Can it get tougher?  Apparently so.  Those who read this regularly must be getting awfully tired of hearing about the list of problems Mary Ann is dealing with and my complaining about their impact on me.  I debated even about writing a post today. It was ugly and messy.  My reaction was noisy and complaining.  There was absolutely nothing entertaining about today’s perfect storm of problems converging at one time. There is no resolution in sight.

Each of the elements of this perfect storm by itself is enough for Mary Ann and me to deal with.  I will describe again the ones relevant to this meteorological marvel.

One element:  Mary Ann has had Parkinson’s Disease for more than 23 years.  The medication of choice for Parkinson’s is a form of L-dopa.  The brand name is Sinamet.  That is the only effective medication for providing mobility.  Without it, Mary Ann stiffens and becomes rigid from head to toe.  After years of taking Sinamet, a side effect is wavy involuntary movements of body, arms and legs (as seen when Michael J. Fox is in the public eye).  Those movements are called dyskinesias.  The result is legs twisting together, body shifting one way and another, arms moving this way and that.

Another element:  People with Parkinson’s Disease develop problems with the functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System [ANS), the part of the brain that runs a whole list of activities in our bodies, activities that happen without conscious intervention.  In a small percentage of those with Parkinson’s, the ANS’s ability to quickly constrict blood vessels when they stand up keeping their blood pressure high enough to make sure that the brain gets enough oxygen no longer remains consistently able to do so.  That means the person affected gets dizzy at best and loses consciousness at worst.  Mary Ann has won the unfortunate privilege of having a severe and erratic version of that problem.

Another element:  Again, only a moderate percentage of those with Parkinson’s Disease develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.  There seems not to be a clear and consistent assessment of the percent of folks who move on to the dementia. This form of dementia is a form of Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  While there is no good dementia, it is a particularly insidious form of dementia.  More than memory issues, it is about visual hallucinations, delusions of all sorts, and vivid dreams that cease to be differentiated from reality.  There are few available in the way of medications that control the symptoms.  Most that might do so ultimately make the symptoms worse.

Another element:  One of the problems that comes with Parkinson’s is bladder activity.  There is the need for many trips to the bathroom day and night.  Because of the movement problems that come with Parkinson’s, help is needed when using the bathroom or bedside commode.  Another of the problems that come with Parkinson’s is sleep issues, the ability to get to sleep, stay asleep, disturbing dreams that interrupt sleep.  Another problem is that those with dementia often hallucinate most at night.  The combination of those problems is that those with Parkinson’s and those who care for them often have sleepless nights.

Another element:  One of the central non-motor problems with those suffering from Parkinson’s is constipation, intestinal issues.  The ANS not only runs the smooth muscles around the arteries, but the smooth muscles that move food and waste through the alimentary canal.  Those muscles slow reducing the natural ability of the intestines and colon to move things along.  Miralax and Senna are the tools of choice needed for Mary Ann to keep her insides running.  The result is not always orderly when finally there is activity.

Now to the Perfect Storm.  We have had two sleepless nights in a row, hallucinating has gone wild, morning, noon and night.  Just as we headed into the bathroom, the dyskinetic movements kicked in with a vengeance.  Then came the horrifying last element of the perfect storm.  There was soft and nasty matter that ended up spread on her back side and legs from her waste (on shirt) to her ankles.  My job was to clean her while she was popping up (the dementia – no matter how many times or how loudly I asked her to stay seated), fainting again and again, legs twisting and crossing and rubbing against one another when sitting or standing (with me using all the strength I could muster against her leg muscles to keep them apart), again, while trying to clean her up. There was another bout later in the day — not as bad, but not too far from it.

The hallucinations are still continuing tonight.  She has been hallucinating all day.  A short time ago I had two trips into the bedroom trying to convince her that it is time to go to bed, not get up.  Four minutes after the second trip in, finally convincing her that it is dark out, time to be in bed, she got up trying to get ready to go to church.  Last night once I woke to her sitting on the side of the bed yelling “help” and when I sat next to her she said someone was going to rape her.  This morning she woke me as she was sitting on the side of the bed crying, describing her beating at the hands of a policewoman who kept pounding on her.  I am afraid that the images from all those Law and Order episodes are folding into her hallucinations. I have been in at least a dozen times in the last hour or so.

Even though we had difficult nights, the the last two nights, this morning I managed to sleep while she napped for a couple of hours.  The perfect storm came right after that nap.  I was completely exhausted physically and mentally after the major bathroom battle.  Everything hurts, muscles, gut and mind.

These events are hacking at my resolve, my commitment to see this through to the end here at the house.  I am disappointed in my own seeming inability to handle this, but more horrified at the thought of not keeping my commitment to caring for Mary Ann at home.  I don’t want her not to be here, so that resolve is not just for her sake.

I wrote a bit on my dilemma in an email to the online Lewy Body Dementia Spouses’ group (many of whom have had much more difficult situations than mine).  One response was simply this little poetic piece:

who knows who knows
what do you do
when you break your commitment
or it breaks you

For now, I am taking some small comfort that while what happened this morning took me far past my ability to cope, I still did it.  I had to.  I am still alive, in some more pain than I care to have, but alive.  …and, for that matter, so is Mary Ann, alive and clean — still hallucinating in a steady stream.  I doubt there will be much sleep in this house tonight.

One reminder to those who wonder that you don’t hear from me (a retired pastor) glowing words about my faith life making this task easier to endure. Nowhere does there come any promise that life will be easy, that we will feel less pain, experience less frustration, because of our trust in our Maker and the One who healed our relationship with that Maker and the One who inspires us with His Power.  My faith is not weakened by my human weakness.  Instead, the One who does the healing retains the power.  I am all the more grateful that the healed relationship does not depend on my strength, but His.  His strength, my weakness.  That is the heart of the message of the Cross.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I tried to find out what differences there are between the two of me.  She never really said.  Last night was the sort of night that usually begins the hallucination days.  She was in need of help a number of times.  It was not a night when she was up every few minutes with a new hallucination, but we were up more than once per hour.  I expect more intense and frequent hallucinations tonight since they have been so strong today.

I remembered the part about sleeping when she is sleeping during the day after a difficult night.  She never napped today.  Hospice Aide Sonya said that Mary Ann kept getting up as she was trying to give her her shower this morning.  Sonya finally just finished quickly since it was not safe while Mary Ann was so anxious (Sonya’s word).

Mary Ann had gotten up very early, as usually happens when the dementia is firing up.  I was surprised that she stayed seated while I got my shower.  She ate three normal meals today.  Only for very short periods of time did she put her head down.  Almost the entire day, she was in pop up mode, demanding my remaining only a few feet away at all times.  Once when the phone rang, she popped up and ended up on the floor on top of the rolling table that is in front of her chair.  As always, she did not hurt herself.  I had to hang up and phone back later.

Finally in mid-afternoon, I was able to get her into the car so that I could get coffee and then get ice cream.  She is actually safest when seat belted in the car.  That way she can’t pop up, fall and hurt herself.  She stayed in the car during our stops.  This time I got her dish of ice cream (frozen custard) at G’s, fed it to her, and then went back to get mine.  I can’t help her and eat ice cream at the same time.

She was talking lots to people that she saw during the day, none of whom were actually there.  I left the room for a moment and she went to the sliding glass door to let in the dog we don’t have.  She quietly asked if I didn’t want to go out on the deck and talk with Daughter Lisa, whom she said was out there.  Lisa is in Kentucky where she lives with her family.  Once when I had given her a lemon bar, after the first bite she said I was trying to trick her.  Then she said something about my going to or coming back from London.  While I have no idea how the Lemon Bar and London were associated, this time there was an explanation for London coming into her mind.  Right at that moment on television a character on NCIS was talking about going to London.

Mary Ann finally decided to lie down right after supper.  I am so grateful to have a moment’s relief from jumping up and grabbing her gait belt as she went looking for one thing or another.

I got Mary Ann up to change into her bed clothes and take her nighttime pills.  I am going to try to get to bed early tonight in hopes that she will sleep a while before the night time hallucinations get going.  Most times any hopes such as those don’t materialize.  We will see how it goes. She already is appearing restless.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I am expecting a worse night tonight than last night.  My hope is that she will nap tomorrow so that I can get some sleep then.

Many more nights like last night, and on Judgment Day, the Judge will just say to both Mary Ann and me, “Time Served” and send us right on through the pearly gates. (Don’t worry, I recognize that does not reflect Lutheran Theology.)

My point:  It was not a good night last night.  It continued as it began.  That description is in last night’s post. Mary Ann was actively hallucinating and mixing bizarre dreams with hallucinations until 5am.  Then she settled for two hours, and at 7am was up and at it again.  This mornign she announced that she hated the place she slept last night.

I think it was after I had gotten her breakfast and pills, at this point I am not sure exactly when it happened.  She insisted on getting shoes on.  I put on some moccasins, thinking her feet were just cold.  Then she wanted her coat on.  She often sits with her jacket on when the house is cool and she has just gotten up.  This sounded different.  I asked where she was going.  She said she (we) were going out to the car and to the movies.  I reminded her that she was still in her pajama’s and that Hospice Aide Sonya would be coming in an hour and a half.  I didn’t think to mention that the theaters were not open in the morning anyway.  She was not happy with me for frustrating her plans. Moments later, as I moved her into her spot in the living room, in a matter of fact way, she asked the little girl if she wanted to go with us to the movie.  I am guessing that the little girl was Granddaughter Ashlyn, since she often sees her and talks to her.

There is no way I can even begin to describe the various living dreams she had last night. For one thing, I don’t remember them.  Most of the time, they just don’t connect with anything that makes enough sense to me to hang on to the memory.  Secondly, there were too many of them, each unrelated to the last, as they came every few minutes.  Some times there would be a repeat, for example, one of the first things she said this morning was, did I know we were broken into last night?  (See last night’s post.)  At 4am she asked for a Nitro pill to deal with the pain that the two earlier Tums had not eliminated.  The Nitro pill relieved the pain.  I suspect it was still esophagus pain.  If I understand correctly, on occasion Nitro pills have been used to quiet reflux spasms.

Yes, I would term last night, a night from Hell.  It is hard to imagine how frightening it must be for Mary Ann to find herself in distressing circumstances for so many hours with no sense of what time it is or where she is.  It is, of course, terribly difficult to go through as a Caregiver, helpless to say or do anything to make a difference, or provide any comfort.  I remind her endlessly that she is safe in her own bed and there are no people other than the two of us here.  That never sinks in for long.

It was good today for Mary Ann to have the reality of a morning regimen with Sonya.  Then friend Jeanne came over at 11am to be with Mary Ann again for a few hours.  Volunteer Scheduler, Mary also came over and ended up staying the whole time with Jeanne and Mary Ann.

I spent time away from the house doing errands.  I had enough to keep me busy until mid-afternoon, when I brought home Blizzards for everyone from Dairy Queen.

As far as I know, Mary Ann dozed with her head down on her little table most of the time I was gone, plus some time napping in bed.  She did get up to eat lunch.  After Jeanne and Mary left, Mary Ann dozed with her head on the table, and then wanted to lie down.  She has had no supper.  She just got up long enough to have a little single serving tapioca, and then she changed into pajamas, took her pills and is now in bed.

She has been up once to use the commode.  Since she slept so much today, we might have another difficult night tonight.  I did not get any napping in today, so I certainly hope that she sleeps tonight.

Even though it is chilly tonight (heading for the upper 30’s by morning), I sat on the deck for about an hour.  I put a coat on and brought out an afghan to put over my legs so that I would be comfortable.  A little more devotional reading and some time just tuning in to the setting and the moment, helped settle my spirit.  This is not getting any easier on either of us.

…she just got up asking me to put the things away in the baby blanket.  Indications are that we may have another night like last night.  My hopes for a restful night are not likely to be realized.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I as sitting on the deck enjoying a beautiful evening after Mary Ann went to bed.  The video monitor was out there with me.  She started getting up, so I went in to see what she needed.  She asked if the police were gone.  As confused as I usually am when things come out of nowhere, I asked what they were here for.  She said there was a break-in and the copper tree had been taken.  That is a large metal wall sculpture that hangs in our living room.  Mary Ann was looking at the bedroom wall when she said it was missing.

I told her that the police had not been here, that she must have been dreaming, that there had been no break-in, that I was here the whole time, and that the tree is still hanging in the living room.  After we talked a while, she wanted to go out to the living room to see the tree.  We did so.

After getting her in bed again, I folded the chair and brought the monitor in from the deck and came back to the computer.  She started moving again.  This time she said she didn’t want to go to the hospital.  I asked her if something was wrong that she thought she might need to go to the hospital.  She said “they” told her to get dressed.  Then she said, “You know we were broken into.”

She decided to use the commode, but when she got on it, she didn’t need to use it.  She started talking in that fast sort of jibberish, but I recognized the word “organization.”  I repeated the word and she confirmed that is what she said, but there was nothing connected to the word that either of us could identify.  When I lifted her from the commode to transfer her back into the bed, she fainted.  After swinging her on to the bed, I eased her into a lying position.  I had to try to get her pajama bottoms back up when she came around and was awake again.  She wanted to go out into the living room to see what was going on.  We went out there and she fainted again.

I asked her if she wanted to sit in her chair in front of the television.  I thought that just maybe the television and living room setting might help her hang on to reality until she was tired enough to fall asleep and get through the REM cycle (where the dreams occur) into deeper sleep.  Before I could get her to her spot, she sort of fell asleep in her chair.  It was apparent that she would not be able to sit up on her own.

I got her back to bed.  Since then she had another dream that I was lying on top of someone.  All of this has happened in the span of about a half hour.  At this rate it will be an impossible night.  At the moment she is lying in bed, facing the television watching her very favorite program “House.”  My hope is that she will remain engaged in it for a while, just giving me a break so that I can finish this post.

Last night was better than the night before, but not wonderful.  She got up early and I set her up in front of the televsion so that I could get a little more sleep.  After I got showered and dressed. we took care of her pills, breakfast, got her dressed.  During that time, she seemed reasonably connected.  We talked more about yesterday morning’s angry accusation.  She seemed to have gotten past it, at least at that moment.

Shortly after breakfast, she asked to lie down.  She slept for three hours or so.  During that time friend Tim came by with a vase of irises for her.  Tim is husband to Volunteer Jan.  When Mary Ann woke up, she had her usual, fairly small lunch.  During the last of the time she was eating, she needed to use the bathroom.  After we returned to the table, I got her into the dining room chair to eat the last of the chips and have some Pepsi.  Then she just sort of switched off.  It was almost as if she had fainted but not completely.

… break to respond to Mary Ann.  She now thinks she is in the hospital, wondering what they are going to do to her.  Watching “House” may not be helping, but she was concerned about the hospital before that program came on.  She wants the television left on.

…back to lunch time today.  Since she just switched off, I took her back to bed.  She slept a few more hours.  She got up long enough for supper, but ate very little.  Neither did she want to go out for the Blizzard of the Month at Dairy Queen (Buster Bar Blizzard, fudge and peanuts mixed in ice cream), nor did she even take the offer of ice cream from the freezer.  Very soon, she wanted to go to bed again.  She was quiet for about an hour before the living dreams fired up.

Since she has slept so much today, she may very well be up and active most of the night.  I dread that thought. (I just made a trip to help her to the commode.)

On the positive side, I got some devotional reading done this afternoon as I sat on the deck.  Again this evening I had some more quiet time to relax on the deck.  Much of the time I was out there, the Mallard ducks were sitting in the waterfall.  At one point there was a little drama as the two all of a sudden high tailed it off one way as fast as they could waddle.  Soon there was another Drake coming from the opposite direction and heading after them.  The next time I went out there was a hen by herself in the waterfall.  By the way, the ducks, especially the hens, are almost completely invisible when they are in the waterfall and the greenery and rocks right around it.  Even though they are no more than twenty-five feet away and I know they are there, I need the binoculars to differentiate the hen from the background.

The Bluejays and Grackles are constantly busy, with doves and the occasional Cardinal, Robin or Sparrow joining in the activity when I am out there.  There is not much variety of birds, but the ones that are there are entertaining.  Again, there was a great breeze growing into wind at various times.  The sky was bright and blue with a few wispy clouds. The trees are almost in full leaf.  The green of the leaves and the newly mown grass has that spring vibrance.

…there she goes again.  Just a Tums.

At the moment, as I write, the window in my office is open so that I can enjoy the sound of the wind, the cool air coming in the window and the fairly mild episodes of thunder and lightning.  So far very little if any rain has fallen. The volume of the thunder is increasing, as is the number of lightning flashes.

…another Tums.  Television off.

I will finish editing and get to bed in hopes that it will help that I am in the room with her — I doubt it.

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.

…No small matter for a retired preacher.  This one came so much out of the blue, that at first I was completely at a loss as to how to respond.

The night had been a tough one.  Mary Ann just could not settle.  We were up many times.  The frequency diminished to once every half hour or forty-five minutes after about 3am.  The last one was at 4:45am before I got up at 6:30am to prepare for the Spiritual Formation group that meets on the deck (weather permitting — downstairs otherwise).  I complained to Mary Ann that I would be getting up soon and wanted at least a couple hours of sleep before then.

Mary Ann was sleeping soundly when I got up to get ready for the Group.  Since a couple of folks couldn’t make it there were only two of us this morning.  We talked for a bit on the deck until I saw Mary Ann moving.  I keep the video monitor with me during the group when there is no Wednesday morning Volunteer.

I went in, and as she was lying on the bed facing me, I asked if she needed to use the commode.  Wide-eyed and angry sounding, she said in a strong voice, “Don’t lie to me!  I know you have been out all night smoking Marijuana.  You wreak of it!”  Yes, preacher of many words that I am, I was completely baffled and at a loss to know how to respond.

It is such a mystery how those synaptic connections can create thoughts with no context.  We both preceded the baby boomers by long enough that Marijuana had not yet been invented when we were in high school.  We didn’t experiment nor did our kids have any apparent experience with it.  In fact I asked Mary Ann this morning how she knew what Marijuana smelled like that she decided I was wreaking of it.  She said the kids told her.

Realizing that since she began this interaction with the non-sequitur response to my question about the commode that I should stop lying, I tried to connect with something that might bring her back to reality.  I asked who exactly she thought it was who was up with her multiple times all night long if I was gone.  I reminded her of my complaining at the 4:45am commode trip.  She remembered that.

I got her up and to the table to eat something before Bath Aide Zandra arrived.  She seemed to be transitioning at least part way back to reality.  I then commented on how angry she was this morning — to which she responded “So would you.”   She seemed to be back to feeling that it was real and not a dream/hallucination.

I asked if she still smelled the Marijuana.  She said, yes.  Then as if to hint that maybe it was not true that I had been smoking it, she said she knew that the kids smoked it.  She had seen them the last time we visited there.  She was referring to our Kentucky crew.  Then she said that the last time the Kentucky Daughter Lisa was here she said that she smoked.  At this point Mary Ann switched to talking about regular cigarettes.  Anyone who knows Lisa realizes just how crazy that suggestion is.  Mary Ann said that Son Micah told her he did not smoke.

I don’t remember so much as a recent news broadcast that would have brought the word Marijuana into her mind, unless it has been in one of the Law and Order episodes that dominate our television.

I realize that this sounds like something worthy just laughing off.  It is not funny to me.  In fact it was scary.  I felt utterly helpless to respond in a way that could deal with her anger.  It is hard to think about how upset she must be feeling when those painful and very vivid thoughts and sounds and images, and now even scents, take hold as her reality.  It is clear that there is nothing that I will be able to say that will remove that view of reality from her mind.  I will not be able to reason it out with her.  Judging from past experience, that now will become a reality she goes back to, one that will remain with her, accessible at any moment in time.

I read pretty much daily accounts of experiences almost exactly like ours.  The online Yahoo Group of Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia [LBD] talk about the hallucinations and delusions and vivid drreams confused with reality all the time.  Lots of their Loved Ones have people living at their house, are convinced that their spouse has been replaced by an imposter, are paranoid about one thing or another.  It does help to a certain extent to know that we are not alone in this regard and that it is normal behavior for those with LBD.

On the other side of it there is a terrible sadness realizing that this is only going to get worse.  The deep pain is apparent when those posting in that online group talk about living with a person who is physically present but no longer the person they have been married to for so many years.  That person has in some cases ceased to exist completely.  They are not alone but very lonely.

I am very grateful that Mary Ann is still present much of the time.  It is frightening to see the times she is present diminish as the weeks and months go by.

Friend Jeanne came over to spend a few hours with Mary Ann today.  Mary Ann spent more time awake than I thought she would, given the rough night last night.  I appreciated having time to run a couple of errands.  Then we went to G’s Frozen Custard for Turtle Sundaes.

Mary Ann ate a fairly light supper and dozed with her head down for while.  Then she got ready for bed.  She has been sleeping fairly well, at least it appears so.  I certainly hope she gets a good night’s sleep. We both need it!

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.

Mary Ann went to bed at about 9pm last night.  Once she settled, she did not get up until 12:15pm today.  That is fifteen hours straight.  When I went to the bedside commode to clean it today, it had not been used at all.  She was not up even once.

I said in last night’s post that I hoped to get to bed earlier than usual.  I was in bed by 10:30pm (usual time is 12-1am.  I slept in until 8:30am and got my shower done quickly in case Mary Ann needed me.  After getting showered and dressed, since she was still sleeping and there was a quiet rain with soft rumblings of thunder in the distance, I lay back down on the bed.  I also did not get up again until 12:15pm. And people ask what it is like to be retired!!

The rest was very much needed for both of us.  Mary Ann was not so confused today, nor was she in that intense popping up mode that is so difficult for me to deal with.  The symptoms that suggested to me that I might be coming down with something seem to have subsided also.

Mary Ann ate well, only two meals due to getting up so late in the day, but substantial meals — with a large bowl of Ambrosia Salad as a snack in between the meals.  There was some much needed intestinal activity, demanding my participation.  There was some fainting that made that job more difficult, as usual.  She was able to sit up in her chair most of the time when she was in the living room.

Volunteer Deb came over to spend the evening with Mary Ann while I attended a choir rehearsal at the church from which I retired.  I was asked to sing one of the parts in a trio that is part of a larger piece to be sung by a combination of area choirs at a concert concluding a number of months of music activities.  This is the first commitment I have made in a year and a half, other than doctor appointments and that sort of thing.  Mary Ann’s needs at the last minute resulted in my being unable to honor a somewhat similar commitment a year and a half ago. At that time, I concluded that I simply could not commit to anything outside of Mary Ann’s care.

This time I have put in place coverage for Mary Ann that should assure my ability to honor the commitment.  Since my little part in the piece impacts the rest of the choir I can’t in good conscience just bail out at the last minute.  There is a paid Companion Care Aide from a Home Health Care Agency (Home Instead) who is scheduled to be with Mary Ann during the time of the concert itself.  Aide Debbie knows Mary Ann very well from having come each Sunday Morning to be with her for a year or two before I retired.

It was good to be singing again.  I struggled with my own ability to read music tonight as I sat with the choir, trying to sing along.  Singing in choirs and ensembles was the center of my school years.  I got to serve as student conductor of five choirs spread over high school and college years.   After that I sang in two Seminary choirs during those four years of graduate level schooling.  I sang in Schola Cantorum, a semi-professional choir sponsored by the American Guild of Organists for a number of years in Kansas City.  It is hard to accept struggling to read what would have come quickly in earlier years.  When I complained about that to the barista at the coffee shop on my way home tonight, I noted that the last time I had sung regularly was in 1987, when we left Kansas City.  The barista is of college age.  She immediately put into perspective the reason I might be a little rusty.  She was born in 1986.  How on earth did I get so old so fast!

As I was anticipating retirement and full time care of Mary Ann, I had visions of all sorts of things that I might do without 60 hours of commitments to my job as Senior Pastor of a large church filling my week.  I knew from the days and parts of days I was by myself with Mary Ann that it would be very hard to do other things.  The fall after I retired, reality set in.  Because of the vacillations that come with Parkinson’s, along with the addition of the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, making those vacillations even more dramatic, it soon became clear that I could not commit to anything other than her care.

There are a number of folks in the online group of those in situations similar to mine, who are able to keep a few other activities in their lives on a regular basis.  I made a choice to just do the one thing.  I did it realizing that for me, the stress created by trying to manage regular commitments in addition to Mary Ann’s care was more than I could handle.  I still have no idea how, even with all the Volunteers, I survived the last seven or eight years before I retired.  I doubt that without our Daughter and her family’s move here to help out the last couple of those years I would have made it.  I continue to be grateful for the Staff with which I worked, who seemed to be willing to do anything to help, and a congregation with very understanding leadership, willing to do the same.  It is beyond comprehension that so many in the congregation were willing to give so much of their time and energy to help us in our day to day survival, some still doing so.

As I have said many times before in these posts and elsewhere, while I would not wish this horrible disease on Mary Ann or anyone else, I am in awe of what compassion in action has surrounded us on account of it.  I can only hope that those expressing that compassion have found some meaning and fulfillment in doing so.  We cannot repay what has been given so freely.  We can say thank you.  It is all I know to do.

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.

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.]

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

The short string of good days ended, beginning last night.  The remote control sitting two feet from her was a candy bar.  That and some other comments hinted at what was coming.  Last night she was up at least once an hour throughout the night.  She got up early this morning.

As I sat next to her in the living room she spoke with a very rational and clear voice asking about some things.  She asked if the blond young man who had come by was Daughter Lisa’s boy friend.  There was no blond young man, and Lisa, husband Denis and the girls in Kentucky are absolutely secure.  No amount of talking by me or Lisa has managed to remove that from her repertoire of hallucination/dreams/delusions.

She wanted to be sure to get the Tom Mix Western back to the library.  We haven’t been to the library and certainly have never taken out a Tom Mix book.  He was a western hero in the movies from before Mary Ann and I were born.

She wanted to make a list of things to send to the kids, all she could think of was a blue tennis shoe for a baby she concluded they had left here.  She looked outside that decided that there had been an avalanch.  I asked if she was referring to the waterfall.  She said it was under the waterfall.  She was struck by the orange-green tree in bloom in the back yard.  We do have a Tulip Poplar that has orange and green blossoms early in the summer.  There were barely any leaves on the tree yet.  Where she was looking when she said that was not where that tree is located.

She decided that the eyelets on my hiking boots (which I wear every day now that I am retired) were jingle bells.  She tried to make them jingle but they would not work.  She told me in that matter of fact voice that her oldest Brother’s widow had changed her last name, having married someone whose name was new to me.  I am confirming that such a thing has not happened.

We talked for a while about the fact that I knew the things she had said not to be true outside of her thinking and dreaming.  She said there was no reason that I would lie to her about it, espeicially about our Daughter.  She said she just felt that people were keeping things from her.  I explained that all the folks I read about online shared that their spouses suffering from the disease that she had talked the same way about things.

I recognize that telling her it is the disease is not going to convince her that the dreams/hallucinations/delusions are not real.  I just want to be consistently telling her the truth as I understand it since sometimes she is lucid and seems to understand that they are not real.

She was not up for long this morning before wanting to lie down.  She slept for over five hours.  I knew that I should insist on her getting up periodically to go to the bathroom, but she seemed unable, certainly unwilling to get up at the two hour intervals at which I gave her a pill.  There was bedding to be washed and pj bottoms to be washed.

She finally got up to eat a late lunch around 4pm.  We were invited to head to Neighbors Carol and Eddie’s house for ice cream and goodies.  I thought we could try.  Mary Ann wanted to do it.  She was having trouble with hallucinations as well as trouble sitting up without fainting.  I asked her again, and she insisted that she was all right. I called to say we would be coming over in about an hour.

Immediately after doing so, she moved to her spot in front of the television and her head went down on the little table with the pillow.  After a bit the deadly combination of fainting and intestinal activity began.  I was able to get to the phone to cancel just before it began in earnest.  Gratefully, it did not last as long as it had that last and most difficult Saturday evening.  As always, it was very demanding physically.  It has to be hard on her, but she remembers very little of it.

She is in bed, but seems to be in the sort of mode that is likely to result in lots of night time activity.  That remains to be seen.

I spent the time she was napping in deck therapy and more sunflower seedling removal.  I reread the article from Weavings that I read yesterday.  I also got the latest newsletter from a nearby Spiritual Formation retreat center called Shantivanam.  The newsletter has a short series of segments for meditation.  The birds were fairly active again.  By the way, the crazy Robin returned this morning to challenge his reflection in the lower window on the deck.  They had quite a battle.  I am not sure who won, but he finally left after a half hour or so.

A few minutes ago, Mary Ann needed a commode trip and asked if the people were settled down and in bed.  I just couldn’t bring myself to follow the general wisdom and just say yes.  I told her that while I could go along with the hallucinations, I wanted her to know that I would always tell her the truth whether she wanted to hear it or not.  I told her that there are no other people here.  It is just the two of us, and we are in this together.  Whether it is the best way to respond or not, it is the one I have chosen.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

“I am cherishing every moment we have together.”  That is what I said in last night’s post after the challenge of feeding Mary Ann.  I lied!  As terrible as it sounds, I don’t cherish every moment.  At 4:15am after having been aroused for one thing or another multiple times an hour (the last one only five minutes before) Mary Ann insisted on getting up.  I did not cherish that moment with her.  I got her up and out in front of the television in the living room and went back to bed for an hour.  Then she was ready to lie down, at least for a while.

I guess I am a terrible Husband and Caregiver to admit to not cherishing at all times my sick wife on the last leg of her journey from here.  Yes, I do feel guilty about it.  I sound so sweet and loyal and loving when I say I cherish every moment with her.  I am not all those things!  I am just an ordinary selfish somebody trying to live out my life and my relationship with Mary Ann with a degree of honor, expressing my love for her.  I do cherish most of the time with her, extending even into waste management.  I just get grumpy when I don’t get my beauty sleep.  (Who is going to be the first smart-aleck to suggest just how clear it is that I am seriously sleep-deprived?)

Is it the Amantidine that we resumed that is making the hallucinations and restlessness so intense, or, since she had slept four days, were we just due for the usual return of that behavior?  God only knows, and He ain’t telliin’.  How about the idea of somehow trying to get God a wireless router so that he could just email responses to prayers and cries for help??  How getting on that, Steve, Bill?

When Daughter, Lisa was here last week, her Mom slept all but about four hours of Lisa’s visit.  “Lisa, I would gladly have traded last night for one of the sleep days or nights you had when I was gone.”  Yes I am grateful that Mary Ann is napping now.  I gave her the morning dose of Amantidine, still hoping that she will regain the use of her hands and the ability to assist with her leg muscles when being transferred from her chair to the bed or toilet stool or dining room chair or car, should we be able to get her out again.  This almost 67 year old body is beginning to show its age (the mind is still 25 years old, except for the memory which is pushing 90).

At one point last night Mary Ann was convinced that she was not in her bed, but another bed like hers.  She was convinced this morning that the dining room table was not our our dining room table.  In fact when I first tried to transfer her to the dining room chair for breakfast, she refused since she didn’t want to sit next to the bride.  At least when I checked with her, the bride wasn’t Lulu (the woman I married after divorcing her in one of her dream/hallucinations).  She didn’t know who the bride was.  When I asked if she wanted me to turn on the television she said it was “his” television, not ours.

She has been napping for about three hours now.  Yes, I am grateful for the break.  I just don’t want her to sleep too long.  She had a good breakfast, but she has not yet had lunch.  It is after 2pm.  Our Daughter-in-Law Becky relayed an email from a close friend who works for a Hospice.  In that email, she said that people come to need less nourishment at this time in life, suggesting that I can relax if a meal is missed.  Mary Ann always “ate like a bird” — one reason she has never gotten overweight (very annoying) in all our years together.  Other than ice cream, she usually eats what would be the equivalent of a child’s portion (a pre-teen child).

This morning Bath Aide Zandra brought a helper with her since Mary Ann had fainted so many times the last time she did her shower.  Zandra was concerned that Mary Ann had hit her head because she couldn’t get into the right position soon enough to stop her from falling off the shower chair.  She asked about the possibility of getting a secure three sided shower chair so that Zandra could stand in front and be sure she wouldn’t fall to the side.  We had a tubular metal rolling shower chair that we obtained a few years ago.  It turned out to be unsafe because of the reinforcing bar across the front, making safe entry and exit from the chair virtually impossible.

Zandra was a bit distressed to see how much Mary Ann had declined since her visit last Wednesday.  Today Mary Ann could not assist at all in getting from the transfer chair to the shower chair and back.  Mary Ann’s hands were fine last Wednesday but swollen and clubbed (nor sure that is the right word for describing the claw-like form) today.

I just called our Hospice Nurse, Emily, who listened carefully to what we needed for the shower.  She said she would try to find it for us.  In fact, she said that if we didn’t hear from her, one would be delivered tomorrow afternoon.  Holy Mackerel!! That is an unbelievably fast response.  I have seen PVC pipe chairs that looked sturdier, but the last time I searched a couple of years ago, I didn’t see one without a bar in front.  I hope the supplier Hospice uses has something workable.

Mary Ann had an appointment with the Dental hygienist for her much needed quarterly cleaning scheduled this afternoon.  I did try to get her up in time to go, but she declined.  That was at about 1pm.  It is now 2:45pm and she is still sleeping.  Again, she didn’t want to go to bed until after 11pm last night and spent much of the night, especially from 2am or 3am on, up and down.

She slept until some time after 5pm. She ate a good supper, sat in front of the televsion for a while, then headed back to bed about 7:30pm.  At about 8pm she was hungry and wanted a bowl of ice cream again.  After taking some Ibuporfen for back pain and then later taking her night time meds, she is now lying down.  I am not expecting her to settle in without lots of restlessness tonight.  We will see.

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.

This was one of the difficult days in the cycle we are in.  As much as I want her to be present with me, I was grateful when she took a couple of naps.  I don’t really know how to explain how difficult it is when Mary Ann is weaving hallucinations/delusions/dreams with moments that seem lucid, at least on the surface.

This mode demands full and constant attention.  Since she can’t differentiate what is real from what is not real, I am expected to deal with things that are not there.  Every task demanding my participation is multiplied exponentially in difficulty.

Of course she started trying to get up between 5am and 6am.  Then she was in the intense sort of mode that has a bit of an adversarial tone.  On days like today, she may be mobile on her own one minute and then weak and confused with her eyes shut the next moment.  When she is in that mode she often can’t connect with the simplest things.  If I ask her to sit down to put her pants on, she may stand up.  She may think we are in the bathroom when we are in the bedroom.

Eating is a nightmare.  When she will allow me to help, she often moves her hands in the way of the food as if she has food in her hands, or put her head down in a way that won’t allow me to put the food in.  She tried to drink the chips from the little pyrex dish, then she tried using a fork on the chips.

In this mode she will often not answer a question or say a word that doesn’t fit, then get angry with me for asking her again.  Sometimes she will say no to a food, but eat it when I put it to her mouth.

It is almost impossible to find out what she wants or where she wants to be.  At one point, she wanted to write a thank you note to a fiance’ from fifty years ago whom she decided had come by to visit.  Another time she just said she wanted her chip autographed.  I said back to her those words, and she confirmed that is what she said.  I, of course, have no idea what that was about.

It was a difficult day also because I find it physically very taxing to lift, move, twist her into the transfer chair or the chair at table when her eyes are closed and she has no spatial awareness to help.  Constantly getting her into and out of bed, turning her from facing one side to facing the other, demands physical strength that is right at my limit.  So much of the time in days like today, she is minimally helpful in that moving.

I tried to nap this morning during her first nap, but it was a restless one for her, so I needed to be up, helping.  Very soon she was up again.  Finally, this afternoon, I was able to rest in bed for about an hour while she was napping more soundly.

She has been incontinent in bowel activity and having bouts of mild diarrhea.  The tasks that are associated with that problem have been increasing and were included in today’s struggles.

I am disappointed in myself that it takes so little time when she is in this sort of mode for me to feel as if I am at the limit of my capacity to cope.  It would seem as if I should recoup when she has the sleeping days or a good day, and then be able to keep things in perspective, dealing with great patience on the bad days.

What seems to happen instead is that as soon as there are even signs that one of these especially frustrating times is coming, the dread emerges.  When the day comes, of course, it is after a challenging night.  With the difficult day comes the awareness that this is what is likely to be the norm more and more as the days and weeks and months and years go by.  As much of a struggle as today has been, it is only a taste of what is likely to be in store, judging from the experience of others.

I understand that the difficulties today are just for today.  Tomorrow may be better or worse, but that will be for tomorrow.  Were I perfectly rational and dispassionate, I would be able to take each moment as it comes without feeling the weight of past struggles and ones yet to come.  I am not perfectly rational and dispassionate.  I am alive, able to feel the frustration and helplessness and sadness to the core of my being.  With that comes the capacity to experience the full range of what it means to be alive, feelings of joy and exhilaration.  I guess the trick is to retain the capacity to experience fully the extremes that come with truly being alive without getting lost in one or the other.

Mary Ann’s friend, Jeanne, phoned today and will come tomorrow for part of the day to be with Mary Ann.  She came a few days ago to spend time with Mary Ann while I met with a friend, but Mary Ann slept the entire time Jeanne was here. Tomorrow’s visit will give me a chance to get the van serviced.  I was having difficulty figuring out how to get that work done given Mary Ann’s current condition.

Needless to say I am hoping for a better night and a better day tomorrow.  I can hope.

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.