Monday, December 31, 2012

Remembering the Falls

Looking over the past year, the most prevalent activity in the Thompson household was falling. Dean got the ball rolling the summer of 2011 when he fell on a curb and fractured his foot in three places. A few months later he stubbed and broke his little toe, on the other foot. Then he fell and cracked a rib. Another time he cut his knee up pretty bad, when he tripped and fell. And those were only the falls that produced injuries!

I made my contribution when I fell last spring and fractured my foot. I'll never forget the terrifying feeling of wondering who would take care of BOTH of us. When they showed me the "walking boot" I was to wear, I really shuddered. I had to help Dean put his on for months. There was no way he could return the favor. It was such a relief to find I could do it myself.

The hard part for me was using the walker and not putting pressure on the fractured foot, which translated to hopping everywhere I went. I would be short of breath after each hop. It was slow going, and miserable for my poor lungs, but I survived.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that, whatever it is, there is a God who will see us through. Just as He has this past year. We will survive all our falls, and God will take care of both of us.

New Year...bring it on!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Elephant

All I want for Christmas is not to have this cold! (as in the "sick" kind)

So many others have had it though, I shouldn't complain. After all, I've managed to dodge the bullets since last July, so guess it's my turn to cough my way into oblivion and fill the wastebasket by my bed with enough Kleenexes to sink a battleship.

I've seen a television commercial, one of "drug dealing" ones, that illustrated the feeling of having C.O.P.D. with having an elephant sit on your chest. That is such an apt description of what breathing feels like with my deformed chest cavity too, even without a cold.

Fortunately, my lungs are not diseased, but they are wimpy. So when I get a cold, it tends to visit me longer, because I haven't got the lung capacity to cough all that mucus out of there like most people. I don't count the length of my colds in terms of how many days, but how many weeks.

Until my weeks are up, I'll just keep using my nebulizer and hope I only go through one box of tissues. And isn't that all we can expect out of life. Using the tools God gives us for spiritual survival on this doomed planet and pray for the day when our "tissue days" are a thing of the past.

Revelation 21:4 says "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Place for a Chair

Dean had his Christmas today when they finally delivered his lift chair. Long before Thanksgiving, when the home health nurse first suggested we try to get him one, she said not to get excited because we might not get one till Christmas.

I didn't believe that it would ever take that long. Especially after the medical supply store said they could deliver one the same day, just as soon as they got the proper documentation for it. Little did I know, the emphasis that was placed on the word "proper".

After preparing the place in the living room for the chair, I've been playing phone tag with the medical supply store and his doctor's office for several weeks now. Towards the end, I HAD to be the mediator. I don't think they were on speaking terms from the sounds of agitation in their voices. But we finally got the "proper" coding for his chair approved by Medicare, and Dean got his best Christmas present just two days late. It was well worth the wait. It's a nice chair.

Many of us are looking for Christ's Second Coming with the same excitement as we had for the chair. The wait is hard, and many are losing hope that it will ever come. But, God is using us as His mediators, and soon everything in the universe will be "proper" and the long-looked-for event will take place. We had better have a place prepared for it in our hearts, just like I had a place prepared in my living room.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Old Man

What a nice Christmas Eve dinner we had with family last night. I actually added two leafs and brought the dining room table into the living room, so we could all sit at the table to eat for a change. Was worried that the encroachment on Dean's living space might upset him, but since it came with the hope of some good eating, he was fine with it.

Then the star family members were two hours late in getting here. Another worry that Dean might not be able to handle the frustration that brought. But once again, I fed him tidbits and promised much more just as soon as they arrived, so he stayed remarkably cool about the delay.

In setting the table, I made sure that no bowls that people needed help dishing up were in front of Dean. I was going to give him a fork like the rest of us from the set, but then thought I better ask him and sure enough he required his own special fork, which I hastily switched out for him. I set him on the end of the table with ample room to maneuver around his chair. Then I made sure that salt and butter were placed at both ends of the table, right near Dean's place setting, to forestall any discord about passing them.

Surprisingly, he asked for black pepper though, which we hastily got from the kitchen for him. When he was done seasoning, his plate resembled one big deviled egg. He choked on the first bite of "black" mashed potatoes, but to our amazement managed to devour all the food on his plate.

Opening gifts later was a cinch. There were just enough chocolates and candy gifts for Dean to open to keep him happily satisfied. We all tried to oblige him when he offered us chocolate covered cherries, as stuffed as we were. Just to prevent him from eating the whole box himself. At least we prevented a few of the pieces from getting to their victim.

From the sounds of my report, this whole event revolved around one old man. But maybe there's something instructive and symbolic about our family's involvement in taking care of this old man of ours. Christmas is about a Baby, but it's also about the Man we call our God. Shouldn't all our activities focus on Him too?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No Excuse

Dean has been asking several times if we could ride around and look at Christmas lights some evening, which was rather surprising. He's never been too interested in them other years. But tonight I set out to give him his wish. I had heard of an impressive light show at a house on the outskirts of town.

Even before we got to the first McDonald's on our prepared route though, Dean began hinting that a hamburger or a shake would be nice too, which confirmed my suspicions that he may have had another motive for his budding holiday spirit.

We got to the address I was given though, after a few detours, and the cars in front of us began slowing down and finally stopped in front of the light extravaganza. We were just beginning to see what we'd come for, when Dean started informing me that he needed to use the bathroom and we'd better head back home--quick. Remembering his recent bouts with diarrhea, I passed all the stopped vehicles and we barely got to see the light show, as we quickly sped home for his requested "pit stop".

As we almost reached our driveway, Dean, whose memory has been worse than usual lately, wondered why we were coming home so soon. I reminded him that he was needing to use the bathroom, but that we at least got out to the house with all the lights. He then chided me for not telling him the purpose of our ride and that he would have looked longer at the lights while we were out there had he known it was our destination and purpose.

I'm not sure how many emotions I was smothering about then, but I'm sure my hair has several more gray strands after our little outing.

I know God has been forthright to me about my destination and purpose in life too. It's all right there in the Bible. Jesus, the Light of the World, is there for all of us to see. There's really no excuse for not taking a long, unhurried look.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Spinning Tires

As always, with the first, fresh snow on our streets, I joined the many cars today who found themselves spinning their tires and not getting enough traction to make it out into the intersection after stopping. At least not with the first try. One is forced to rock back and forth, going from drive to reverse, turning the front tires different directions, in embarrassing attempts to grab onto something that allows you to move forward with the traffic.

That's kind of how my whole week has felt. The challenges of Dean's medicines, their side effects versus their benefits, getting his lift chair approved, searching the internet, playing phone tag with doctors, nurses, the pharmacist, the medical supply store, and not really getting anywhere. I feel like I just can't get any traction and get myself out of this slippery slide of caregiving.

But thankfully, tonight is the beginning of the Sabbath. A whole day designed to help me get some traction and move on with my life with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude. When the Sabbath is done, I'll feel a sense of relief once again. Just like it felt when I finally got into the intersection today and started moving toward my destination. And it especially feels good when your destination is heaven.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow in the Morning

My life has slowed down considerably, as far as outside-the-home activities, since Dean's recent weight, sleep, and drug issues. To compound our isolated status, a blizzard is in the forecast for tonight. Everyone is making their final trips to the store, gearing up for the snow we've all been waiting for and dreading at the same time. The beauty of seeing new snow on the ground in the morning will make staying home worth it for awhile at least.

I look forward to another beautiful sight too. Seeing my loved ones on Resurrection Morning. Today, half out of boredom, I moved a bookcase from the living room into my bedroom. On it were pictures and mementos of my dear, departed parents. The caregiving for them was also marked with boredom and isolation--that time in their hospital room.

I'm tired of being isolated from loved ones, but especially from my Jesus. That will be the sweetest sight of all on Resurrection Morning. Jesus coming in the clouds to bring us all home with Him. And what a glorious, heavenly home that will be.

Minnie at her watchdog post--foot of my bed! She's such good company too!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Dean has bounced all over the map the last couple of weeks when it comes to his health. He's gone from getting almost no sleep to sleeping way too much, from having an appetite that asks for food almost as soon as he gets up from the table to sleeping through breakfast and lunch and not requiring much food in between.

His hunger seems to have returned somewhat, but I have tried earnestly to satisfy it today with anti-diarrhea foods. Need I say more. We think the diarrhea is a side effect of his new medicine. But it makes it even more challenging to come up with something for him to eat when there are certain foods he should avoid and others that he should eat. I had to make a trip to the grocery store to get stocked up on the right foods. Now, to convince him of my choices.

This old earth isn't so healthy either. I need to remember that there are certain activities that I should avoid if I want to stay away from the sins that are messing up our world so much. But there are also lots of activities that I can enjoy that will keep me from being sin-sick. Fortunately, a visit to my Bible tonight can help me stock up on what I need.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Last Kiss

Things just aren't working out too well today. I went to start my car this afternoon and evidently the battery is low. Am waiting for my on-call son-in-law mechanic to come by later on and give us a charge. Hope it's nothing major.

Of course, this entire situation is minor compared to a school shooting that happened in an elementary school today in Connecticut. It's all so tragic, losing that many young children all at once. The families involved must be suffering tremendous grief, and most will for a long time.

It helps to put our own lives' problems in perspective and see that they are nothing compared to what some are suffering.

When my caregiving seems more than I can handle, I try to look at it from the perspective of not having anyone to give care to. It gives me the strength to go on, to keep plugging away at our challenges. Those challenges are my purpose for living. I'll not complain, but thank God they are there.

I think a lot of us will give an extra kiss to our loved ones tonight. It could very well be our last.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That BIG Tractor

I almost hate to write about Dean's pills again, but it is the all-consuming thing in my life right now. Instead of being awake all night, now he's sleeping night and day. He slept through breakfast. But it blew me away when he wouldn't wake up when his Meal on Wheels arrived. It was time to try and reach his doctors and nurses on the phone again.

He got up an hour or so later though, ate lunch, and then I had him help sign some Christmas cards, just so he wouldn't go right back to bed. The notes he wrote on them were a bit undecipherable, but I got a laugh, hearing him read one out loud as he was writing it. He was reminding someone about the big tractor that ran over him. "I mean it was a big, Big, BIG tractor," he wrote. Just comical how he said it.

At least I did have two small accomplishments today, since I seemed to be a failure at trying to talk to anyone about his pills. I got some Christmas cards ready to mail, and I gave the dog a bath.

Jesus gives me small spiritual victories too, even while there's these big, Big, BIG ones out there waiting for me to tackle. I'm not in the battle alone, even though it feels like it some days when no one seems to return my calls. I'll just "make do".

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sleep at Last

Dean finally got a full night's sleep last night. But it wouldn't have happened had I not called the home health agency and had the on-call nurse come to check him out yesterday. Hated to do it on the weekend, but in addition to sleeplessness, he has been having a lot of mental confusion.

The nurse checked his vitals and after getting the doctor paged, we were instructed to reinstate the medicine that we were trying to get him off of. I know. None of it makes sense, but we will see him in his office this Friday, so perhaps we'll solve this dilemma by then. I'm just happy that he is finally getting some much needed sleep.

The nurse did have some good affirmation for me though. She said when she talked to our regular nurse on the phone before coming over, she was told that she'd better stop for a visit, because I wouldn't have called unless there was a good reason. It was nice to hear that I'm taken seriously when it comes to Dean's care.

I try to stay on top of things, but haven't always been successful in the past. That's why I know that God is really the one to get credit for anything good that comes from my decisions. God is the One we should all take seriously. When He says come, we should go.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sleepless Days and Sleepless Nights

Another sleepless night for Dean, even though we doubled one of his antidepressants. I have hidden or disguised as many foods in my kitchen as I can to prevent his foraging them in the middle of the night. So far, we have said good-bye to a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a pizza, and a gallon of ice cream. Nothing is safe from his nightly kitchen raids.

Not sure how we will address all of this, but I'm sure the doctors will get it figured out here before long. Thankfully, Dean's sleeplessness hasn't transferred to more grumpiness during the day. He has been able to doze a lot in his recliner.

I often have wondered whether it's right to keep Dean on so many medications, especially when they will undoubtedly end up shortening his life. But extraordinary conditions sometimes demand extraordinary solutions. And this is confirmed to me whenever we have to tweak his drugs, in order to tweak his behaviors. He is much more manageable to us and happy with himself with his pills.

It's a blur to me what behaviors are brain-injury/dementia-induced, and which ones are due to the powerful psychiatric medicines though. But regardless, I'm glad we have a good geriatric psychiatrist on his case. And our efforts are allowing Dean to have the best quality of life he could have for someone who had a tractor run over his head twelve years ago.

I recently found added confirmation to our treatment plan. This article suggests that many dementia patients can benefit from antipsychotic drugs. Hooray. I feel exonerated.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pill Plethora

Dean's medicine regimen has become somewhat of a nightmare lately. We saw his psychiatrist a few days ago and he is concerned about Dean's weight gain recently. Honestly, I'm getting tired of re-attaching his suspenders which keep popping off. Since we know which medicine is most to blame for his added girth, he thinks it wise to wean him off of it and try something else.

Unfortunately, this has been very upsetting to his sleep schedule. The second night he was up about every hour or so. Without medicines, Dean would never sleep, due to his brain injury, so in addition to decreasing his agitation and impulsiveness during the day, some of the medicines are there just to allow him to sleep at night.

But then we got a call from the home health nurse saying that due to his increased blood pressure readings this month, his primary care doctor wants to increase the blood pressure medicine he's currently taking. This is really throwing a monkey wrench in everything, because the blood pressure medicine can cause weight gain too, and even memory loss and disorientation. Do we really want him to have more of that?

So I am really waiting to hear what both doctors decide. I give them my input, but know that they will probably have the final word on what we end up doing. There are many options and I am just here to make sure they look at all of them.

In a way we have the final word on our salvation. God can present me with all the options, but it is up to me to decide my eternal destiny. Wow, it feels good to be on par with the doctors for once.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Gift Card

Last year we received a gift card for $100, and I held on to it until a really valid need came up. As a matter of fact, it's been so long since we got it, I have even forgotten who gave it to us. I finally decided that new eyeglasses would be my Christmas gift this year and went in to pick out the frames today. My old glasses have been held together with electrical tape for months now.

The price of each tri-focal lens was fifty dollars, so that helped me decide that the gift card was destined to be used for this purchase. That and the expiration date on the card being 2020.

God's gift card of salvation waits around til we choose to use it too. The expiration date on His offer is our own expiration date though. Maybe we shouldn't wait around too long!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Food Hide-and-seek

I have become an expert at food hide-and-seek lately. With Thanksgiving last week and Dean's birthday celebration this past weekend, there are sweet treats hidden all over my house. I have to hide them from Dean, and I'm sure he's been hiding them from me so I don't hide them from him.

As a matter of fact, there is a can of mixed nuts in such a good hiding place that neither of us will find them for quite awhile. Dean, because he doesn't remember that he has them, and me, because I can't remember where I put them. They must be in a very secure location. Either that, or Dean has found them and finished them off. Like he did with the box of chocolate-covered cherries the other day.

This impulsivity or lack of self-control is a typical symptom of someone who is brain-injured or has dementia. It has resulted in some weight gain for Dean lately, as you might imagine. I even threatened to send him to a "fat farm" today, when he was complaining about my tight restraints on the food pantry. But probably we'll just end up readjusting his medicines at some point.

Do I complain about God's restraints sometimes too? I'm sure I do. It seems like He's hiding all the good things in my life in very secure locations, and leaving me without any of the luxuries that make life sweet. I must stop complaining and remember that God is doing it all for my best eternal interest. He's a caregiver I can really trust.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flip-flops in December

It was with great pleasure that I turned Dean over to our daughter's care today for a few hours, in return for my watching the granddaughters last night, while their parents did some grocery shopping. It would give me a chance to get some shopping done as well.

I noticed when I took some trash out earlier that the weather was warm enough for my preferred footwear of flip-flops and the absence of coat, jacket, or sweater. Being the carefree soul that I am, I chose to wear the flip-flops while on my errands.What a great feeling to be so lightly attired, and in December, no less. I even left my hair down, just giving it a few strokes rather than twisting it up in my usual bun.

So I went dressed for the sixties, weather-wise. But didn't realize that the background music that played in the store while I shopped would be your classic oldie-goldies sixties variety also, with all the tunes I listened to as a teenager. I soon found myself mouthing the words, tapping and almost dancing to the music over the intercom, while I shopped for the items on my list.

Keep in mind that I was in no way a surfer girl or a hippie in my youth. But like most young people, I listened to the music of the times, and with such repetition that here I was, almost half a century later, remembering the words verbatim and enjoying the beat and rhythm of the tunes. They are embedded in my memory forever, even though I stopped listening to popular hits when I became a Christian in the seventies. What a scary thought that these songs are still with me.

With this in mind, I must be honest with myself. The only music worth listening to is the music that praises God and draws me closer to Him. Lord, help me avoid Satan's trap of worldly music whenever possible. Let me save my memory for you, Lord. For music that uplifts You and is fit for the ears of angelic choir members.

Party, Party

Yesterday was a stream of visitors, dropping by to wish Dean a happy birthday. The most we had in our living room was five or six, but that was just about right for my attention-deficit husband, for the amount of time they stayed. He handled the extra population quite well. I've always been a fan of "come-and-go". It's the best option for entertaining, when you have limited floor space in your home.

Equally well-behaved was our little dog Minnie. She's as friendly as Dean when it comes to strangers. And she can bark out her wishes almost as loud as Dean too, especially when people show up on our doorstep. But she performed her announcing and welcoming duties very graciously the whole afternoon.

Minnie even provided us with some entertainment when her attempts to get in someone's lap ended with her falling in a small trash can by their chair. She noticed too late that the visitor had a plate of birthday cake already in her lap. The poor dog's look of embarrassment at her predicament was humorous beyond words. I was torn between running for my camera or coming to her rescue and getting her out of the jaws of the trash can. The rescue option won out. I couldn't bear to see her struggle very long, even though we were all getting such a chuckle out of her awkward situation.

I am also thankful we have a God who approaches our mishaps and trials with the same attitude. He can hardly bear to see us struggle, and I'm sure doesn't allow it any longer than necessary to accomplish His all-encompassing will. Either for our own salvation purposes, for someone else's, or for unseen-to-us heavenly objectives. We find ourselves occasionally unable to extricate ourselves from places where only the power of God can rescue us. I'm also glad God doesn't have to rush to get His camera. He's got it all recorded.

So sweet of her to pose for this picture later. This is exactly where she landed, instead of a visitor's lap!
Thanks so much for the delicious cake, Cheryl! Made Dean feel extra special. It was half gone in no time. And would have been all gone, if I hadn't said no to the granddaughters so much.
Youth is fleeting...where do the years go?