In Sickness and in Health. January, 2019

Not much news and what there is, is discouraging…but not unexpected. Had a minor revelation with Ruth’s bladder problem and the urine retention when one of the urology nurses told me I’d been doing the catheters all wrong. Up until now, I was waiting for Ruth to give up on using the bathroom by herself and keep trying until she was in pain. Now I’m told to do the cath 4 or 5 times a day, before the pain starts. Well, nobody never splain that to me before although it makes sense.

So that’s what were doing. For the first week or so, after the latest instill where the medics inject medicine for inflammation directly into the bladder, she was doing pretty good. No crying. No bending over with her hand on her abdomen. No baby steps. No distorted facial features. But in the last few days, the old symptoms are popping up again. I called a family meeting. We all sat down, me, the Missus, and the cats, while I explained the rules.

Ruth, from now on, whenever you feel the urge to go and you can’t, come to me right then, don’t wait until you’re hurting, and say, “Oh, husband of mine. Oh, love of my life, I hate to ask this again, but I need to drain the swamp.”
I will reply, “Not a problem. There’s nothing around here that can’t wait, there’s nothing so important as keeping you as pain free as possible.”

Not working. Even though I’ve repeated those words at least a dozen times over a period of several days now, she doesn’t get it. She still won’t come to me when the natural plumbing fails. I guess the next step is to do a cath at regular intervals whether she says anything about the swamp or not.

The medics also tell me that after a couple more instills, they will try a new kind of medication, and from there, maybe a steroid, but only once a month with that. Then and only then will they consider stretching the bladder, a procedure that requires anesthesia. Failing that, the doctor proposes a permanent cath where they make an incision in the skin and hang a tube out of it. I told his nurse that knowing Ruth as I do, that will drive her nuts and possibly into deep depression. I just can’t see that working with her mental condition.

If the bladder problem wasn’t enough to deal with, the dementia is worsening. She now has problems distinguishing between the refrigerator and the freezer. Cooking utensils end up in places where they’ve never lived before. The other day I caught her eating ice cream out of the cat dish. “What, it’s clean,” she said.

An hour ago, she wanted a sandwich. However, her favorite bread was in the freezer. I popped out a couple of slices and nuked them for about ten seconds. Problem solved. Later, I hear the microwave come on and go off and come on and go off. She was taking slices of bread out of the package, two at a time, and heating them.

She confuses toilet paper with paper towels which could explain why I’ve had to clear a couple of stopped up toilets lately.

Some common objects around the house are becoming baffling to her. She can still use the remote for the TV, but barely. If a wrong button is pushed, she has to call in technical help…me.

Her short-term memory has been bad for quite a while, but now the long-term memory is slipping away. She doesn’t know how old she is, not the day or the month or the year of her birthday. She doesn’t know how long she’s been married and often can’t tell me my middle name. She doesn’t know her address or phone number. She can’t remember what number to dial for an emergency. If I have a heart attack, I am sooo screwed.

With the dementia and the bladder problem, it’s all quite difficult to deal with. But still doable…so far.

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Published in: on January 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

A Little Christmas Story

I have yet to master the common skills of a homemaker. I do a little cooking, a little cleaning. I tidy up. I run a mop over the tile now and then. Grocery shopping? I suck at it. I go two or three times a week, always forgetting half of what I need. Yes, I make a list, a scrawling illegible list (even by me), but since I don’t have the good sense to plan any meals ahead of time, I go with the get-it-when-you-need-it method. And so it was that on Christmas day, there was nary a drop of milk in the house. I could have driven to the little Stop and Save a half-mile down the road, but being raised as I was to save every penny no matter the inconvenience, I headed to Walmart.

I didn’t think Walmart ever closed, even on Christmas, but there it was, shut down and dark, a ghost store. The only car in the lot besides mine? a lonely, slow-moving police car. We passed like two ships in the night, a wave from me, a nod of the head from him. So, it was Plan B after all. Pay the jacked up prices at the Quick Trip or go home. My mama would have been ashamed of me, poor planning and wasting money in such a manner.  Boy, I taught you better than that.

On the way home, as I came to the entrance of a park that leads to the river, I jerked the wheel left for a quick drive-through, hoping to catch sight of an eagle along the bank. Eagles are good for the soul. They can uplift your spirit. And I needed a little uplifting. I hadn’t gone but maybe a hundred yards when I notice a  car with a sloping hood behind me, close behind me, too close. I don’t know what kind. Maybe a Taurus. I think it was a Taurus. It was an older model, whatever it was, with one mismatched front fender. Now I’m doing what I suppose is the standard speed limit for a park like that… 20-25 mph? But it sure wasn’t fast enough for Mr. Taurus, not by a long shot. The dude was in a hurry. To do what? Go to the end of the road and turn around?

C’mon, man. It’s Christmas. We’re in a park. A quiet place. A place to relax, to unwind, to watch the squirrels and the children play. Look over there! It’s a little girl with a brand new bicycle from Santa Claus. Back off, you jerk. But no, he stays with me, still close. I keep my speed. At one point, I glance up at the mirror and he’s gone. Must have taken the side road leading to the baseball diamonds. Good riddance. I stop at the river and take a good look around, scanning the banks and trees. No eagles. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Heading out, I glance to my left and there’s Mr. Taurus, off the street, his front end in a ditch, and the ditch is full of water.  Three or four people are standing around, supposedly considering what to do next. As everyone looked more pissed off than anxious, I assumed no one was injured. Looking it over, my guess was that Mr. Taurus had been speeding down the winding narrow parkway and missed that last little curve.

Couldn’t help it. I felt a grin coming on. One of those half-smiles,  one of those half-smug smiles that you get when justice is done. A smile you get when the bully gets his lights punched out by the skinny kid who just happens to be the best boxer at the gym. That kind of smile. Sort of like the Grinch. Yeah, that’s it, the Grinch smile. Why not? Hey, man, it’s Christmas.

 

The old man in the Honda?

As he drove out of sight

some heard him say

Merry Christmas, you jerk

and call Triple A.

 

grinch

 

Published in: on December 28, 2018 at 3:55 pm  Comments (2)  

My day so far (and it’s only noon).

It started at 6:41 a.m. I know this because the caller I.D. said so. It also told me the call was from an old friend that has never in his life called me at 6:41 a.m. unless he was near death or in jail. It had to be serious. I jerk the receiver off the hook so quickly that the short cord hits its limit and yanks the phone off the stand crashing into the bed frame and assorted knick-knacks. And yes, I still use a corded phone. I look at it like a pencil and paper, it seldom fails.

Turns out it was a butt dial. I made the assumption on the noises that people make while moving around the house at 6:41 a.m., slow and bumping into things. My wall phone has never butt-dialed anyone in its life. Not once.

I put the coffee on and quick step outside to fetch the morning paper, another tradition I refuse to give up even though the paper gets smaller by the month. No paper. This only one day removed from when I sent the carrier a Christmas card with a little something inside and declaring him “the best carrier ever!”  I refuse to try and read more than a headline or two using the Kindle app. I don’t need that kind of frustration that early.

Back inside, I hear the white cat, aka shithead, clawing at my brand new carpet. I scream profanities while searching for any kind of heavy object to hurl in her direction even if the cat does have but three legs. All that means to me is that I don’t have to lead her as far. It was during her feline retreat that she snags yet another phone cord, this one to a wireless base, dragging everything; remotes, coasters, and even more knick-knacks, to the floor.

I’m working on a second cup of coffee for my already jangled nerves when I notice the Missus is about to pour coffee on her morning bowl of cereal. She was not the least bit appreciative when I pointed out how milk might be a better choice. I asked her if she knew that our 59th wedding anniversary was almost here and did she know what date it fell on. She did not. Sigh.

I have a doctor’s appointment at 10:30. Why you ask. Thanks for asking. It’s a routine visit, one I’ve been making about every three months for oh, 15-20 years. Probably longer. I take a statin for cholesterol. Every three months I run out of pills. Wouldn’t you think I could call the doc’s office and request a refill and go on with my life? You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. I go in. The doc asks the usual questions. “Any changes in your health, any new allergies, yada, yada, yada. I’ll send the prescription to CVS. Now, I’m gonna have you go up to the lab and get a blood sample.”

One little problem, my veins are microscopic. Only the most talented of the vampires in the lab can hit the sweet spot. And who do I draw? A newbie. I asked her if she was feeling lucky and if not, it might behoove her to have the chief bloodsucker on standby. She agreed. They both studied my arms with furrowed brows. “Back of the hand,” the chief suggests. Success, and on the first try. Things are looking up.

The day before, I had talked to a robot at the Walgreen’s pharmacy, also renewing prescriptions. “You can pick those up tomorrow morning after eleven o’clock,” the robot said with cheery false confidence. On the way home, I swing by Walgreen’s. “One of those is not ready,” the lady behind the counter says.
“But the robot…”
“We had to order it”.
“The robot said nothing about ordering it.”
The lady shrugged.

I decide to call the Missus before heading home. I have saved myself many return trips by doing so.

“CVS called.”

“Really? That was fast.”

Four people ahead of me in the CVS line, one of whom is having a lengthy discussion on the price of her prescription. Finally, my turn. The lady flips through a couple hundred envelopes. “Uh, sir, your insurance won’t pay for this for two more days.”

What? I could have argued. Demanded an explanation and held up the line behind me. I didn’t have the will. I was beaten, the system beat me down. And it’s not even noon. Happy hour is still five hours away…unless I cheat.

Published in: on December 19, 2018 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  

In Sickness and in Health: November 10, 2018

It’s been a while since we’ve had an update on Ruth Ann. Mostly because there have been no drastic changes, just little ones, agonizing, heart-wrenching, little ones. Like death by a thousand cuts.

This very morning, I caught her dumping cat litter down the drain of the utility sink. This is the type of litter that clumps when the cat pees on it. The same action occurs when it hits the water in the J-trap in the pipes. Most not have had too much litter in it as it’s still draining, a little.

Ruth likes her cream with a little coffee in it, specifically the Nestle’s Coffee Mate, Vanilla Flavored kind. I began to notice that she was going through a quart of the stuff in about a week. What? Come to find out, she was pouring it on her cereal every morning.

Last night, I prepared a meal with pulled pork on a bun, potato salad, and cole slaw. I got the plates out, showed her where everything was, and went in the living room to watch the news. Time passed. I’m hearing rumbles of frustration. A check found her putting the potato salad on the bun and not being able to figure out what to do with the pork.

I seldom leave her alone for more than a couple of hours, three at the most. I keep my pager in my pocket whenever I’m out. Problem: I’m half deaf (maybe 3/4) and I can’t hear the damn ringtone unless I’m in a very quiet space. I have it set to vibrate as well, but unless it’s in my shirt pocket, I can’t feel it. After a trip to the grocery (one of many. Someday, I must get organized.), I checked my phone and saw I had 14 messages, ten of them from Ruth Ann. She was trying to tell me to contact a plumber that had called, but she could not, for the life of her, put the words together. This is what I heard on playback:

“That guy called. He said something about 3 o’clock.”
“Warren! Can you hear me?”
“Why won’t this thing work?”
“Damn it. Damn it. Hello?”

That went on for six more messages with her getting more angry at the phone and at me with every attempt.

So there’s that. The urine retention problem is still with us, of course. The body plumbers, the day crew, are doing their job quite well, thank you very much. Opening and closing the proper valves on demand. But the night crew, those sorry bastards, should be fired. The routine for the past couple of weeks has gone like this: Catheter at bedtime. Another at 2:00 a.m. (seriously 2:00 a.m., plus or minus twenty minutes), practically every night. Another one at daybreak. The medication, Uribel, seems to work the best. Naturally, it’s the most expensive. I don’t understand how the position of the sun can determine whether to pee or not to pee, that is the question.

Once again, I write this blog not seeking sympathy or advice. I do it for my own mental health and simply to share the story for anyone that has an interest.

My new catchphrase? There’s always Ecuador.

Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Darn Unions

Simple logic concludes that my wife’s body is being overseen by multiple work crews.

We’ll start with the heating and air department. That would include temperature regulation (hot flashes, frequent complaints of too hot, too cold), breathing (rapid inhaling and exhaling when under stress), and the frequent change of clothing to deal with indoor temperature variations of no more than plus or minus one degree. This crew also controls such things as burps, hiccups, and yes, flatulence.

Then we have the electricians. A slightly higher pay grade that deals with the neurons that receive and transmit electrochemical nerve impulses from the brain to various body parts. The chief electricians reside in the brain, the control center. They are an elite group never divulging their secrets to anyone, not to doctors, much less ordinary concerned citizens. No one is allowed to penetrate this group, remaining uncommunicative and largely unseen, shrouded in a cloud of mysterious, misty gray, particles.

Lastly, and most importantly in my case, the plumbers. The plumbers control the valves that shut off or release bodily fluids such as tears, sweat, and unfortunately…urine. It is with the plumber’s union that I have the most problems. The tears and sweat sub-groups are not all that hard to deal with. A few promises, a bribe or two, and all is well. It’s the rogue urine department that keeps me up at night.

Lately, I offered them a new drug called Uribel. For a few days, they were happy and contented, opening and closing the appropriate valves at the proper times. But a few days ago, something changed. New foreman? Word from higher up? Another union taking over? Whatever the reason, this group has gone silent, refusing any suggestion of getting together with the condition of fair and balanced negotiating over the bargaining table. For the past 48 hours, they have refused to open the valves at the most inappropriate of times, spreading stress and turmoil across the entire company household. We’re talking middle of the night here.

As the chief COO and caretaker of the body in question, I demand changes. Let the record show that in the event that conditions fail to improve, I will be forced to consider a new position as chief photographer of hummingbirds in the cloud forests of Ecuador.

Meanwhile, my office door remains open.

 

Published in: on September 12, 2018 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health: August 24, 2018

For the past two or three weeks, the situation here at the humble abode has been tolerable; a couple of caths a day, three at the most, but always with the now routine 2:30 a.m. catheter, that didn’t change. Ruth Ann’s demeanor, while having its hills and valleys, was not all that difficult to deal with as long as I remembered not to argue and say all the right things.

But long about last Monday, the state of the household subtly changed, backsliding down the hill and thumping at the bottom. The caths went from two a day to more like five or six. In between was more lip quivering, heavy breathing, holding the belly, and complaining that “Something is wrong”. At times, it was like she couldn’t remember that she’s been having the urine retention problem for months now and the pain was an entirely new experience with no clue as to what was causing it.

I started with a follow up call to the gynecologist, the one who indicated Ruth’s problem might be due to interstitial cystitis (IC) a condition formerly suggested by a relative and a diagnosis that I agreed could very well be the problem. I had left his office under the impression he was going to get with the urology people and that he knew the doctor there who had examined Ruth’s scans. Naturally, the gynecologist was out of town and since Ruth had improved somewhat, I didn’t feel the need to check back with him. Now I did. Talked to his nurse who talked to him and she got back to me with…wait for it…”It’s not a gynecology problem.”

I call the pee people the next day and get right in. I was prepared. I had notes about Ruth’s behavior, the amount of urine collected in the bag, the frequency of the caths, and most importantly (in my eyes) how she fit five out of ten symptoms of IC. I knew we wouldn’t get to see the doctor (that takes 2-3 weeks warning) and was expecting the nurse practitioner, but we didn’t even get her. Instead, we got a young lady who came in to take a urine sample for a quick check for Urinary Tract Infection and to do what was called an “infusion”. This is a procedure where a concoction (patented by a now deceased witch doctor in New Orleans) is inserted into the bladder. This was the second occurrence for this voodoo magic, but it worked for a few days on a previous visit and I was hoping for a repeat. But when I brought up my questions about Interstitial Cystitis, I found that I needed someone above her paygrade. So what happens? The nurse practitioner shows up. This after the voodoo girl told me that the NP had an eye injury and wasn’t available. I guess there must have been some kind of divine intervention as the NP’s eyes looked fine to me.

Her solution to the problem was quite familiar. More antibiotics for a slight infection, more meds to calm the bladder, and when I asked for better pain pills for when Ruth gets really bad and the tears flow and the lip quivers, she told me to up the dosage of ibuprofen.

I was reminded of one definition of insanity where you keep doing the same things and expect different results. I think this is called medical insanity. They keep prescribing the same meds and the same treatment and expect the patient to get better.

Meanwhile, Ruth can no longer tell the difference between the refrigerated section and the frozen food section of the old Maytag. Searching for yesterday’s leftovers can take a while. Then I pulled one of her tricks and misplaced my glasses. I didn’t know dementia was contagious, but apparently it is. Ruth helped me search as we methodically went through the whole house, the garage, and the cars. Where were the glasses? Ruth was wearing them. Geez. Drive a man to drink.

Published in: on August 24, 2018 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health: 8/8/2018

I wanted to get her outside for a change of scenery and a little exercise. It was a cool day, mid-70s, a welcome relief after the high 90’s scorchers we’ve been having. There was a slight overcast, a nice day to go to the park. We drove to Keystone Lake with the thought of hiking a short trail or just sitting on a park bench and watching the boats and the ducks.

Didn’t work out. She mostly stood by the car holding her belly. I asked before we left if we should drain the swamp, but she said no, she was okay, that it didn’t matter if she was home or somewhere else. After about fifteen minutes, it became clear that she wasn’t enjoying the outing. We went home and did the cath thing and I gave her an ibuprofen to help with the pain.

After not hearing any further feedback from the gynecologist on the plan to look further into the possibility of Interstitial Cystitis, I called the office, but he’s out of town for a week. I talked with a relative who experienced IC and while Ruth’s symptoms don’t exactly match hers, the similarities are striking. I’m determined to keep pushing for help in that direction until proven otherwise.

Meanwhile, the oddities continue to stack up. In the past week she became confused about the difference between sand paper and waxed paper. Yesterday, I caught her trying to put a roll of paper towels on the toilet paper holder. Didn’t work. (A paper problem?)

A couple days ago she was putting dirty clothes straight into the dryer bypassing the washer. Saving water perhaps?

One morning she decided to make another pot of coffee but called on me when she claimed that something wasn’t working right. I did the usual procedure with the coffee and filter and pouring the water in the top, but the coffee came out cream colored. What? I smelled it and caught the distinct odor of French Vanilla Coffee Mate, her favorite additive. She denied pouring it straight into the coffee maker, but the evidence said otherwise.

By her account, the bad guys continue to sneak in our house at night and remove her personal photos. It happened again yesterday. “They were right here and now they’re gone!”

“I’m sorry, hon. I’ll try to keep a closer watch on your things.” From experience, I’ve learned that this is the best approach to the problem.

The late-night catheters might be my undoing. In the past week I’ve been awakened at 12:30, 2:25: 2:33 (twice, exact same time), 3:15, and 4:10. I keep telling myself it’s not her fault, but my inner grumpiness, so prevalent at that time of day, often overrules. That’s when I again have thoughts of moving to some cloud forest high in the mountains of Ecuador and taking photos of hummingbirds for oh… about a year or two.

I have no way to accurately judge the time line of Ruth Ann’s worsening condition, but based on the past few months, I’m saying one, two years at most, before I’ll be needing some major help in dealing with this, most likely the dreaded nursing home. I hate that so much. The mere thought of it gets me misty-eyed. I think we both need a hug.

 

Published in: on August 8, 2018 at 4:14 pm  Comments (4)  

The Day My Daddy Died

Not sure what prompted me to think about it and write about it. Maybe it was the recent tragic deaths on Table Rock Lake where families were torn apart on the Duck boat. Maybe it’s the aging process, the time of our life where we take a closer look at the average life span and begin to think, how many years do I have left? Hard to ignore when our own family members pass on, some of their deaths not all that unexpected, but still a little shocking, a serious wakeup call to our limited sense of mortality, a post in high contrast black and white that time moves on and none of us will get out of this alive no matter how hard we pray.

All of that was far from my mind, unthinkable really, that hot summer day at Chase Field, a Naval Air Base in south Texas, as I walked among the jet aircraft shimmering in the heat waves of a cloudless sky. A Navy First Class Electrician’s Mate stepped out from the line shack and motioned me over.
“You got an emergency phone call.”

It wasn’t my mom, but my mother in law. That was strange. She’d never called before. She got right to the point. “Your father died; a heart attack. Very sudden. I’m sorry.” I don’t know why I didn’t get that awful news from my mother. Still in shock perhaps? I never did find out.

Stunned was the word. My father? Dead? Impossible. He was what, fifty-eight years old? Fifty-nine? Truth was, I didn’t know. My dad and I loved each other, I knew that, but at the same time, we weren’t exactly close. We didn’t do father and son things. We didn’t go fishing. We went hunting together once, but that was an embarrassing disaster as, unbeknownst to me, we were on private land and the owner ran us off.

As the old saying goes, a farmer works from sun to sun. He did that. At the end of the day, he ate supper and went to bed. Got up and did it all over again. He provided for his family in the only way he knew how: work like hell and try to make ends meet.

My employer at the time, the U.S. Navy, showed a little heart and offered to fly me to northeast Kansas, the site of the funeral, in the backseat of an F-11 fighter jet. “We’ll call it a training mission.” There was one little hitch. I wasn’t qualified to be in a supersonic aircraft. To get past that I was told, to drive to the main base at Corpus Christie and go through a few tests.

A few tests?

Yes, a decompression test where you lose oxygen and deal with that. A dunk tank where you ride an aircraft seat into a pool of water, unstrap, and swim out. A few other things.

Uh, Sir, a dunk tank? I don’t think there are many large bodies of water between Beeville, Texas and Goff, Kansas.

“It’s regulations, son. You understand.”

I did, unfortunately. But the prospect of a couple hours in a jet compared to a sixteen-hour drive was too tempting to pass up. I made the trip to Corpus the next day. Problem was, the dunk tank apparatus was broken. I was not to be qualified. Mission scrubbed.

My close friend and Navy bud, Rick, made the generous offer to use his own leave time to help me make the drive, an act of kindness I will never forget. Rick did most of the driving with my wife in the front seat to talk to, while I lay in the back, looking out at the stars, trying to absorb what had just happened. It was the longest drive of my life. So strange, here one minute, gone the next. No warning signs, no years of bad health, no time to prepare. He was taking out the trash and…bam, down he went. That’s what they told me.

Well yes, he did smoke. Camels, non-filtered. Ate a lot of chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy too. So, what? Everybody did then. In those days, we didn’t have any Surgeon Generals with scary warnings and shocking pictures of blackened lungs full of tars and nicotine. Heart disease? That’s what happens to old people, not a fifty-eight-year-old man living the good life, retired in Kansas City, doing odd jobs for a rich old woman.

As with most funerals of loved ones, the service passed like a bad dream. Unworldly. I kept thinking, can this be happening? Is his life really over? I’ll never see him again? Not one more chance to go fishing or hunting, slim as they were? Not a chance to really get to know each other like we should have? No chance to say, “Dad, I’m sorry I was such a self-centered wise ass. Sorry that I didn’t understand what a cruel bitch Old Man Time can be.

Eight hundred and sixty-nine miles from Goff, Kansas to Beeville, Texas. I was wrong. The ride back was the longest drive I ever had in my life.

 

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 7:40 pm  Comments (1)  

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.

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