Honest, I only Had One Beer

A man walks into an old pub in Dublin, takes a seat at the bar and orders 3 pints. After he is served he takes sips from them in turn and when all 3 glasses are finally empty he orders 3 more. The barkeeper, who has been watching him, has never seen such a weird style of drinking and says to the man: “You know when you leave a beer for too long it goes flat, so they would taste better if you order just one at a time.”
“Well”, says the man at the bar. “You see I have 2 brothers who I used to drink with, but unfortunately one moved to America and the other one moved to Australia. Now we are on 3 different continents and we hardly ever see each other. So I drink a pint for me and 2 for my brothers. This way we at least try to keep this tradition alive and it feels like we’re still together.”
The bartender agrees that this is a beautiful explanation for his weird behaviour and the man becomes a regular at his bar. The other customers also get used to his ritual of ordering 3 pints and drinking them in turn.
But then one day “Mister 3 Pints” comes in and orders only 2 glasses. The whole pub gets silent and the by the time the man orders a second round of only 2 pints the barkeeper says: “I’m terribly sorry as I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I just wanted to offer my condolances on your loss.”
The man looks puzzled, but then a smile breaks through and he says. “Thanks a lot, but everyone is fine really. It’s just that my wife had us join the Baptist church and I had to give up drinking. But my brothers are still Catholics, so it didn’t affect them.”

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Yesterday, Peg and I spent a quiet day together. Just her and Me. We haven’t had such a day in quite some time. Peg’s caretaker hasn’t had a day off in over month and when her son called to say he was coming to  take her on an adventure she jumped at the chance. Being the outstanding employer that I am I jumped at the chance to get her out of the house away from me and Peg for a few hours.

The caretaker’s son owns a motorhome and he stores it in a barn for the winter. He planned to put it into storage this weekend. “What a great day to take mom out into nature to unwind before I put this thing away for the winter.”  Not that her job is that stressful, but it is boring and boring leads to stress. Her routine is to keep Peg fed, clean, medicated, and happy. She does three of the four exceptionally well.  Keeping Peg happy is a huge task. Only because we can never tell how she feels or what she feels. Peg doesn’t communicate, ever. The only time we know she is unhappy is when she experiences pain. Then she communicates with a yelp, scowl, or grimace.

The two of them left in this huge motorhome to places unknown to me. Peg and I were alone, all alone. In our better days before her dementia hit there is no question about how we would have spent our alone time, but this time we were alone and unable to fool around. I said a prayer that I would remain a good husband throughout the day.

I did fairly well in moving Peg to bed for her afternoon respite from the wheelchair. We force her to lay on her side only to get the pressure off her ass. Otherwise she develops a skin breakdown ending in a bedsore. We don’t like bedsores, neither does Peg. If you watch the commercials for lawyers looking for business, you will note that if your loved one in a nursing home has a bed sore it is grounds to sue for negligence. Therefore, we don’t like bedsores, not because lawyers love them but because they are painful, and ugly, and horrible to look at.

The caretaker’s son Freddie returned his mother to the job in time for Peg’s bed hour. To appease me for stealing his mother for a day he presented me with a bottle of Crazy Brewski beer. Brewed in his home country of Lithuania and bottled here in South Carolina.

Crazy Brewski, Lithuanian Beer

Of course Peg saved her daily BM for me. I struggled through the cleanup and re-diaper with a minimum of fuss and she was happy, I think. Supper was fun. I made it easy by popping a frozen pizza into the oven and literally threw shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar dressing into a bowl for salad. We ate together, She polished off one eighth of the pie, and in the same time I finished four eighths, or half the pie. She sipped on a glass of pink Moscato through a straw and I swilled two glasses of Pinot Noir. That difference in eating is why Peg never weighs more than a hundred pounds with a 28 inch waist and I thunder about at 198 and a bulbous 40 plus waist.

This evening I popped for a couple of rib dinners from a local take out called Mindy’s famous for ribs. To go along with it I split the Crazy Brewski with the caretaker. Normally, I have a single glass of red wine with my supper, but I substituted the wine with the Brewski. A few sips into the beer, which was excellent, and sweet, I took note of the alcohol content. Crazy Brewski has 15% alcohol. A normal US beer like Coors has at most 4% and wine has 11%.  Needless to say, I am buzzed. 

That is my story, and I’m sticking to it. 

Lunch At the Home

Today, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch hour with Peg and five ladies at the rehab center. When I arrived Peg was busy in conversation with Gert a short haired little lady to her right. What amazed me was that neither of them have very good hearing. The back ground noise of construction, clattering silverware, and many conversations made it hard to hear anything. Add the fact that Peg and most of the ladies there suffer from dementia and words don’t come to them. Still they were consumed by conversation. I must have missed something, because I haven’t been able to understand anything Peg has said  for the past six months. I did notice that they used a lot of facial expressions, smiles, finger points, and head bobs. Somehow it seems to work for them.

I began spoon feeding Peg, and observed what was going on around us. Across the table was another short-haired, white-haired lady with an extremely sharp chiseled nose named Annette. She was bent over, her head barely above the table. Her son-in-law Ray came to help her eat. He placed a clip board in front of her with a blank sheet of paper, and a pen. Annette began to write. She tried telling him something, but the volume of her voice was a whisper. As weak as her voice was she held the pen firmly and wrote smoothly without hesitation. I never did learn what she wrote, but she filled an entire page before she began to eat. An aid brought her a plate of food which had been macerated. Her ham and cheese sandwich looked like a scoop of pink mashed potatoes. Ray handed her a spoon and Annette took a scoop of the pink stuff and held it under her face. She raised the spoon toward her lips and stopped half way unable to make it to her mouth, her hand dropped. She tried again, but failed. The third time she lifted her hand as far as it would go, and dropped her mouth down to meet it. A vision of Tim Conway of the Carol Burnette show streamed through my mind. Meanwhile, a nurse placed a glass of protein shake in front of Gert. She snubbed her nose at it. A  drip hung from the tip of her nose. She was visibly upset about the drip and slowly raised the edge of the table cloth to blot it. An aide spotted her too late and came running with a handful of kleenex. Gert reached for the protein shake and tipped the glass spilling it across the table. She made the move so smoothly it was hard to tell if she did it on purpose. My guess is she didn’t want to drink it, so she disposed of it.

I sat on Peg’s left, and beside me sat Rose. A very active ninety-two year old Italian lady. She is the only resident not using a wheelchair. She walks to the dining room with her purse hanging off her shoulder and sits at the head of the table. Everyday she has the same thing, heavily buttered raisin toast, a cheese omelet, and two cups of coffee with three creams each. Today, she waits and feels ignored. Not to be left out, she rises from the table and heads for the kitchen to get her coffee. She returns empty handed with an aide following her with the coffee in one hand three creams in the other. Rose sits again pours the three creamers into the coffee. Her omelet arrives. There is no toast, and she waits again. Her greatest enjoyment is to break off a piece of toast and dip it into her coffee and eat it like a biscotti. Having waited long enough she rises and proceeds to the kitchen to get her raisin toast.  “We’re making it Rose,” comes the voice of an aide. Rose returns and two minutes later the toast arrives. Rose is finally happy.

Ready-for-your-Close-Up-How-Not-to-Fake-Smile-for-a-Pic-photo9

Anna, an aid, arrives to encourage Rose to eat. Anna looks across at Peggy and says in her heavy Polish accent “why you not smiling?” Peg stares with contempt at the aid who takes care of her. She has grown to dislike Anna, but cannot tell me why. Then Peg flashes a big toothy and phony smile at Anna, and says, “that’s because you are full of shit.” I almost fell out of my chair.

One On One Time

For the past three weeks I spent a lot of time visiting Peg at the nursing home. On the day she was admitted, I met with the home’s doctor. He told me that the average recovery time for someone who has been bed ridden is four days of rehab for every day spent in bed. Peg spent four days in bed so my rapid fire brain calculated sixteen days of rehab. Yet, to be very honest, Peg looked like she was just a few hours away from a casket. I went home and prayed. Then, I dialed an agency that provides full time help.

After twenty days in rehab Peg is smiling again, and attempts to walk at every chance she gets. She presents a fall hazard to the home. She began complaining about the CNA who takes care of her, and she has been refusing to take medications. She is ready to come home.

losaltos_rehab

I had a different theme for this post when I began, but the phone rang a moment ago, and quickly changed my train of thought. The nurse at the home called to report that Peggy refused to eat anything including her favorite, ice cream. I spoke to Peg on the phone to coax her into eating something. She promised me she would. I remained on the phone and over heard the nurse urging her to try a spoonful; she broke her promise. I know if I were there, I would get her to eat something, but it would take forever to make it happen.

This afternoon, at lunch, I was coaxing Peg to open her mouth to take food when it occurred to me that every woman at her table was exhibiting the same tendency. They all needed someone to coax them to eat, and to shovel the food into their mouths. They wouldn’t eat by themselves, but they would eat a bit if they were fed. The light went on, and I realized it was the need for personal attention that probably caused them to respond. When you are alone in a home filled with strangers, strange furniture, strange food, and upset about being there, the only thing on your mind is going home, or dying.

Time is all one has while living in rehab. The rehab part takes twenty minutes of your day, the rest of your time is spent sitting, watching, napping, waiting for the next meal, or the next pill. Taking an hour to take five bites of food doesn’t seem long, except to the caretaker. To the resident it is precious one on one time with a care giver.

Who Is In There?

Common-Symptoms-of-Dementia

A few weeks ago I contemplated starting a new blog which I would have called “Who’s in There?” It is a question I ask Peg frequently, usually in the mornings just after she wakes up. I press my forehead against hers, look directly into her eyes and ask, who’s in there? Her responses vary, sometimes it is “me” others times it is “I don’t know”, and sometimes it is “you”. There are days when she stares off into space and looks totally absorbed in her thoughts. I ask her “where are you?” It breaks her stare, and she’ll tell me she was watching a bird or a squirrel in the yard.
My new blog would be specific to living with someone who has dementia. I believe that writing about a personal problem is cathartic. I posted a piece once on Grumpa Joe’s Place, and received some caustic feedback from close family members who believed I was demeaning my wife. Let’s face it folks, some of the stuff that happens is funny. Most times it is not funny but sad.
The new blog was intended to be more private. I would have opened it on another blog platform and my name would have been totally anonymous.
One objective I have when I write posts is to teach something by using my personal experience. In my career, I was told many times that I was a good teacher. I retired early to give myself time to be able to find a real teaching job. Unfortunately, my wife Barbara had the heart attack, and my teaching goal turned into that of caretaker. Instead, I began Grumpa Joe’s Place with the objective of teaching by using my personal experience to write about issues and problems. To keep the blog interesting I spice it up with my personal pursuits like gardening, flower photography, travel, and woodworking. Lately, I have resorted to using posts from other bloggers whose posts I like.
My final decision is to not begin a separate blog to write about dementia but to teach about dementia on Grumpa Joe’s Place with occasional posts.

I Lost It

Peg MTH-IMG_1959

Last Friday Peg and I went shopping for groceries. We have done this together since we married ten years ago. I parked as close to the door as was possible and we walked six car widths out of parking into the store and picked up a shopping cart. We are the world’s least organized shoppers. I start with a plan but once we leave produce the plan is lost, and we shop like a cue ball bouncing off cushions. This is one way we get some walking into our sedate lives. Peg enjoys shopping even if it is just to get out and look at stuff.

Friday night we went to bed early because we planned to drive to Michigan to visit my son, and his family. During the middle of the night I awakened by the bed shaking. Peg vibrated as if a demon possessed her. I swung my arm across her and tried talking to her. She was as stiff as a board and shaking like crazy. Her eyes were closed and she did not respond to my words. It stopped within a couple of minutes, and she became completely relaxed. She slept the rest of the night. I had a hard time falling back to sleep.

The opportunity clock sounded off in the morning and I jumped from bed into the bathroom. Usually, Peg is out of bed by the time I re-enter the room. This morning she was still in bed. I talked to her and she did not respond verbally. She was awake but not moving very well. I called my son to tell him we wouldn’t make it.  Peg was still in bed.

I tried to coax her out but her response was muted. I called 911 and asked for assistance getting her out of bed so I could take her to the ER. Within minutes three men arrived and began asking questions and taking vitals. A few minutes later four more men walked in. I was busy answering their questions and watching what they did when four more guys walked in with a gurney. The first guys were cops, the second group was the fire department off the firetruck, The last group were the paramedics. I remember telling one of them that I asked for a couple of guys to help me lift her out of bed not the whole department.

Peg was transported to Silver Cross hospital and checked into the ER. I met them there because I drove separately. By the time I got in to see her she was hooked to fluids, and the ER physician began asking me questions. They sent her for a cat-scan to determine if she had a stroke. I told them about the seizure and immediately they called the neurologist. He quizzed me about the seizure and almost immediately ordered an anti-seizure drug for her. He wanted an EEG test which is best described as an EKG of the brain. We would have to wait until Monday to do the EEG. The results of the cat-scan came back inconclusive, so they wanted an MRI, also on Monday. They admitted her to  the hospital.

Peg spent Saturday and Sunday waiting for things to happen. Early Monday morning she had the EEG, and the MRI. We waited again for the results. Physical therapy was called in to assess her condition. PT determined she could walk with some assistance; they walked her to the end of the hallway and back. She did fine. At seven o’clock Monday evening the hospital assigned primary care doctor assigned to her case came in the review results and to give us a plan going forward. He asked if we wanted to go home then or wait until tomorrow. I said, we’ll wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday morning, I came with clothing, and shoes for Peg. A Certified  Nursing Assistant (CNA) helped her get dressed and we waited for the nurse to arrive with discharge instructions. He came and I tried helping Peg stand up from the edge of the bed. A nurse once trained me on how to help someone get up and I have practiced the procedure since. I stood in front of Peg straddling her legs with mine and bent down. She reached up and put her arms around my neck. I wrap my arms around her back near the waist and count one, two , three. I lift and she pushes up with her legs. It has worked hundreds of times. This time however, she got half way up and crumbled like a wet noodle. I said, ‘This isn’t going to work.”

Mark the nurse asked, “what isn’t going to work?”

“I can’t take her home this way, I won’t be able to handle her alone.”

I spent the remainder of the day with the social worker making arrangements to send Peg to a Skilled Nursing Rehab facility.  We left the hospital at seven and arrived at the rehab place by eight. They checked her in, and quickly reviewed her records to determine what level of care she required. Peg was in good spirits and talking. When I came I answered questions again. I arrived home at 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday morning I arrived at her place by ten-thirty. The elevator door opened and I looked out. There she was facing me. She sat in a wheel chair at the nurses station along with several other white hair ladies. Her head hanging down tilted to one side, her chin was in her chest. My beautiful wife Peg had transformed into a helpless aged person trapped in a worn body.  I cried.

 

 

 

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