Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Doctor Becomes a Patient

A wonderful Christian gentleman had proposed to me and I accepted. A renaissance man--retired MD in family practice and aviation medicine, a gifted pianist who played the piano by ear since an early age. For three years he served our country in Europe where he also studied painting.

My third marriage would undoubtedly result in another widowhood. He was eleven years older than I was. I married for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, until death us do part. 

We had a sweet courtship and wedding. I took his last name, although it's hard to get it on this computer blogger site. We honeymooned in Nashville. The marriage would be too short by most standards.

Oh we did say,

Neither one of us has dementia.
Neither one of us has heart trouble.
Neither one of us has cancer.

You can't be your own doctor, he said, and so he got a doctor, Dr. Jeffrey G.--they had been each other's doctors throughout the years. Dr. G and I would text each other for the next months which included telling Dr. G what place room my sweetheart was in. 

I stopped substitute teaching to
care for Chuck.  
More often than not sleeping on a recliner 
or cot in my husband's room.
A trip to the hospital via ambulance October 12.
Hospice in our apartment and he can't walk. 
Another hospital trip and blood clots in lungs.
Investigating places for rehab and 
maybe my staying with him.
A nursing home where I could sleep on a recliner
after first horrible night--room 403, our "Honeymoon Suite".
A trip back to the hospital for gall bladder surgery
after his vomiting. 

Dramatically as Dr. Chuck was about to leave MICU for surgery, the surgery was called off because of his breathing. We called in the elders of our church to pray. I figured that we needed PALLATIVE CARE in our journey and thought of starting a Christian Pallative Care group, called, "Bowels of Mercy". 

The optimist that I am I decided if he could just walk again we could get back to our apartment. People would help and I could have more days with my wonderful husband. I had not read the article, "Why Doctors Die Differently". 

We were admitted back to 403, our Honeymoon Suite saved for us at the nursing home. He recognized it and had a smile on his face when we got there. I settled in sure that things would work out, even  though a Palliative Care hospital doctor said he had maybe 6 months to live. 

November 27 my brother came to stay with Dr. Chuck. I went to lunch, got my hair cut and went home to shower and get new clothes. 

The next morning. It was not unusual for Chuck to awaken at 2 am and need pain medicine. I got the nurse to administer it to him. I helped him use his urinal as I often did. We talked. He said,

So where do we go from here?
I replied, 
We take one day at a time.

About 4 am I said that I was really tired and did he mind that I sleep?

A little before 6 am, someone from the facility where we were staying came in and woke me up to inform me that we had to call hospice. 

We don't want hospice. We want palliative 
care after he learns to walk again. Please be quiet.
He may hear you. He IS NOT DYING.

But it was true. A little after 6 am I watched his chest move no more. He had breathed his last breath. How could I be so mistaken? I guess I just wanted a happier ending. 

But a diagnosis of AAA or abdominal aortic aneurysm seven years earlier for my doctor husband, Dr. Chuck,  retired MD  loomed. I read that rupture may result in pain in the abdomen or back, low blood pressure, or loss of consciousness.

The other day I went to Dr. G's office for answers. I asked him if Chuck knew he was dying on a note his nurse delivered to him. Dr. G texted back to me,

I think that he did know. He grasped the fact
that on the one hand he had to be anti-coagulated
for blood clots, yet if the aneurysm ever
ruptured while his blood was thinned, it
would be fatal.

The last song I heard my husband play on the piano, was Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Chuck was now with Jesus. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Two Former Caregivers Become Engaged

Dr. Patterson was in my Praise and Prayer group Monday night that met at Huntsville Health and Dr. Chuck as he is known read my book, Getting Through the Dark Days of Caregiving.  His wife of many years was dying in  room across the hall from him and his roommate Bill.  Mixed Dementia was her diagnosis. We prayed for this couple and others at that meeting. Then I would see that all the residents got back to their rooms.

Several months ago his wife died and several of us attended the funeral and learned more about this couple who had served briefly on the mission field.

While I was walking Dr. Chuck back to his room, as I also did for others in the group,  I asked him how his grieving was coming. A few times this retired medical doctor cried.

Then Dr. Chuck started coming to my church as he liked our pastor who conducted the Monday night meetings.

Meanwhile I was writing for 75 days in a row on Facebook until my 75th birthday. I miscalculated and the 75th day I wrote my last post. So on my actual birthday, Dr. Chuck called me up and asked me to drive him to the mall.

When we got there it was raining and instead of using his cane, I took my walker out of the trunk so he wouldn't fall.

Where to? I wanted to know.

Kay Jewelers, he said.

Now I don't hear well, but sitting in front of wedding rings I got the point!

Our families are happy for us. A date was set for August 11th at 4 pm at the church that held the Praise and Prayer meetings and we have been catching up on dating since then and planning a simple wedding.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cataract Eye Surgery and a Dementia Test for Me

Two Wednesdays. No three Wednesdays because the first Wednesday I forgot and had a taste of a banana in the morning before I realized I wasn't supposed to eat and maybe only take a pill with a sip of water. I flunked.

Two days of preparation with eye drops. A cell phone with an alarm comes in SO handy.

My patient brother was to drive me again on the second Wednesday. His wife picked me up while he was at bridge. I was pushed to her car in front of the building I got in and she handed me glasses to wear. I was wearing a shield over my right eye. When I got home I rested and looked at the instructions for eye drops. Didn't think I needed the patch for Wednesday night choir practice. I love the music and although I didn't enter in fully with the singing, I was getting ready for Sundays.

I wouldn't be able to drive there, so as usual for Wednesday night I got picked up and brought home. On the way home, I looked with  just that left eye that had the surgery and there were rays proceeding out of the lights. However, when I looked with my right eye, there were no rays proceeding out of the same lights.

Midday I saw my eye doctor. I told him about the no rays in the right eye. He also was pleased with the machine tests that his assistant did.

There are a couple of typos in my book that perhaps might not have happened if I wasn't going through eye surgery, but life doesn't have to be perfect!

Stress! It felt like I was called to the boss's office!  My family confronted me in December about my poor night driving! It was a meeting at my brother's house with basically three adults, and not with my niece and her friend who had filed the family complaint. I admitted that night driving was hard and it seemed to me that Huntsville had poor street lights. I agreed to stop driving at night and others were to drive me. I would look into cataract surgery. Paula drove me Monday night. Gladys or her husband Charlie drove me to choir practice Wednesday night.

Stress! Car trouble and finances to buy a new car!

Stress! Mice in my apartment that I wrote about in January.

Stress! Dog Ziggy has a tumor in his spleen and I can have it removed, or his health will go downhill!

Stress! One Friday morning I just canceled substitute teaching. I hadn't been sleeping and was sure I had cancer to something. I went to my doctor's office without an appointment. They scheduled an appointment for me later and included the test to see if I have Alzheimer’s! Well I don't have it, but because of the stress, I tested positive. This hurt so much to hear the nurse say "MCI or dementia." She didn't know I was coming out with a book about that subject! If this were true, my family would have a lot on their plate with me!

As it says in that book, however, depression can cause false results with that test and really an individual needs a proper diagnosis with a neurologist and a MRI test which my late husband had.

Back to the cataract eye surgery. I love that I had it done and I can see at night. I can see bright, beautiful colors, and, LOL, I can see dust in my apartment! Now I can wear eye makeup and don't look so plain.

A week later after the right eye was done, I could drive at night! The eye doctor was very pleased. For my first night of night driving I went to a calligraphy class for modern calligraphy instruction--the calligraphy design on my book for "Getting Through the" in the title. Modern Calligraphy--such a great new hobby with brushes.

It has been suggested that as we age we learn new things. Well I am learning the alto part in my church choir and now I am learning a new brush calligraphy design. And I can drive at night!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Getting Through the Dark Days of Caregiving--Book Now Out

I always liked this picture. I chose this picture for the cover of the book. It was taken in 2012 about two years before my late husband, Herb, died. We took classes in the afternoon at our Lakeland Church, and Herb chose a comfortable chair to sit through this counseling class and I love his smile. 

The publisher blocked out all the rest of the picture, not showing the "faith" on the bookshelf or my purse on the floor! I love the book cover with its dark grey. You are a caregiver, a hard situation, for your loved one and at times they shine through. That cover says it all for me. 

You might recall that this project started out as a seminary counseling dissertation for an EdD degree, with the seminary in Florida, and my having moved to Alabama. I went back to Florida twice for that dissertation, but then decided that I really didn't need a counseling degree in my 70s--nor a dissertation. So the project morphed into a book. I want friends and churches to help with the caregiving and the book helps them help. 

The book is from a Christian perspective, but I didn't feel I had time to hunt up a Christian publisher. Yes, I had written for Gospel Light Publications, D. C. Cook, and a Dallas publisher, but that was YEARS AGO and that was all about Sunday School curriculum. After all I am getting up there in age! I wanted people to know with the LORD's help you can be a caregiver for your loved one. I chose a self-publisher, Xlibris. I didn't have time to find that publisher.  

I invested money for Xlibris to do this. Then they wanted more money for marketing, but I have VERY limited funds because of my caregiving and didn't go for it. Suddenly what I thought was finished, isn't! I now have to promote the book! 

Footnotes were a big problem. I learned what needs permission and what doesn't need permission. I learned that Chicken Soup for the Soul needed money to quote them and, sure enough, when the book came out, they cashed my check. Someone else has a check also. Have to research who that is. All of the permissions were sent to Xlibris via email, with the exception of less than 10% of book quotes and public domain quotes which didn't need permissions. I quoted myself from this blog. 

With my going through eye surgery now, there are a few printing mistakes that I didn't catch and the publisher didn't catch, but basically I was my own editor as a former English teacher in public schools. Xlibris made the pages and put the pictures near where I suggested. I had to sign off on different parts of this publication process including the ebook now advertised for $3.99 on Amazon. Two lovely reviews are now on Amazon and those reviewers got their ebook from Amazon. 

You can order Getting Through the Dark Days of Caregiving from Xlibris, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Have NO idea how I will get paid for this book, folks! I can buy them myself from Xlibris and then charge the regular price for them. I mailed priority rate books to four people for about $8 per book!

My free book copies came last Tuesday night when I got home from Toastmasters--two hard back copies and eleven paperback copies. I am keeping one hard back copy and gave the other one to Huntsville Health and Rehab that has one picture and input in the book. You may recall that I lived there for three weeks, and visit there regularly, including seeing my friend Virginia who turned 100 February 21, 2019. 

I had two experts read and endorse the book: Dr. Eyrich and Rev. Mahn. I personally brought Dr. Eyrich's book to him last Thursday in Birmingham. That day I also gave one copy to the Alabama Alzheimer's Association located in Birmingham. Rev. Mahn will get his book Tuesday night at a Huntsville grief group dinner that I am going to. Mahn helped me with my own grief and that tenth chapter on grief. There are others who helped edit the book and their names are in the acknowledgments.

Friday I substituted at a middle school where I have many fans because they like my raps. I showed off the hard copy and they clapped. I wanted them to know that I am not just a silly substitute who raps and has a YouTube, but wrote a serious book. 

Caregiving is serious 
and so is my book! 
Y'all buy it! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

CarMax and My Trade-In

This is the last car that I got for and with my late husband. I thought the price of this car was through the roof and strangely that day when I came home something else went through the roof (of the garage of our home in Plant City). I had gone up in the attic to get the artificial Christmas tree down. Usually my husband would do this. Unfortunately I stepped the wrong place and my leg went through the ceiling.  I blogged about it HERE. 

As you may recall, my husband died June 2014 from mixed dementia in Plant City, Florida. In June of 2015 I moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where I have family. My great family here loan cars to one another when there is car trouble. In my case they also drive me at night now because I need cataract eye surgery. People in my church here give me rides to night-time events. During Christmas break when I did not substitute teach I put my car in for more diagnostic work. 

This diagnosis went on for quite a while earlier in the fall. My GMC would work and then the car would make a noise. I put it in for diagnosis when I didn't need a car. My wonderful brother loaned me his car so I could work during the first week of January when school resumed and I could substitute teach again. I knew that I had to get a used car and not keep borrowing my brother's car while he drove his wife's car.  

The first Saturday in January my friend Sherry who was also searching for a new car and I set off for CarMax. We met a wonderful saleslady, Le-George. She introduced me to the Buick Encore. She has another job, but would be back Thursday night and this selected car was held until then. 

Now I am not driving at night because I am due for cataract surgery January 23 and 30. So the plan was I would enlist my brother to drive the car I was trading in to get to CarMax at 6 pm January 10. 

Thursdays I do not work because I spend time with my friend Virginia, soon to be 100 years of age. We have a ladies Bible study at church in the morning and then go to lunch. I left the lunch in my brother's car to pick up my brother and take him to his bridge game. I went home to gather my financial papers for the trade-in and possible sale that night.

Suddenly I got a call from my brother asking me to pick up his daughter (my niece) and her kids and take her for medical attention since his wife couldn't be reached on her phone. I did that and brought the kids to the other grandmother. Hurriedly I gathered up papers. Then about 4 pm  I left my brother's car at my apartment and drove my GMC to pick up my brother at his bridge game. I worried that it wouldn't make it to CarMax. We stopped for dinner and wonderfully we did make it to CarMax. We made a deal--$3000 for my car and car payments for the Buick Encore.

My brother drove the Buick to my apartment and then drove his own car I had been driving home. It's good he doesn't have to drive his wife's car now. What a kind family I have here!

Update:  mice are gone from my apartment now. (See last post.)

Post to follow: this senior citizen/widow gets cataract eye surgery and a driving test so in February she can drive at night. 
No,  I didn't get to the keep the bow!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 Goal and Uninvited Visitors

Ziggy is compassionate. 
He whimpered on a walk 
when we found a dead squirrel.

H O W E  V E R!

My dog Ziggy and I have had mice for two months! 

At first the apartment management brought paper traps that are sticky on the inside. Hasn't been effective! The apartment then came with wooden mouse traps. 

The only thing that works is a wooden mouse trap. 

One night I heard scratching in the wall and so did Ziggy. Couldn't sleep that night!

60 pouches with some broken into!

Meanwhile, the critters have been getting into his Moist and Meaty food! I taped it up and then turned the box around and sure enough! Mice had broken in! 

 Not only have they gotten into his food, but at the end of two months they brazenly parade in front of us! 

What is a poor widow to do, folks!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dogs and Our Recent Alzheimer's Association Walk

Ziggy and I at a Walk
My friend Connie and her dog Donner accompanied my dog Ziggy and me on an Alzheimer's Association Walk last month. We received scarves for our dogs there and Ziggy proudly wore his scarf on the walk. Donner's neck was too small for him to wear his, but Connie took that scarf home.

Now Connie and her husband Gary had two other dogs given to them recently--Brody and Midnight.  It was doggie chaos when I visited them! Brody kept running away, jumping over the fence in their back yard and the last time Brody ran away he was wearing an Alzheimer's Association scarf.

With surgery coming up for both Connie and Gary, they knew that they could keep only their original small calm dog Donner--not the two other dogs which caused so much havoc in the home.

Neither Connie nor Gary were currently driving and so I took my friend Connie and Midnight to Huntsville Animal Services. I made the case for their taking Midnight, and incidentally mentioned that there was another dog named Brody who had run away from their property. They were happy to take Midnight, although it made Connie tearful to give him up.

The next day I got an email from an Alzheimer's Association office here in Alabama.

Are you missing a dog named Brody?
He was found in South Huntsvile about two weeks ago and taken to Animal Care Cinic. Brody had an incorrect address and incomplete name on chip so they've been unable to connect him with his owner.  He was found with an Alzheimer's Association awareness walk bandanna so hopefully he joined our walk on September 29th and we can help with the reunion. If you know Brody please get in touch with Huntsville Animal Services.

What a coincidence! The two robust dog buddies were there! I let the Alzheimer's Association know that Brody was not my dog, but I did know about him. I drove to Connie and Gary's house and got Brody's paper work. When I brought that paperwork to Huntsville Animal Services, I found out the good news that Brody had been adopted and that most likely Midnight, not yet one years of age, would be also. 

So this is the story of how that Alzheimer's Association walk led to both dogs being adopted. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Virginia Turns 99 Today

Sunday birthday cake with our church bunch
Some of her friends
We celebrated after church on Sunday at Grandmother's House Restaurant.

The seniors at church got
her a special cushion
for her wheel chair.


She has a great sense of humor. The birthday card I got her says that all our friends are jealous of how we look at our ages; that card opens and you hear music--perfect for her good hearing. She laughs at this.  Together we get along.  I tell her I don't hear well (I have hearing aids) and she doesn't see well. We make one person. We have both buried two husbands and have learned a lot about each other. 

Virginia visited by
Choir Director Bess. 

She sang in the choir for 60 years and when I visit her, we choose a hymn she knows by heart for the weekly Praise and Prayer Meeting held at the residence where she lives.  She used to cook dinner at her home for the Praise and Prayer Meeting. That whole prayer meeting moved to Huntsville Health and Rehab Center when she had to move there! 

She is a proper lady. She regularly gets out with a driver for her car. She goes to a church Bible study and Sunday services. She gets her hair and nails done.  December of 2015 when I first moved to Huntsville, we went to the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist. She stood for the Hallelujah Chorus pulling herself up with the bench in front of her. 

Through her I have learned to love old hymns and value taking time to pray for one another. We adopted each other.

Happy Birthday, Virginia!

I want to be like you when I am 99. 

How would the LORD get me to my church's prayer meeting? I broke my two feet and ended up there for three weeks (what my insurance covered).  Now I keep going. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What to Tell Someone Newly Diagnosed With Alzheimer's

Today would have been my late husband's 80th b.d. I recorded his illness and last days on this blog. He died from mixed dementia (Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's) in our Plant City home on June 23, 2014. He was told the news that he had this disease with the doctor's simple,

Mr. Johnson, you have dementia. 

No other instructions. Nada. So I, his wife and caregiver, had to come up with a plan. On retrospect, I wish he had been told these instructions.

  1. Mr. Johnson, live life for each day.
  2. Organize your finances. 
  3. You don't need to work forever. Plan to retire.
  4. Your mind will play tricks on you and you need to trust your wife to be your helpmate and help you to decide each day. She will give you a schedule so you know what is happening.
  5. Stop using guns and equipment that might not be safe for you or others. Eventually you will not be safe to drive. 
  6. You will eventually need help recognizing your surroundings because you do not feel at home. You want to "go home". But accept your wife and other caregivers judgments. 
  7. This life is not all. You as a Christian have heaven to look forward to. Your wife and others will be there for you. 

But we learned as we went along. 

Happy Birthday in Heaven,
I will always remember you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Alzheimer's Association Walks

Botanical Gardens
September 9th I walked in the Huntsville, Alabama Alzheimer's Association walk and appreciate the friends who contributed to this walk. Note that I made a skirt from previous walks. 

Since this blog has a Facebook "Like" page, I decided to boost the picture and also to use it as the header for that like page. I received so many likes on that page--236 to date. I reached 2,328 people before I stopped running the ad.  Good decision to make a skirt out of previous walk T-shirts and glad I ran the ad. Now to pay for it! 

There was to be another walk in Decatur, Alabama about 45 minutes away on September 23. I volunteered to help there also. 
Dianne Pierson leading the Decatur program
Me helping in the Decatur booth

Paisley's  master died, but the son carries on the tradition of walking.
Dogs grieve too as did my dog after my husband died from Mixed Dementia.