to let me help her with the rest of the pancakes.  She was really struggling to manage the process of getting the pieces into her mouth.

This was her third meal today!  I am encouraged by that.  Through mention of it in passing in an online post, I was reminded that Exelon (she wears a 24hr patch) can in some cases cause anorexia.  Another side effect (among many) can be diarrhea.  That reminder caused me to pause a moment with the possibility that some of what Mary Ann is experiencing might have to do with the Exelon.  She has been taking it for over a year now if I am remembering correctly.  I suppose the food, sleep issues and meds at the hospital might have affected the way she metabolizes the Exelon, triggering a change is how she reacts to it.

At the moment, I am still giving plenty of time for her to return to the pre-hospital level of functionality.  I don’t want to make (or recommend) significant changes in treatment until it is clear that her symptom changes are here to stay.

Mary Ann had a snack of Tapioca pudding and went to bed at about 6:30pm.  I am hoping that she was up long enough today to allow her to sleep well tonight. Since there is not always a correlation between the amount of sleep during the day and the quality of sleep at night, we will just have to wait and see.

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I just closed the back door, the window in the dining room, the front door, the garage door, and the door between the house and the garage.  From late fall through early spring, this is pretty much a daily routine.  Yes, even in the dead of winter (which is not all that big a deal in Kansas), the doors and windows are opened each evening around supper time. 

During the first fifteen years of Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, no one told us about the hot flashes.  When I asked about them, there was only a blank stare.  Mary Ann went through all the usual hormone treatments — multiple doses.  Nothing worked.  Finally, she stopped taking any hormone therapy.  It just made no difference. 

Finally in just the last few years we have heard sweats listed among the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.  After a time of feeling irritated that no one had mentioned it before and lamenting all the misguided efforts at trying to treat them, we were relieved to just to know that it is part of the Parkinson’s gifts to Mary Ann.  They are no easier for her to endure, but at least we are no longer wasting our time looking in all the wrong places, trying to find some elusive solution to the problem.

I had heard about hot flashes long before the Parkinson’s.  Since Mary Ann was diagnosed so early in life (45), she went through the normal menopausal hot flashes.  The hot flashes, the sweats, continued long after menopause had completed its transition.  They have never ceased.  As I have felt the heat and changed soaked clothes and wiped the sweat running down her neck, I have come to recognize hot flashes to be much more than a minor inconvenience.  When they come in full intensity, Mary Ann looks as if she will burst into flames any moment.  She radiates heat that can be felt from inches away, as if she were some sort of biological space heater. 

There was a time in the progression of the Parkinson’s when if we had been asked, we would have responded that the hot flashes were the hardest part of the disease to endure.   

When the almost daily hot flashes come on, I need to respond quickly.  If Mary Ann happens to have on a long-sleeved top, it must come off immediately.  She is usually dyskinetic at the time, so changing clothes is no small matter.  Arms and legs are twisting this way and that.  After clothes are changed, the back door, the windows, the front door, the door to the garage and the garage door must be thrown open.  The colder and windier it is outside, the better.  Sometimes I get a wet wash cloth to put on the back of her neck.  Occasionally, she has ended up in the shower trying to cool down. 

As you might guess, summers in Kansas can be pretty tough at hot flash time.  I recognize that the general wisdom is to keep the thermostat no lower than 76 degrees when the AC is on, preferably 78 or 80.  Ours has to go down to about 72 until it feels like a refrigerator when the hot flashes kick in.  The AC works far too slowly to give much relief.  Eventually, either that round of sweats ends or the AC takes the edge off so that it is at least bearable.  Oddly, at other times, Mary Ann can be very cold, hands frigid. 

As a Caregiver, not only do I need to be ready to move quickly to cool her down when the hot flashes come, I need to have nearby appropriate layers for myself.  When it is in the twenties outside with a wind chill in the teens, I need to add layers to keep warm. 

Some of our most harrowing moments have been times that a hot flash has hit while we were driving.   While traveling the Interstate at 75mph (maybe a little more) trying to reach the passenger seat in a van with front seats separated by a console, to take a jacket off a seatbelted passenger who is broiling in her own sweat is a terrifying experience. 

It is not only Parkinsonians who have to deal with the sweats.  Many of those who are in the Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia online group talk about the sweats, asking if anyone has found some way to control them.  To my knowledge, no one has come up with a solution, even by asking his/her Neurologist.  

The sweats, the hot flashes, are just part of the deal.   They come after the Parkinson’s has been with the family for some years.  As far as I know, no one has pinned down the specific cause of the hot flashes.  Very many of the problems that come with Parkinson’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia do not reveal their etiology, they are reluctant to tell the story of their origins.  So many of the most troubling problems have their roots in both the disease and the medications used to treat the disease. 

Even the most expert in Parkinson’s Disease will admit that many of the motor and non-motor symptoms seem to emerge from some elusive combination of the disease process and long term side effects of the medications.  Without knowing a very specific cause, it is pretty much impossible to find a treatment to control those symptoms. 

As with so many of the troublesome additions Parkinson’s has brought into our lives, the sweats, the hot flashes are here to stay.  They refuse to be diminished by any treatment.  We are left to adapt the environment to accommodate their presence.  So, we open doors and windows when that will work, and we turn the AC down when outside air seems hot enough to initiate combustion. 

Hot flashes or sweats often do come at some point in the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.  Somehow knowing that to be so makes it easier to accept them and spend the limited time and energy we have figuring out how to adapt our environment quickly to diminish the discomfort those hot flashes bring. 

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.