In Sickness and in Health: July 20, 2018

Most disappointed with how the latest scan went. I had the understanding that the gynecologist was going to concentrate his scan on the suspicious area seen by the urologist and was even going to call in the same personnel to oversee it. Instead, the scanner lady seemed to have no clue as to a previous scan and was going about her exam as she would any other. When I read her the results of the urologist scan, it was news to her. She asked if the doctor could make a copy of it. (He already did). I was told we would get the results on Thursday (yesterday), but nothing yet.

In the meantime, Ruth Ann’s pain continues and we’re back to three or four catheters a day. Awakened twice last night. According to her, the intensity of the pain still varies from day to day. Yesterday, she stayed in bed for the greater part of the afternoon and evening. “I don’t feel good”. Exactly what that means is anybody’s guess as she cannot articulate it.

The following is from a conversation yesterday:
Me: Did you pee by yourself at any time today?
Ruth: I don’t know. I think so. I remember sitting on the stool and when I opened the door a little and the clock jumped, I peed.
Me: The clock jumped?
She said yes, then shook her head. “No, not the clock.” The thought was lost with no further explanation. At times, she still blames the toilet for her problems with urination.
“Your toilet works better than mine, but not always.”
It’s not uncommon to see her sitting around with a grimace on her face. “I’m not right. Somethings not right.” Questioning about what specifically is not right goes nowhere.

A few days ago, our son stopped by to talk and see how she was doing. He parked himself beside her on the couch and spoke face to face. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her having a conversation. It wasn’t any great oratorical speech by any stretch, but she was responding well. Better than I’ve seen her do for weeks. A candle in the dark.
Then there’s this: We have done the self-cath probably a hundred times. You would think she would have the routine pretty much down, but no. Almost every time, one part of the process will be overlooked or completely forgotten. Sometimes she can’t remember whether to take off her top or her bottom or both. It’s very sad.

She struggles with the simplest of instructions. If there is more than one step, she’s in trouble. If you ask her to set the table with two plates and two sets of silverware, you might get the plates or the silverware, but not both. Today, as I was checking out my security cameras, I asked her to walk halfway down the drive, turn around, and wave at the house. She walked to the end of the drive and just stood there, at a loss as to what she was supposed to do next.

As time rolls on, the caretaking role is getting tougher and tougher, more and more frustrating, especially when I can’t get the problems to hold still long enough to deal with them. The complaints change, sometimes from one hour to the next. Some days the pain is killing her. The next, it’s “no big deal”. At this stage, I can deal with the dementia, at least for now (and I know what’s coming), but what I’m not doing a good job with is the physical problems piled on top of her mental condition. At times, my frustration flares up with sharp words and a lack of sympathy and I’m ashamed of myself. Easy to get depressed these days.

Will the medics call today with a possible solution? I’m not holding my breath.

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Published in: on July 20, 2018 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health: July 11

Still in pursuit of Ruth Ann’s mysterious lower abdomen pain, we see a new doctor today, a gynecologist. I went in not expecting much, but I was impressed. The first thing he did was pull his stool up close and say, “Tell me what’s going on.” Unlike some doctors I’ve tried to talk to, this one gave me the impression that I had his full attention. I went through her medical history as briefly as I could while sticking to the facts as I knew them, stressing that Ruth tends to change her story now and then particularly when it comes to the severity of the pain. I showed him the urologist report of the ultrasound and the possibility of a uterine fibroid. He nodded his head. “That could quite possibly be the cause of the problem.”

He asked if I’ve heard about a condition called cystitis. I had, but this is the first time any physician has brought it up on their own. As I’ve previously written, cystitis was high on my list of probabilities. We concluded by setting up yet another ultrasound, this time concentrating on the fibroid mass. He also wanted to get the same urologist physician to be present when he does the procedure. This sounded good to me.

“If there is a mass that needs to be removed”, he said, “it’s a simple procedure, and she should be just fine with it.”

As I said, I’m impressed with this guy. Is there really a rainbow at the end of this search? I sure hope so.

In the meantime, back at the ranch, Ruth Ann was watching a TV show with five women sitting at a table. She was trying to tell me something about the woman in the center. “She’s wearing the…the…that dress.”
Can you tell me the color? She could not. The dress was red.
How about the woman to the far left? What color is her dress? (yellow) Didn’t know. And the one next to her? BLACK! She got that one.

Being unable to recognize simple colors strikes me as another sad step toward the mind fog that is Alzheimer’s.

I’ve seen dementia described as The Long Goodbye.

Now I’m seeing why.

Published in: on July 11, 2018 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health. July 9, 2018

Another setback. With the advice of a friend, I downloaded a Medical Power of Attorney form in case the medical people insisted on it to make health decisions for Ruth Ann. It needed an official notarization to be valid. The local bank agreed to do that. But when it came time to fill out the forms, the Missus was unable to spell her name without prompting. That has never happened before. Not good.

Then, today, after the bank visit, we donated more of her clothes to Goodwill. It was a good thing I checked her pile because I found my newest suit among the discards. Did she look at it and say, “I haven’t worn this in a while, out it goes?”

I got a haircut followed by the inevitable trip to Walmart for more cat food. The entire time, Ruth was consumed by the fact that she could not find her sun glasses before we took off. She had her regular glasses, courtesy of the attached cord from sister J. But now the sunglasses were gone. Obviously another midnight theft by the unknown intruders that sneak in our house on a daily basis. It was all she could talk about.

Her short-term memory continues to worsen. The other day, after a long afternoon of yard work and other maintenance duties, I hit the recliner with a homemade brownie, courtesy of Aunt C. I heard Ruth in the kitchen and politely asked for a small glass of milk to go with my sweet treat. Less than a minute later, she comes in carrying a gallon jug of milk asking, “Is this what you want?’

This evening, I prepared a meal of steamed veggies, Texas toast, and a plate of chicken and noodles lovingly prepared by the afore mentioned Aunt C. I asked Ruth for a dessert of peanut butter on rye with apple butter. I am now sitting at the computer, writing this blog, when Ruth appears with a notepad asking, “Now what was it you wanted?”

She tries. She knows something has changed. She knows she’s not the same old Ruth Ann. Almost weekly I hear, “I just want to die.” It breaks my heart.

Published in: on July 9, 2018 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

For Better or for Worse. July 6, 2018

Some days I almost hate to get out of bed wondering what changes have taken place while I slept. Except most of them don’t happen overnight. They come on gradually, an incident here, an incident there. Like all the misplaced items for instance. That’s becoming a problem.

Toilet tissue and paper towels have residence in the south bathroom cabinet. That’s where they’ve been for seventeen years and were quite comfortable there. Now they’ve moved to the pantry with the canned goods. I don’t know why.

Trash cans, the little ones, are changing locales as well. Some have left the building completely, never to be seen again.

Since the icemaker is no longer in service, I’ve been using old school ice trays like the cavemen used. Had five of them. Now there’s four. No idea where number five has gone. Maybe the same thieves that come in at night and steal Ruth’s photos are now swiping my ice.

Yesterday, while working outside, Ruth Ann comes out to show me my cell phone and that I had a missed call. Thanks, hon, but it’s just another damn robocall. Later, I look for my phone. Can’t find it. Ruth, where did you put my phone? No clue. I dial it from the land line (remember those?) and listen for the ring while I walk through the house. Silence. Uh oh. In the yard? Under a bush? Trash can? Turns out it was laying on a bunch of Walmart sacks in the garage.

Then there’s the muttering to herself. While not entirely new, it’s becoming more common, particularly in the bathrooms and mostly related to her inability to urinate. Why, why, why can’t I go? Bathroom doesn’t work. I’ll try another one. I find that it’s in my best interest to stay out of those conversations.

Catheter usage is way down. No 2:00 a.m. interruptions or cries in the night for nearly a week now. Only a couple during the day. Why? What’s changed? I know she’s cut way back on Coke and orange juice and only one cup of coffee a day so maybe that’s it. That or the antibiotics are still doing their job. Complaints have stepped up a notch today. We shall see.

Watched an informative show on PBS about dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Seems there are 4 or 5 kinds of dementia with Alzheimer’s being only one of them, albeit the most common. The number of cases in this country is increasing at an alarming rate. Made me wonder if we will run out of facilities to take care of all of them. And there’s this: If dementia is a result of brain cells becoming inoperative, and the brain and bladder must talk to each other to function (Hey, open the gates down here, I gotta pee.) why wouldn’t it be logical that Ruth’s urine retention is directly related to dementia? Oddly enough, none of the medical people have so much as suggested that could be the case even though I’ve made her mental condition plain to anyone that will listen. Instead, I get theories like a possible fibroid mass on the ovaries. Really?

Another change, and one I’ve been dreading, is the matter of personal hygiene. I have to remind her to bathe, to wash her hair, to change clothes, and worst of all, she’s now not cleaning herself properly after bathroom visits. I do not handle this well. It could be a turning point.

I hate this. I hate what’s happening. I hate that it’s all coming on so damn fast. Enough writing. The screen is getting blurry.

 

Published in: on July 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm  Comments (3)  

For Better or for Worse: July 1

Good news. Bad news.

No caths for the past 36 hours. Woo hoo! Not that she didn’t request it, and no, I wasn’t being cruel by not volunteering, but I think Ruth has come to believe that a cath is just a normal part of the day, a routine, and should be done at least twice, morning and evening, whether the need is there or not. On the occasions when I’ve gone ahead and done the deed, the urine bag showed less than 50ml. This tells me she is going on her own much more often than she admits. Another quirky behavior of dementia? The lack of catheters is a major development,( if it holds up), as this will greatly reduce the chances of further UTI’s. (Urinary Tract Infections). That’s the good news.

I decided to do waffles for breakfast. We have a waffle maker, a recipe, and all the ingredients. What could possibly go wrong? I want to involve Ruth Ann in the process as much as possible and have her locate all the fixings which she did quite well. A good thing.

Mix thoroughly, the instructions said. When asked, Ruth could not remember if she mixed it by hand or by some other method. I decide this calls for the old Mixmaster (if we still have one), a device I know absolutely nothing about, not even its location. Ruth was of no help in that department either. I finally found it, poured the glop in the bowl, and hit the switch. Easy peasy.
The waffle maker shows a glowing green light for go. I pour the glop, spreading it over the grill. Hmm. Doesn’t look quite right. A little soupy maybe? I check the mixer bowl and see raw flour in the bottom. Clearly there are mysterious dynamics here that are beyond my limited culinary skills. I use the tried and true tablespoon method to finish the job. Result? Not great, but not bad for a rookie.

It was during the cleanup that the weirdness started. Ruth: “There’s something wrong in this kitchen.”

Oookay. Like what?

She points at the mixer. “This thing.”
“Hon, I don’t think it was the mixers fault that the glop didn’t come out well. I think it was operator error.”
“I don’t know about that, but there’s definitely something wrong with this kitchen.”
“If you say so, hon.”

Later, I notice she has the scissors out to cut her finger nails, not manicure scissors mind you, but the big blades job like for cutting a phone book in two.
I quietly suggest that nail clippers might work better.
“Nail clippers? What are nail clippers?”

That’s the bad news.

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health: June 29

It’s been awhile. To tell the truth, I was having second thoughts about making this blog so public until some of the friends and relatives let me know how much they liked keeping up with Ruth’s condition, her peaks and valleys.

I left off telling about how a bladder injection with what I eventually found out was, Lanocaine. (spelling?) and the good results. No pain, no urine retention. All was great…for about 36 hours. Then same old, same old.

But I think we learned something. The pain and the urine retention are definitely related. Ditto pain and anxiety. The more pain, the more anxiety, the more she’s unable to urinate. Each exacerbates the other.

A few days later, the prescribed antibiotics seemed to kick in. The pain was less, if not entirely gone, and she was back to peeing like the proverbial race horse. Well, not exactly, but we were down to one or two caths a day. A huge improvement. Also noticed her demeanor had improved, not the dementia, but her attitude change was obvious.. Smiles and laughs again. Love that.

She took the last of the pills two days ago. This morning she mentioned the pain again. Now what? After promising the urology people I would not sue them for violating my privacy rights, I finally received a written summary of the results of the ultrasound. No obvious mass, but stated the possibility of a uterine fibroid. Quote: If clinically warranted, pelvic sonography might be considered. Clinically warranted? Don’t you guys qualify as a clinic? We have an appointment with a gynecologist in a couple weeks. Maybe he has the authority to declare a clinically warranted sonography?

Mentally, well, that’s another story. Up to now, she has handled the laundry, the kitchen dishes, the vacuuming, and the cat clean up. The other day she filled the washer to do two hand towels and a dishcloth. The next day, she couldn’t figure out how to separate the lights from the darks nor could she remember to add soap. I used stickers with arrows to show where the knobs on both the washer and dryer need to be set. Sometimes that works, sometimes not.

Despite a sister’s gift of one of those loop around your neck thingies that you attach to your glasses, Ruth continues to lose them. She walks around in tears until I give up, cuss a little, and go help her find them…again. You would think one of the cats had died. Speaking of cats, that’s another constant source of anxiety. Let one get out of sight for more than an hour and it’s full Amber Alert mode.

“I can’t find Minnie.”

“Do you know if she’s in the house somewhere or outside?”

“She either in or out, but she’s not in.”

That made me laugh. A rarity these days.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on June 29, 2018 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Maytag Man

To the average homeowner it would have been no big deal, but I’m not average. I bought the refrigerator for a variety of reasons, but the one feature that lit my fire was the ice and chilled water in the front door. As one who frequently mixes a bourbon and ice with a splash of water, the Maytag was ideal. It was one stop shopping. Sure, some may say that water is freely available only four steps to the rear where the kitchen faucet awaits. No, no. the fridge should deliver both without taking a single step to the rear, or the front, or the side, or wherever.

With that in mind, I’m sure you can understand my anxiety when the water dispenser stopped dispensing. I paid good money for a water dispenser, chilled water no less, but now? Nada. Oh, I’d get a few drops, but…

With my keen analytical mind finely honed by years of troubleshooting highly complex systems, I determined that the problem was most likely to be one of two things: the water filter having not been changed out for oh, a decade or so, was a likely suspect. Only a notch down on the list of possible perpetrators was the water valve, wherever that was.

With the aid of Amazon and thirty-nine dollars later for a package of two, I changed the filter. Bourbon and ice in hand, I insert glass, triggering the switch to open the valve and……. nada. No water.

So, had to be the inlet valve, right? It was logical. Problems and options: Finding the valve, ordering the right valve, failing to get the correct valve and subjecting the home to mass flooding on a hurricane Katrina scale, or sigh, calling the Maytag repairman.

“He’ll be there between 4 and 6 today,” the lady said.

The guy doesn’t have a Maytag hat or a Maytag uniform. In fact, he’s nearly bald and wearing cutoffs. He immediately goes to my filter replacement and checks that out. Smart. Now we unload the fridge. He proceeds to pull a back panel off to reveal the water inlet valve. Who knew? Last fridge I had, the valve was in the back. At this point, I’m thinking money well spent. The dude swaps the valve. I have my bourbon and water at the ready.

Uh, oh. No water.

The man pulls the fridge out, carefully unscrews the fitting coming out of the wall, and,,, you guessed it…no water.

“You don’t need a Maytag repairman, sir. You need a plumber.”

Eighty-nine ninety-five later (service call) I admit defeat and walk the four steps to the kitchen sink. Let the record show, I cussed each and every one of those steps and will continue to do so until the plumber shows up. Drive a man to drink.

UPDATE:

Lying in bed in the wee hours of the morning, listening to the ice maker kick out ice cubes like one-inch hailstones, it dawns on me: how can the icemaker be working and the water dispenser does not? There’s only one water inlet. Come daylight, I call the Maytag man.

“If I have ice cubes, how can I have a problem with the inlet valve.”

Maytag man didn’t hesitate. “I have no idea.”

“I see. Well, sir, this concludes our conversation.”

I return to bed and ponder this. The Minnie cat offers to help by jumping on me, purring, and passing on a tic or two. A thought pushes through the few remaining brain cells I have left and declares: Gotta be two valves in there. Sure, one for the door, one for the ice. Water goes in, but only comes out one side, the ice maker side. Other side got to be clogged or not operating. Did Maytag man not know of this? Cost for replacement: $62.95 at Amazon. Do I roll the dice and click BUY NOW? Install it myself? What could possibly go wrong? Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 12, 2018 at 10:20 pm  Comments (2)  

Bird Shots

Haven’t been able to get out with the camera much lately, so when a friend messaged me about a photo op only thirty minutes away, I jumped all over that. Seems that a flock of very cool birds called Cedar Waxwings were feeding off some berries and quite accessible from a parking lot.

Upon arrival I spot one of the birds immediately, but it was about a quarter mile up at the top of a very large tree. I watch the berries awhile, and when nothing shows, I take a short hike. I meet a woman who sees my rather large lens. She asks what I’m photographing. I tell her what I’m looking for. She says, “Oh, I’ve seen those. Keep watching the berries and they’ll show up.”

I resume my stakeout and wait. Then the woman comes along and gets in her car. At almost exactly the same time, the birds show up, at least a dozen. I’m in my truck, a big bean bag on the window sill, an impressively long black lens stuck out the window, and what does the woman do? She pulls her car directly in front of me and begins to take photos with her cell phone. Mind you, this is the same woman I met just minutes before. She sees me, she knows what I’m trying to do, but does she make the connection that she is seriously impeding my efforts for a prize-winning photo? No, she does not.

I have no choice but to move the truck. I moved. So did the birds, every last one, straight back to the quarter-mile high tree tops. The woman waves at me as she goes by. “Hope you get some good shots.” Un-freakin’ believable. Trump voter. Had to be.

I have but 15 minutes before I must leave. I wait it out. Ten minutes later, the birds return. Thank you, Jesus. But wait, here comes a dinky little dirty white pickup with a bad muffler. Dinky dirty pulls directly under the berries and birds. AARRGGHHH, NOT AGAIN! But to my amazement, the birds ignore him, hunger overcoming fear I guess. I fire away. The camera is smoking. I got my shots.

Clean living and good luck. Works every time. (Well, maybe not every time.)

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Published in: on April 5, 2018 at 2:43 pm  Comments (1)  

Another Saturday Morning Ramble

 

Another Saturday. Another cold day, not frigid like a North Dakota Saturday, but chilly enough to discourage outside activity. At least for us wimps. Retired or not, Saturday is usually a good day. The working people are off. Life slows down, relaxes. Tensions ease. Stress levels drop off. hopefully. It’s family time. Which can be good or bad, depending on the family.

In my case, with only two aging occupants in the humble abode, one Saturday is pretty much like the last. And yet things change.

This Saturday isn’t exactly like last Saturday, and a week from now, often in a very subtle way, the day will once again nudge our lives in a slightly new direction. Sometimes to happy roads with warm sunshine and brilliantly colored flowers and laughter and smiles, but sometimes to ones filled with mud and pot holes and sadness and depression. All of us, sooner or later, will travel both roads. It’s called life.

I’ve written of it before, but the best Saturdays of all time were the ones when I woke up in my upstairs bedroom on a farm in northeast Kansas. I slept on a featherbed mattress of all things. Probably as unhealthy of a resting place as has ever been invented, but it was cheap. Free in fact. My mom put it together with her own two hands..

I don’t remember having much heat in the room, if any, but snuggled down in that bed of feathers, the temps didn’t matter. My one window faced east, allowing the first rays of the day to shine in and warm the top of my head, the only visible part of my body exposed to the cold. But the best part of that kind of Saturday was the rhythmic thump…thump…thump of our old washing machine in the laundry room directly below me. A more blissful morning did not exist. No school. a warm bed, and the reassuring thump…thump…thump, the heartbeat of the house saying, “All is well, kid. Go back to sleep.”.

That bedroom is gone now as is the rest of the house, replaced by an impassive corn field. I suppose one could use the metaphor that the corn field is also like life. It grows. It has a purpose. It dies. Maybe we’re more like an ear of corn than we think.

 

 

Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

A Saturday Morning Ramble

Been a while since the blog urge has hit me. Truth is, most of my writing urges have gone south for the winter. A few days ago, I tried once again to give away free downloads on my novel, Mesa View Bed and Brekfast, (spelling intended) with quite discouraging results. Bottom line? Either step up my writing game and promotions or (and this is the most likely option) write for fun, wave an edit at the thing, upload it, and go have a beer.

My latest diversion is working in Photoshop using a technique of applying textures and overlays with the original images. A Facebook group called (appropriately enough) Creative Visons Textures and Overlays has been quite inspirational. With the only restraint being one’s imagination, fresh ideas and visons can flow. It’s quite fun, but I have a long way to go to match the skills of those folks.

What else? Oh, did I tell you old age has reared its ugly head once again? This time it’s the hip. Severe pain for about a week. Got an x-ray and when that didn’t show the cause,  an MRI. MRI’s don’t lie. Got a letter. “You have osteoarthritis, you old fart. Can you say ibuprofen?”

The raccoon wars continue. No surprise there. My electrified cable that supports the bird feeders has been the Mother of all Anti-Coon Weapons. For months, it worked on the squirrels as well, until one day, a little gray guy came along.  I noticed him staring at my defenses, his tiny squirrel brain spinning. I’m sure that past experience had taught him that walking out to the feeders via the cable was a bad idea. As the ad for the fence charger stated, not lethal, but memorable. He figured it out of course, that’s what squirrels do. All it took was a giant leap from the nearest tree, grab the feeder with one toe-nail, swing up, and YES! Free food. The fox squirrels have yet to master this, only the grays. I don’t know why.

Did you know that it’s not a good idea to put a battery charger on a Honda with more electronics that a 787 without disconnecting the hot side cable first? I didn’t. I do now. The warning was in the manual, but what kind of man reads those things? No permanent damage this time. Got lucky.

I’ve taken up cooking. Note that I didn’t say gourmet cooking, mostly crock pot and skillet dishes. Still, it’s another steep learning curve especially if for more than one dish. Getting every process coordinated to be on the table simultaneously has proven to be quite the challenge. As Trump might say, who knew? I find that the recipes, while necessary and usually quite informative, don’t cover  some of the vital info. For instance, there are no instructions on how to choose the size of the cooking pot to anticipate what happens when the ingredients come to a boil and spill over the top. Very important. They cover themselves by using vague descriptions such as a large pan or adequate container.

But, like the squirrel who got his little butt lit up a time or two on the cable, I’m learning. The question is, am I smarter than a squirrel? Watch this space.

 

 

 

Published in: on January 27, 2018 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)