We are really not liking this!  The four of us, Mary Ann, Lisa, Micah and I are in limbo.  Now we know more about the landscape of limbo, at least this one, but it is still limbo.

Mary Ann has not yet begun actively dying.  Vital signs are not falling into the pattern of those dying of physical illnesses such as Cancer.  That could be comforting, especially to kids who live out of town, hoping to have time to get back when the end is near.

Of course, it is not likely to work that way with Mary Ann.  Apparently, dementia patients often don’t play by those rules.  They may have solid vital signs up to the moment they die.  When the mind precedes the heart or other organs in precipitating death, it can just happen whenever it chooses. There may be no warning.  It just goes with the territory.

I have become accustomed routinely to listening carefully when Mary Ann is sleeping or unconscious.  I listen to see if she is still breathing.  There is a new level of awareness of how easily my listening could reveal that the end has come.  Even after Hospice Nurse Emily said that, I still expect there to be more preliminary signs that the end is nearing. Many of those in the online group of spouses with Lewy Body Dementia, have described a traditional shutting down when their Loved Ones died.

When Son Micah asked if Mary Ann was now on a trajectory of probably weeks, Nurse Emily said that what has been happening suggests that that is a correct assessment of her condition.  She quickly added the disclaimer, that things could change and Mary Ann could bounce back to better health for a time.

We talked about how much of what is happening might have more to do with the medicine than the disease process itself.  Nurse Emily reviewed what has been happening in these past days, noting that Mary Ann has not had many of her pills on a regular basis.  While the meds may be having some impact, the trajectory of the decline seems pretty clearly to be the disease process bringing her to the last stage of the disease.

In responding to my request for either some form that is easier to administer or permission to drop Mary Ann’s Crestor for cholesterol, the doctor suggested discontinuing it.  He said we could crush it if we wanted to continue administering it.  The truth is, I haven’t yet tried to give her any of her night time meds.  At this point in the process, Mary Ann’s comfort is the prime issue.  Any of the meds that will help keep her comfortable, have priority.

Even food is optional.  If Mary Ann wants some thing to eat, or will take it if put to her lips, she will eat.  If she indicates she does not want the food, that is her choice to make.  If she will take water or juice, we will be sure she has all she wants.  If she will not, that’s that. When at this stage in life, the body needs very little to sustain itself.  She will know what she needs and when — and if she wants to have it.

While she would not so much as take a drink of water most of the day today, late this afternoon, whe she started moving around in bed, Daughter Lisa got her up, helped her with personal needs, and started feeding her applesauce.  She ate about a cup of applesauce followed by a small piece of ice cream pie, followed by some water.  Lisa fed her the applesauce and I fed her the pie.  She was up for a couple of hours.  We are suspecting that the Granddaughters’ activity helped stimulate her to stay present with us for such a long time. I took her in to lie down when Nurse Emily came for the family meeting.

There is absolutely no predicting how this will go.  Mary Ann is not about to follow anyone’s expectations for the path she will take.  This will happen on her terms, and no one else’s.  God’s role was making her, not telling her how and when to die.  Gratefully, God’s love for her is without limit, just as it is for the rest of us.

With that said, those of us who love her certainly are in limbo.  It is too soon to begin grieving her loss.  She is not gone.  It was sort of odd to hear Nurse Emily speak to us words that I have spoken to hundreds of others in forty years of ministry.  She urged us to work through our feelings and when we are ready, to share with Mary Ann our love for her and let her know that we will be okay when she decides she is ready to go.  It is not urging a person to die, but giving permission to go when the time comes.

Mary Ann took a few sips of water when I went in at about 11pm.  I gave her a heart med and one that helps her sleep.  She seemed to manage swallowing them.  I will be very interested to see if leaving out so many meds will affect her sleeping pattern.  I hope we can find our way to restful nights as often as possible in what time we have left together.  That would be good for both of us.

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This morning when getting up, Mary Ann looked at the cup with a red cozy around it for keeping the ice water cold for as long as possible and thought it was red Jello.  After I described what it actually was, she reminded me about the red Jello that we needed to call the lady about — the lady who brought it.  We needed to find out what to do to thicken it since something had gone wrong when the lady made it and it was runny.  There is, of course, no red Jello, no lady. (Monday’s meal was delivered by a Volunteer and it included a ring of fruit filled Jello including some that was red — it was not runny but solid.)

There was another complex delusion that she talked about in a very matter of fact voice a little later in the morning.  I can’t remember the content, just that it was surprisingly complicated and detailed, with no relationship to any bit or piece of the visible reality in which we live.

It was probably a good thing that there was a Volunteer scheduled while I have the periodic lunch with jimmy, a retired casket salesman who is enjoyable to talk with.  It was a good thing for Mary Ann since Volunteer Jacki brought her violin and serenaded Mary Ann while she was eating her lunch.

I finally got to the grocery after lunch today.  It would have been tough to go another day without more of a couple of things (most importantly, Mary Ann’s disposables).

Mary Ann had been asking to get to the dentist’s office for a cleaning since we missed the last appointment.  This afternoon was her appointment.  As always, the cleaning produces lots of bleeding. There are two reasons for that.  One is that she is taking Plavix and Aspirin, thinning her blood. The other is that I don’t do enough to care for her teeth since she has lost the ability to brush on her own.  The Aides do a little to help that problem, but it would be good if I would stop feeling guilty about not doing mouth care for Mary Ann and just do it.  I have put a Chux pad on her pillow tonight so that any bleeding will not get on the sheet or pillow.

This evening Volunteer Edie came to stay with Mary Ann while I went to another choir practice in preparation for Sunday’s Concert.  I enjoy singing, I made the commitment and will keep it, but I am very ambivalent about it for a number of reasons.  The central reason is that I will miss Granddaughter Chloe’s choir concert in Kansas City.  She is 11 years old and sings in a children’s choir sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City [UMKC].  This is one of two concerts in the year.  Last year our Kids included a combination Mother’s Day/Birthday celebration by taking us and the other Grandparents out for a nice meal/dessert afterward.  We are missing out on all of that because I didn’t put the date on our calendar, and I committed to sing in the concert here before I received an email reminding us of the date. I hate disappointing Chloe as well as our Son Micah and Daughter-in-Law, Becky.

Another reason for my ambivalence is that the more I enjoy the singing in the concert, the more I remember what I am missing in my life at the moment.  Singing takes my mind off everything else.  I am completely immersed in getting the notes and rhythms right, being exactly on pitch, interpreting the phrases appropriately, blending with the other singers.  There is no room for awareness of anything else when that is going on.

When someone you love has to be away for a long time, while you long to have a visit from them, a short visit from them also brings with it the pain of knowing you will have to say good-bye again in a day or two, going through the grieving all over again when they leave.  It is almost easier just not to see them until they can come home and stay.  That is the something of how it feels when I do something that brings me joy and satisfaction, something that has no place in my life at the moment.

With enough effort, I could probably figure out the logistics of singing in some choir or vocal ensemble more regularly. There’s the rub — effort.  Serving as the 24/7 Primary Caregiver for someone who truly needs your help day and night, does not leave the stamina necessary to work out those logistics.  The will and the energy to do what needs to be done to get away at scheduled times is simply no longer there.  The role I have here is big enough to take all that I have to give.  Even at that, Mary Ann could/should receive better care (e.g. oral hygiene).

Sunday will include a mass of conflicting feelings.  While I want her to get out and enjoy the music, there will be complex transportation and timing issues if Mary Ann decides she would rather attend the concert than stay at the house with the person assigned from the Agency (a person Mary Ann knows and likes); there will be the $80-$90 it will cost to cover that care so that I can sing in the concert; there will be disappointment at missing Granddaughter Chloe’s concert and how she and her parents will feel about it; there will be frustration that I am not reading music or singing as well as in the past; there will be exhilaration in doing the singing, joy in hearing and participating in making the music that will reverberate in that building (Lutherans can really sing).  There will be the Spiritual uplift that comes with the organ music and instrumentalists and the singers in the choir, a roomful of people of faith in the congregation expressing that faith in full voice.

Right now it is getting late and all that is too much to think about.  For the moment, I just hope Mary Ann sleeps well tonight, and me too.

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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.

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Tired or not, it is a beautiful, frigid, but bright and sunny morning — a good way to start a new year.  I would like it to be on account of raucous partying, but this tired morning comes after attending to needs that continued until that midnight kiss last night. I finished editing last night’s post and got to bed at about 1pm.  Then every hour, on the hour, we were up with the usual, including two snacks, one at 3pm and one at 4pm. I should have known that a large bowl of ice cream would not suffice for supper.  That is all she was willing to eat — other than the four crackers and the handful of chex mix with a little Asti Spumanti at 8pm. The 2am and 5am activities were commode related.

Actually the 6am commode trip was at 6:20am, breaking the once an hour on the hour cycle.  At 7am, Mary Ann was up for breakfast and pills.  After an hour of watching television, she is now back in bed.  I, however, am wide awake and sitting here beginning this post!  I will continue later in the day.

It is about 3pm.  Mary Ann had a two and a half hour nap, then got up and ate lunch.  She has been watching television while I worked on a Christmas card list for this year or next.  Remember, it is the twelve days of Christmas.  I still have five days to go! 

Mary Ann changed the channel fifteen minutes before the end of the program.  I watched the end of it in the kitchen.  Just as it ended she got up and walked toward the kitchen, I presume to see what I was doing.  I came out to meet her and took hold of her to support her, then asked where she wanted to go.  We walked around the dining room table, and when we got to the other side, she asked where Pete was.  I reminded her that I am Pete, and she recognized me at the same time. 

Today she has been pretty disconnected with lots of little hallucinations.  At her request I gave her a dish of ice cream after lunch, and at one point she asked if the other one was mine.  She was seeing two dishes of ice cream in front of her.  Not realizing that the person helping her walk was me may have been a Capgras Delusion.  That is the delusion that a loved one has been replaced by an imposter.  It happened so quickly that it may not qualify as Capgras Syndrome.  A number of those in the online Caregiver Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia have to deal with Loved Ones who are experiencing Capgras Delusions.  The bad news about this disease is that it is a roller coaster ride with some scary dips.  The good news is that sometimes there great vistas on the peaks in the ride.  The goal is just to hang on for dear life!

It is evening now.  There was a visit by a good friend of Mary Ann’s.  She brought a bag of Christmas goodies.  Mary Ann did not really participate in the discussion.  I probably should have left the room for a while to see if they could converse one on one.  Today has been such a disconnected day for Mary Ann, I did not think she would be able to respond.  In retrospect, I should have given them a little time to at least allow the possibility that Mary Ann might respond. 

She went to bed at about 7pm.  I will give her the bed time cluster of pills in a few minutes, about 8:30pm.  That is the usual time she takes them even if she has lain down for the night before then.  A couple of the night time pills have sleepiness as a side effect. 

As I have continued the online Ignatian retreat, the focus now is remembering events in my adult life and their impact, any gifts they may have given, gifts that have helped shape who I am becoming. 

One event of monumental significance was the day the diagnosis of Parkinson’s was received.  I had moved to Oklahoma City ahead of Mary Ann and the kids so that each could finish at their respective schools, one graduating from high school and the othercompleting the Eighth Grade in an eight grade school.  I left in February to begin serving a congregation there and the family came at the beginning of June. 

While everything was as welcoming as it could be in the new parish, it was just about the toughest time in my life.  It was equally tough for Mary Ann and the kids.  Just the separation was almost more than I could bear.  I had not realized fully just how important Mary Ann and the kids were to me until that moment I watched the plane take off from the Oklahoma City airport after a visit.  I could not even tolerate the thought of life without the three of them. 

During those five months, Lisa had the added pain of dealing with the murder of the Principal of the tiny Lutheran High School she was attending.  His Daughter was Lisa’s best friend.  He had been a great support for Lisa during her years at the Lutheran High. 

Micah had developed close relationships with his classmates at the large Catholic Parochial school he attended from the Fifth Grade year through Eighth Grade Graduation.  He was chosen by his classmates to speak at Graduation.  The prospect of leaving those friends behind was tough on him. 

It was that March that the phone call came.  Mary Ann phoned me in OKC with the news that she had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  She had to deal with that life-shattering news by herself without my support.  I had to deal with it while among wonderful people with whom I had not yet developed any history.  Mary Ann was not willing to share the news with anyone else, her or my parents, her or my siblings, her lifelong friends, the people in the parish with whom we had just spent fifteen years building relationship.  For the next five years, that secret was to be kept from all but two or three people other than the kids.   We honored Mary Ann’s request, but it took a toll on all of us, especially when the symptoms became noticeable.

It is hard to put into words the impact that the Parkinson’s has had on our lives.  There is no way to even begin to imagine what our lives would have been like without it.  It is actually a waste of time to try to do so.  Time is too precious.  It is needed to live the life we have as effectively and meaningfully as possible.  We can process the impact of the Parkinson’s and assess its role in who each of us has become.  We have grown and learned more than could possibly be written in one blog entry. 

There is a level of maturity and wisdom that our children have come to have through dealing with their Mom’s Parkinson’s.  Earlier posts include sections they have written, reflecting on their experience in dealing with the Parkinson’s.  I am a far better and more effective pastor because of it.  Mary Ann has wonderful relationships with dozens of people directly due to the Parkinson’s.

While I am grateful for all we have learned from Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s, we would gladly have read a book on it if we could have learned those things without the Parkinson’s.   

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I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer and it is well past midnight.  I thought I was going to just write a couple of sentences of update, but I don’t want to leave wet clothes in the washer overnight.  There will be items that need to come out of the dryer immediately and hung on hangers to keep from getting wrinkled while sitting overnight in the dryer. I will have time to write more than a short update.

When I was a child, I remember routinely finding a plastic bag of wet clothes in the refrigerator to avoid mildew until they could be ironed. The rest hung outside until dry — even in freezing weather.  In rainy or snowy weather they would be hung in the basement to dry.  By the way, Mom ironed everything, of course shirts and blouses and pants and skirts, but also sheets, pillow cases, handkerchiefs, T-shirts and underwear.  I am unable to run the iron.  It is an unfortunate disability that has no cure.

Today Mary Ann got up early and just headed out the door of the bedroom.  By the time she reached the door, I woke from REM sleep containing one of those pastor dreams in which there is a service that I am leading and I am not prepared, or something that I need can’t be found, or I have lost my place in the service book.  I guess I should thank her for ending the dream, but I certainly was not done sleeping.

I moved quickly and got her seated so that I could put on something and take her out for food and pills.  Almost immediately after eating, she agreed to lie down in bed for a while so that I could get a little more sleep.  She ended up sleeping for close to three hours.  I got about an hour and a half more of sleep.

After she got up, I gave her a sandwich for lunch.  Then came some reluctant intestinal activity, needing my assistance.  When that was done, she was very tired again.  She had fainted a couple of times before and after lunch.  She slept again, for about an hour and a half. Oddly, when she awoke, she was convinced that it was early in the morning.  It was actually after three in the afternoon.  She didn’t seem to believe me at first.  It took quite a while to finally convince her that it was not early in the day.

While she was napping Arlene came over with a plate full of fudge and candy she had made.  Wow!  Is that stuff good!  Later Glenn and Margaret brought over a plate of goodies.  They also are very good.  Yesterday afternoon, Don had brought over freshly smoked salmon and bread.  In each case we were the recipients of a wonderful gift of food and, in addition, some pleasant conversation — especially enjoyed by this retired pastor suffering from Diminished Conversation Opportunity Syndrome.

This evening our Kids from Kentucky (staying with us) took us out for an Anniversary Dinner.  Our little five year old Granddaughter, Ashlyn, was diagnosed with a Strep infection this morning, so she was not a happy camper today.  She was feeling well enough for us to go to Famous Dave’s and enjoy a nice meal.  I ran into one of the young people from the congregation I served here, reminding me just how much working with Youth meant to me over the years. (The majority of my 407 FaceBook Friends are Youth.)  Juli is a beautiful young lady inside and outside, with a heart of gold.  Her Mom is one of the Volunteers who stays with Mary Ann.

Dryer is done!  So will this post be done soon.

One interesting sidelight today is that Denis bought a Wii for the family.  They tried it out this afternoon.  They are going to love playing that, especially when they use it on their large screen digital television in the large family room at their house in Kentucky.  We tried to help Mary Ann do some bowling, but the coordination just isn’t there.  I have often thought about how beneficial it might be to have a Wii to help Mary Ann stay active.  She loves games.  I have been waiting for clear evidence that it will actually accomplish the goal.  It is too expensive to buy and then find out it is not helpful.

An update: Daughter-in-Law Rebecca’s Gall Bladder surgery went well today, and she is at home, feeling good (according to the last emailed report).  The email was titled “Weight Loss Program” using the removal of organs as the means.  She is a Corker!

Time to edit and get some rest!

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On Sunday it was a real joy to have all nine of us in this small immediate family together to eat and talk and open presents.  Each of us will incorporate corporate worship in the our celebration later in the week.  For that day our time was spent celebrating what the Lord has done in our little family. 

I am sure Mary Ann enjoyed the day, even though she headed in for a nap right when our Children and Grandchildren arrived.  After a couple of hours of preparation for the meal, Mary Ann got up to join us for a late lunch.

We now have a spotlessly clean oven!  We were able to reheat the Prime Rib that was “smoked” two days before in the oven that had Honey Crunch Pecan Pie deposits on the bottom to flavor the smoke.  This time there was no smoke!!!  That is especially good since our Son and Daughter-in-Law brought the ingredients for the Triple Fudge Cake they often make for family gatherings.  Yes, they brought ice cream to eat with it.

The directions for the self-cleaning oven made it absolutely clear that all the pools and puddles and burnt patties of stuff on the bottom of the oven needed to be removed before using the self-cleaning function.  I had, of course, figured that out before reading the directions, after having smoked both a pie and a Prime Rib.

Saturday’s preparations for the family gathering and meal on Sunday went reasonably well.  Putting together the grape salad (extremely good), and the cheesy potatoes was not difficult.  The combination of Mary Ann’s napping and a long lunch out in the mid-afternoon pushed the preparations very late in the day.  There were some other household chores.  As a result the present wrapping ended up going until 1:30am, long after Mary Ann had gone to bed.  It is at times like this that I really respect single parents who take care of everything themselves, including all the needs of their children.  It is surprising to discover how fast small and seemingly insignificant tasks can add up to proportions almost impossible for one person to manage.

Again, this is a sexist observation, but nonetheless true for me.  As a male Caregiver, tasks that my Mom did when I was growing up, tasks that Mary Ann did, enjoyed doing and did well, I have found to be very difficult.  They are not necessarily difficult tasks by themselves.  It is the comfort level with doing them that is the problem.  Shopping for Christmas presents, wrapping them, getting and sending Christmas cards, putting out Christmas decorations, as well as food preparation don’t come naturally to me.  They are just uncomfortable enough for me that I come up with all sorts of reasons to postpone dealing with them.  The Christmas cards are still in the unopened boxes sitting in a bag on the floor.  I should be working on that instead of writing this post!

Mary Ann enjoyed the day Sunday, but got very tired late in the afternoon.  There was a much anticipated Choral Eucharist at church last evening at the time we usually worship on Sundays.  It was clear that Mary Ann would not be able to manage the Service.  She was in bed for the night not too long after 6pm, the same time the Service started.

This time there was no option of my leaving Mary Ann at home with the family.  Our Daughter had surgery two weeks ago and could not help Mary Ann physically, Our Son could have helped with her, but he had to take our Daughter-in-Law home since she is having Gall Bladder surgery on Tuesday.  She was also very tired.  As a result, there was no one at the house other than me who could take care of Mary Ann’s personal needs.  I missed the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful worship, our choir and soloists, instrumentalists, bell choir, our Organist-Choirmaster, all of whom are outstanding.   The quality has always been far beyond what would be expected for Volunteers.  It always sounds very professional as well and meaningful Spiritually.  The Christmas celebration has a completely different feel as a retired pastor.  While we will attend church on Christmas Eve, the services with full choir and soloists come too late in the evening for Mary Ann.

Gratefully, what the celebration is about transcends any specific event in that celebration.

The Christmas celebration meal was okay, but the Prime Rib did not go over as well as I had hoped.  The rare look of a good piece of Prime Rib is not appetizing to everyone, especially little ones.  Thank goodness for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Actually, our Son, Micah, and Granddaughter, Chloe, would probably not be alive today if it were not for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Our Daughter, Lisa, found the microwave to be what was needed to get the red out.  She admits to having an aversion to meat that provides any visual evidence that it was ever part of a living animal. 

Today has been a sort of recoup day, with minimal activity.  Mary Ann again needed to crash for a about two and a half hours mid-day today, even though she slept well last night. 

Mary Ann continues to seem less functional and engaged, and more tired than in the recent past.  I am not sure about that since I am with her all the time.  One particularly bright spot was an email from Marlene, one of the Kansas City Crew, who took a picture of us on Friday.  Mary Ann was smiling.  It seems as if it has been an eternity since Mary Ann was caught smiling in a picture.  If I can figure out how to do it, that picture may make in on my FaceBook page. 

It is a very good thing to have our two little Granddaughters here at the house for a few days.  There have been plenty of Grandma and Grandpa hugs to brighten our days.  Our Daughter, Lisa, is deeply caring and her love for her Mom is apparent in everything she syas and does.  She is also a tremendous support to me.  Our Son-in-Law, Denis (yes, spelled with one “n”), is a man of great character, who is willing to do anything he can to help us. 

Whatever our challenges, our Children, their spouses and our Grandchildren provide us with joy beyond measure.

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Whatever happens today, last night we both got a good quality, long night’s sleep.  Mary Ann is still sleeping.  It is a little after 9:30am.  Because of Veteran’s Day yesterday, Bath Aide Zandra did not come.  She has arranged to come later this morning, so Mary Ann will need to be up soon.

Later: Mary Ann made it up in time to get her meds taken before Zandra arrived. She has had another loose stool (sorry!) which has been happening for many days now.  It raises the question as to whether or not there might be some sort of bug causing some of her problems.  We will wait it out.  So far it is manageable.  i just want to be sure Mary Ann doesn’t get dehydrated.  Checking urine color (sorry again!) should provide evidence one way or the other on that.  We will not involve doctors and hospitals unless there is something clearly demanding that involvement.  If the weight loss continues, I will probably phone the GP’s office for a recommendation of a supplement.  Actually, I will also check with the LBD Spouse Caregivers online group.  They have far more experience with what works than any medical professional.  It seems clear that Mary Ann is just not getting enough calories in to maintain her weight.  Oh how I wish I could painlessly transfer about twenty pounds from me to her. I tried to get her to eat a some spectacularly sweet and tasty and moist cherry (homegrown and canned) and nut coffee cake that Maureen brought yesterday.  She just wouldn’t eat anything.  I, of course, had a huge piece.

After the intestinal activity, Mary Ann decided to lie down again.  She has seemed very tired since getting up this morning.

Gratefully, whatever strain lifting Mary Ann from the floor the other night seems to have been healing on its own.  The physical demands on Caregivers are often substantial and constant.  When I read the online posts of other caregiving spouses, I wonder how on earth they can do it.  Most of them are women, many of them my age or older.  Some of them have husbands who weigh two or three hundred pounds (one is a former heavy weight boxer).  I have no idea how they deal with the demands.  Many have a Hoyer lift to use when necessary.  We have one also, but have needed to use it only a couple of time in the years we have had it.

The physical demands of course include helping Mary Ann up from the floor when she falls.  Our system is not necessarily recommended by physical therapists, but has worked for us for many years.  When she has fallen, I work at sliding her (by pulling on her legs) into an open space where she can lie on her back with her feet toward me and her head away from me.  I put my feet together in front of hers so that they won’t slide, she reaches up and I take hold of her hands.  I rock back, using my weight as a counter balance so that my back is not involved in the process of lifting.

The risks in that approach are mostly to Mary Ann’s arms and shoulders.  Again, since she is not heavy and we have been doing it for so many years, her arms and shoulders seem strong enough to manage.  So far there have been no noticeable side effects to that process.

One of the movements that has created problems for me in the past, is that which is required to turn Mary Ann in bed and move her to the center of the bed so that she doesn’t risk falling off the side of the bed (been there!).  We have single, adjustable beds.  For many years she has been able to climb on all fours on to the bed and flop down one way or another.  She has come very close to flopping right off the edge of the bed on to the floor.  Now, most of the time she simply cannot negotiate that movement.  When she tries, she usually gets stuck on all fours on the bed or with one foot still on the floor, unable to move any farther in the process.

Now, most often she sits on the side of the bed, and if she wants to lie on her left side, facing the television, I cradle her and twist her in a sort of dramatic swinging motion until she is facing the appropriate direction.  Then I lean forward, slide my arms under her and pull her toward me to center her on the bed.  That is the motion that has caused back pain in the past.  Now, I squat down and let my body weight (lot’s more than her body weight) pull her to the center of the bed.

If she wants to lie on her right side, the side of choice for her, again, she sits on the side of the bed.  I let her head down to the pillow and reach with my right hand to lift her feet on to the bed.  Then I travel to the other side of the bed to pull her to the center.  Since the size of the bedroom does not allow much space between the two beds, I often can’t seem to get accomplished the motion using my body weight.  Most often, I slide my arms under and just pull her to the center with my arm muscles, a movement not unlike doing a curl.  Again, that keeps from involving my back in the process.

Now with that image in mind, imagine the nights she is up every few minutes.  One of those two actions of moving her to the center of the bed happens every time she gets up, even just to sit on the side of the bed.  When I watch her on the monitor, if she begins to move at all, I head in to see what she needs.  Sometimes she just needs to be turned from one side to the other, or the covers have gotten twisted out of place.

When we travel, the large beds pretty much preclude my reaching under her to move her.  I can do some manipulating to help position her, but most of the options are simply won’t work.  If I try to move her much, it puts my back at risk.  It won’t help her if I am debilitated.

At the moment, one of the activities that is the most risky for both of us, is the trip to the commode.  I pull her up to a sitting position on the side of the bed and pull the commode close enough so that it only takes a transfer with a few side steps to get her into position, pull down her Pj’s and disposable and get her seated on the commode.  That part is pretty straight forward.

The risky part comes when she is finished.  I pull her up and hold her so that she can use the TP I have handed her.  Most often, she just cannot balance well enough to stand on her own.  I hold her with one arm, feeling her weight against it, knowing that if I let go she would fall back down on to the commode and over the back of it into the wall (does that description ring of experience?).  While holding her with one arm, I have to reach down first to pull up the disposable (we call it a pad), which of course binds since I can only pull from one side, the other hand attached to the arm holding her up.  It is hard for her to remember and then to have the dexterity to move her knees apart enough to get the pad through and pulled up.

Then come the pajama bottoms next.  They have always gathered at her ankles.  Reaching down all the way to the floor with one hand while holding her with the other high enough to be above her center of gravity so that I can keep her from falling challenges my flexibility and strength.  When I think of it, I remove the PJ bottoms so that I can put them on her in a separate action while she is safely sitting on the side of the bed.

The commode trips come very often since one of the problems of a compromised Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous System is the need to urinate frequently.  The last time Daughter Lisa stayed with Mary Ann over a couple of nights, she shared with me that she was pretty concerned about the risks associated with the night time commode trips.  Both of our children are very concerned about the precarious nature of our situation.  They recognize that it would not take much to mess up our system.  If I am not able to handle Mary Ann, either due to her physical condition or mine, a whole new set of challenges would emerge.  None of us wants even to think about it, although it is hard not to do so.

One other activity has become more challenging since the hospital.  There are more times when she can’t open her eyes, and/or is almost too weak to walk making the short trip from the door to the car pretty difficult.  If this continues, I will set up the aluminum ramps and roll her down the two steps to the door of the car in her transfer chair.  Oddly, steps are far less problem to handle than walking on a level floor to those with Parkinson’s.  Steps usually are her best thing.

While I need cardio-vascular conditioning exercises, I think I am getting plenty of upper body strengthening in this caregiving role.

It is still only mid-day, but this has gotten far too long — as have most of the recent posts.  She is still sleeping.  I hope to get her in the car and to the grocery store this afternoon.  We will see.

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Then why don’t we act on the obvious solution and solve the problem!

She napped for over five and a half hours today.  She napped for over three and a half hours during the day yesterday.  I can’t remember how long she napped the day before that.  Isn’t it obvious?  Just keep her up during the day and she will sleep through the night.

I just read an article in the online newsletter from ScienceNews.  Apparently a recent study using rats associates sleep deprivation with an increased risk of experiencing Alzheimer’s Dementia.  The assumption was that the sleep problems were a result of the disease.  It now seems possible that they are part of the disease process itself. (Yes, I, too, wonder how a technician can determine if a rat has Alzheimer’s Dementia —  actually, I do know the answer to that, but I am not saying here — suffice it to say, once the information is obtained, the rat no longer needs his/her pension.)

Back to the solution.  Why not just keep her up all day?  I am sure that solution seems obvious.  If it is hard to keep a two-year-old awake when those eyes fall shut and that little body goes limp, if it is hard two get a two year old up early from a nap without a major meltdown, imagine trying to get a strong-willed, independent adult who has a right to make her own choices up from a nap when she wants and needs very much to continue sleeping.

I can remember a day some weeks ago when I managed to keep her up all day with trips here and there.  She was restless that night anyway, up and down for most of it.  On the other side of it, while things may change at any time, after having that more than five and a half hour nap today, she was tired and went to bed early this evening.  She has been sleeping soundly for the three and a half hours since then.

Obvious solutions don’t always work.  With that said, I admit that it would make sense to try to get her to sleep less during the day to increase the likelihood of sleeping soundly at night.  One of the struggles with being very assertive in waking her up is that when she is napping, I have time to myself.  I am able to concentrate on tasks and accomplish things that can’t be done when Mary Ann is awake, up and about.

Today was a spectacularly beautiful day, warm and breezy.  With the video monitor on the table next to me, I was able to sit on the deck and read, while enjoying weather, the waterfall, the birds (hummingbirds buzzing over me regularly).  I finished the book on weight control (The Volumetrics Eating Plan) with time left over for a snack of potato chips (just kidding).  I did try to get Mary Ann up a number of times after the first three of the five and a half hours, but she just couldn’t do it.  She had said she felt pretty bad when she laid down this morning — no wonder after two nights of almost no sleep.I knew she needed the rest.

I guess, if I appreciate the time the daytime napping gives me, I shouldn’t whine about the restless nights.  I concede the point.  The glitch is that I am not getting much sleep either.  I could try to nap whenever she naps.  That also makes sense.  Were I to do that, my every waking moment would be centered around her needs.  To survive and remain useful to Mary Ann, I need some time to myself when I am awake.

Sometimes obvious solutions don’t really work as well as logic would suggest they should.  I suspect that those looking in from the outside lose patience when obvious solutions are not used to solve the problem about which the Caregiver is complaining

As I was preparing to write this post, I thought about the legions of Caregivers out there.  First of all, every parent has experienced the challenges of caregiving, unless they have abandoned their responsibility to their child[ren].  Single parents, especially those with more than one child have challenges I can’t even begin to comprehend.  There are many who have responsibilities to their children (they never end, no matter how old the children become) and at the same time responsibilities in caring for their aging parents.  There are those who have severely troubled children, physically and/or mentally.  They struggle to care for them, some have to make tough choices demanding allowing others to do the care at a facility outfitted for that care, having around the clock staff to give that care.

I have the luxury of having only one person who needs my full time attention.  Gratefully, our children do not need our care.  In fact they are members of the sandwich generation, raising their children and concerned for our needs as well.

All in all, I guess I should stop whining.  I won’t, but I should.  I think those who are full time Caregivers need some whining time.  Blogging is great, since it creates the illusion that there are people listening.

Whether anyone is listening or not, it helps to talk about it.

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Maybe that is a little dramatic — three exclamation points — but we do now have a number of new items of food in the freezer.  While our Daughter, Lisa, stayed with Mary Ann for the three days I retreated to Oklahoma, she made lots of things that are within my cooking comfort zone and put them in the freezer.  She wrote the preparation directions on pieces of paper and put them with each item.  Gratefully, they are mostly the kind of directions that say, thaw, cook in oven for an hour at 350 degrees.  I can handle that!

Pete and Carla stopped by with a meal this noon.  They are very thoughtful folks.  I was sorry to miss seeing them since I was at the lake while Volunteer Jan spent time with Mary Ann. Jan and Mary Ann seem to enjoy each other’s company.  This afternoon Elaine came by, picked up Mary Ann and took her to the Quilt Show.  Mary Ann loved making quilts for a number of years.  She especially liked piecing the tops together.  She spent two years hand stitching the quilting on her first quilt, a queen sized sampler quilt.  After that, she took them to be machine quilted once she got the tops pieced. It has been hard for Mary Ann to accept the loss of the ability to make quilts.  After such a busy day, Mary Ann crashed late this afternoon, so the evening service at church was not an option for us.

This morning’s time at the lake provided a couple of interesting treats in observing wildlife.  The first is a repeat of an encounter I had a few weeks ago.  Again today there were two Ospreys sailing overhead.  One came right over the car, so I got a very good look at him through the binoculars.

I made my usual visit to the Delaware Marsh, which now has very little visible water in it.  The area that I walk has one large puddle left.  As I approached it from a distance, walking a on tall ridge alongside the marsh, the water in the puddle seemed to be almost boiling with activity.  When I focused the binoculars on the mud sided puddle, it was boiling, not from heat but from the movement of snakes, maybe a dozen of them. They were twisting and turning rapidly, in constant motion.

After watching a while, it became apparent what was going on.  The water had dried up in most of the area, leaving that large puddle as the last, very confined, place where the frogs and fish were trapped.  While I am not absolutely sure about the fish, I could see the frogs jumping out of the water, flying into the air, with snakes in speedy pursuit.

Some of the snakes were pretty large, at least two or three feet long — some probably longer.  The snakes began slithering off in the mud and marsh grass as I approached.  One large snake and one medium sized snake remained in the mud at the edge of the water even though I was not far away.  As far as I can tell, looking online, they were white bellied or yellow bellied water snakes.  They did not have the telltale triangular head of a venomous snake.  While I am not particularly fearful of snakes, I kept my distance.  The binoculars provided as good a look as I would get even if I tried moving closer.  I am sure they would have moved away quickly if I had climbed down the ridge into the marsh.  My visit to that puddle probably provided a stay of execution for some frogs and fish.  I doubt that the stay will be for long.

Uh-oh.  There seem to be signs of restlessness being revealed by the video monitor.  I hope Mary Ann sleeps well tonight since tomorrow includes two different Sonograms, heart and carotid artery.  We always hope for no change in the condition of both.  Blocked heart arteries, some weakened heart muscle and a dented and rough surface on a large lesion on one side of her carotid artery keep us aware of the harsh realities of her condition.

Each day is a gift!

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This one is a veritable Life Boat, not just a Life Preserver.  Thursday morning (day after tomorrow) I will get in the car and drive a little over five hours on the Interstate through the Flint Hills and on into Oklahoma to St. Francis of the Woods Spiritual Renewal Center.  I will stay over two nights and return Saturday afternoon.

What about Mary Ann???  Mary Ann will have a great time while I am gone.  She will have our Daughter, Lisa, all to herself for that entire time.  Hopefully. our Son, Micah, and family will be able to join the party at some point.  Lisa is flying in from Kentucky as a gift to both Mary Ann and me, so that we can have a break from one another.  Admittedly, 24/7 does wear on both of us. Our Son-in-Law, Denis, will be serving as both Dad and Mom to the girls for the time Lisa is gone.

I have described St. Francis of the Woods in earlier posts.  Lisa provided the opportunity to go some months ago.  While I am at St. Francis, I will walk for hours, read, meditate, all among beautiful wooded paths and open fields.  The Renewal Center includes a 500 acre working farm.  There are only three cottages in the part of the property on which I will be staying.  The cottages are not in sight of one another, so it is not unusual to see no one for hours.

Maybe my love of solitude is the result of being the youngest of five children by so many years that I was raised almost as an only child.  I spent much of my childhood outdoors by myself.  I loved it.  I don’t really remember ever feeling lonely when I was outdoors in a natural setting.

I will take with me a very small three-legged stool strapped to my backpack so that I can stop to sit and read.  I will read some Scripture, a book on Spiritual Formation, and a book titled Quantum Physics and Theology, written by a Theoretical Physicist who later in life became an Anglican Priest.  I will carry my binoculars and look for birds and other wildlife.  I will watch the sunset from a wonderful spot on a hill that provides a panorama to the west stretching for miles.

I will probably sleep for many hours.  At this point, it is quite an unusual experience to have uninterrupted sleep.  I have checked the weather forecast for Coyle, Oklahoma (the nearest town — very small).  The weather is predicted to be partly cloudy, in the low to mid 70’s during the day and the upper 50’s at night.  That would be hard to beat.

One treat that may or may not materialize is a visit with a very good friend who was a member of the congregation I served in the Oklahama City area.  As a physician attached to a University Hospital, his schedule might not allow us time to talk.  I ministered to him and his family as his wife battled terminal Cancer.  Actually, we ministered to one another as we dealt with the Parkinson’s at the same time.  We spent hours at Ingrid’s Deli early in the morning a couple of times a week processing our experiences.  We haven’t seen each other in over thirteen years.

Since there will be no computer access at St. Francis, there will be a few days break in the postings here.  The only electronics at the cottage will be the portable CD player I am taking along.  By the way, there is a fully equipped kitchen including a microwave and, gratefully, a coffee pot.  I will bring some of those frozen leftovers from the freezer.  Cereal, fruit and granola bars will fill out the meals.

As I have continued this series on a Caregiver’s Life Preservers, I am wondering what Mary Ann would consider to be her Life Preservers.  I am not sure our current capacity for communication will provide the answer to that wondering, but I may just ask anyway.

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