Shadow’s Golden Years

These last several weeks I’ve been watching Shadow closely. At times she seemed in great shape – playing with Ducky, chasing her favorite ball, almost running up the three steps to the main part of the house – and other times she stumbles or misjudges her footing on the steps. Those tough times have really been breaking my heart these last few weeks.

Ten days ago she stopped eating her food. And this is food she has loved from day one. She was taking her pills – wrapped in pieces of pill pocket – and treats. She especially loves the treats I bought from Jan at Wag-n-Woof Pets. And on Wednesday of the week before last, when she was so hesitant to go down the steps to the back door, I immediately called the vet and made an appointment. Meanwhile, with hubby’s help, I got her outside and walking around. She did well.

On Friday morning, we went to see the vet. After a hands-on body exam, the vet said that my poor girl had somehow pulled the groin muscle in her right rear leg. And sure enough even I could feel how tight it was. It will take 10-14 days to heal. And her appetite should follow suit. We decided to treat her with muscle relaxants. On Day Five I was only starting to see slight improvement. She slept most of the day. And she balked at going down the steps to the back door.

Saturday last week was hubby’s birthday and we had the pet sitter take care of the dogs so we could go up to Charlotte (NC) to spend the day with his son and his family. I felt a little guilty leaving Shadow; but I knew Susan loves my girls and would take good care of both of them, so I didn’t worry too much. On Sunday afternoon, I pulled out the Carelift lifting harness I had bought for Shadow a couple of years ago. (I got the idea from our friends, Joy and her Emma at My GBGV Life when their Katie was a senior and needed assistance on her walks.)

This past Wednesday was Shadow’s biannual senior exam. The muscle relaxant was already doing its job on the groin muscle; but it was also suppressing Shadow’s appetite and making her seem almost lethargic at times. Getting her up on her feet and outside for bathroom breaks – even with hubby’s help – was difficult at best. Anyway, her labs came back pretty close to normal. Once she’s been off the muscle relaxant and the week’s worth of NSAIDs to help strengthen her joints for two weeks, we’ll do the labs again to make sure everything is back on track.

It’s now Day Nine of the muscle relaxants and Day Three of the Meloxicam for her joints, and I’m finally seeing promising improvements in Shadow’s overall mobility. Her appetite is still mostly suppressed, but after a few days of not even wanting treats, she’s back to taking them from me again. It’s not great, but it’s a start that makes this dog mom feel better.

Knowing my sweet girl’s age is catching up with her breaks my heart. She’s had some tough times in the three and a half years since her older sister – and best friend – got her angel wings; but Callie has stayed with her in spirit and helped me get her through it all. This past week in particular I was beginning to wonder if Callie was trying to tell me Shadow’s time to join her was coming soon. I know it will eventually; but I don’t think Shadow’s ready quite yet. Her eyes are still bright, and she’s back to fighting for her independence. I know she misses Callie, but Ducky’s been keeping her company and mostly been a sweet little sister. Especially this past week.

Venting and Letting It Go

As a lifetime partner with my hubby and caregiver for my two dogs, I deal with a lot of “stuff”; but this post isn’t about the dogs. It’s not even about my hubby. It’s about human specialized medical practices.

And, as the title of this post suggests, I’m just going to vent my frustrations and then let them go.

My main frustration is with the power that hospital systems have over doctors and their ability to meet their patients’ special needs. And then there’s the frustration with doctors who take it personally when their patients refuse referral to another specialist 200 miles away just because of their particular hospital affiliation.

That recently happened to us (a second time) this past week. Hubby’s gastroenterologist wants him to see a specialist 200 miles away. We explained to him – as politely as we could – that we cannot and will not travel that far. We are not about to inflict the physical, mental, emotional and financial hardships upon ourselves that would come with such travel. Surely there are other esophageal specialists much closer to home to whom he could refer us. Despite our refusal, this doctor – who has been treating hubby’s gastric issues for a minimum of 15 years – has his office set up an appointment with said specialist. When we received the appointment notice, we called the local doctor and told his nurse, in no uncertain terms, that we are NOT traveling 200 miles to see said specialist. A few days later, the nurse called back and said that the doctor was referring us back to our primary care physician for this and all future gastroenterology issues. In other words, unless you go see the specialist affiliated with our hospital, you are no longer our patient.

Whatever happened to compassion and working with the patient to assure that all his/her needs are met, including the emotional needs that go hand-in-hand with the medical needs?? Apparently, the Hippocratic oath they all take – or at least used to take – does not count for s**t any more when they sign an affiliation contract with a particular hospital system.

Okay, so I’ve vented my frustrations with the medical care system in this country. Now it’s time to let it go. Thanks for letting me bend your ear for a few minutes.

Watchful Weekend

Well, we’ve had another (mostly) peaceful week. Hubby seems to have completely forgotten the two weeks of pure hell. That’s more than just “good”. He’s had a few minor “tantrums”, but at least they weren’t directed at the dogs or me.

Shadow’s UTI appears to be cleared up. I gave her the last antibiotic dose yesterday afternoon. She’s eating better again. And she’s playing more. Still, after all that’s been going on around here this past month, the vet agreed with me that we should do a follow-up urinalysis next week.

Ducky’s still a bit reactive when hubby comes out of the bedroom in the morning but is generally settling down faster. And she’s still being sweet toward Shadow for the most part.

As I’ve said before, being a caregiver for/to a dementia patient is not for wimps. Especially when you’re also “Mom” to pets who depend on you for everything, from meals and vet care to playtime and lovies, not to mention keeping things as calm and peaceful as possible. That’s a ton of responsibility to heap on one person day in and day out. It can wreak havoc with one’s internal balance.

So, this weekend I’m watching both dogs for reactions to people food that hubby sneaks to them. And watching hubby for signs of oncoming temper tantrums. And watching myself for signs of stress and that overwhelmed feeling.

A Peaceful Week

Thankfully it has been a fairly peaceful week around here. My gratitude goes out to my caregiver coach and the nurse practitioner who’s been seeing hubby at the aging center. They have been wonderful! And of course to family members.

After those two weeks of pure hell – the week I wrote about here and the one immediately after it – I couldn’t stand another minute of the stress on any of us. So, I used a little “trick” the NP told me about and it worked. I spent a few days praying it wouldn’t come back to bite me in the butt, but I’ve let go of that fear.

Shadow’s white blood cell count shot up as a result of her stress, causing a UTI. Thankfully I caught it early. I got a urine sample to the vet the morning it first presented symptoms; and by that afternoon, I was able to give Shadow her first antibiotic. Within 24 hours, it was already starting to clear up.

Poor Ducky started reacting again to every noise, every movement that hubby makes. Thankfully, I had half a bottle of her doggy Xanax left from last year. She is still a bit anxious/reactive now, but seems to be settling down a bit faster. That reminds me – I need to get a refill next week.

And, I have finally been able to get some better sleep. Ducky’s barking still drives me nuts at times, but at least I can #getoverit faster. And I’m better able to let go of hubby’s dementia-induced moments.

As much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t been working with Ducky much since I got home from Florida at the end of May. When she needed a break from the insanity, I took the easy way out and let her spend time at daycare. Well, that’s changing. She will still spend at least one day a week at daycare, but in between we will get back to “work” on her anxieties and reactivity. I’ll write more about that at a later date.

So, as we enter a second (hopefully) peaceful week, I wish all of you peace and love as well. ☮️❤️

Living in the Moment

If you are one of our “regular” readers, you know that my hubby is a dementia patient (in the early-middle stages). If not, you can read about it here, if you want to.

The past week (since a week-ago yesterday) has literally been hell on earth here at our house – and in the truck or car. For the last eight days, I’ve felt like I’m walking on egg shells. And the poor dogs have been stressed-out way more than I can deal with emotionally. Yesterday, I asked our vet – via text – if Xanax was safe enough for Shadow. That’s how bad it was on Friday night. He responded affirmatively and with the suggested dosage. Bless that man!!!

So far – since late yesterday afternoon – things have been fairly calm and peaceful. I’m praying they stay that way. And I’m trying hard to live in the moment. Last night – just before bedtime – I gave both girls a dose of the Xanax in case things went downhill again. They slept through the night. And, so did I once I turned the tv off.

Living with a dementia patient is NOT for wimps, I can tell you for sure! Especially if you also live with animals who are as sensitive and tuned into your own moods as mine are. And they react to it in different ways. (Shadow runs away to hide; Ducky barks almost incessantly.)

The dogs and I are in the back yard, getting away from the tv news and getting some fresh air. I’m praying that when we go back inside, peace and calm will still prevail. And I will try to keep living in the moment.

Have a great week! And please send us energy and light for a peaceful week; or say a prayer, light a candle, whatever. Thank you for being there for us as we travel this road. Peace and Love!! 💓

You Are Not Alone

Today I’m sharing a very personal story. My hope is that in sharing this story I can let others who have similar stories know that they are not alone.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with “mixed dementia”, with vascular dementia being the most prevalent. Although he has exhibited the various symptoms to varying degrees over the last several years, I – and our former primary doctor – attributed those symptoms to various other health issues.

Some of the effects of hubby’s dementia are the inability to reason, to accept facts that he doesn’t agree with, and to exhibit inappropriate behaviors. It’s not constant, but at times it seems to manifest more frequently.

We also have two dogs with various gastrointestinal issues. They both have sensitive stomachs, they both have one degree or another of lactose intolerance, and they both react when their systems are overloaded with the wrong food and treats.

For the sake of my dogs’ health status, I have to be on guard constantly. It’s impossible to convince hubby that this human treat or that human food item isn’t good for the dogs.

(I used to attribute this trait to just being “a man thing” but now I’m not so sure.)

It’s like trying to reason with a toddler who wants to share his potato chips with the family dog. That toddler isn’t old enough to understand that the family dog’s system can’t handle the chips or other human treats. And hubby’s capacity to reason has been diminished to that same level. When my calm requests that he not share those human treats and food items are met with snarkiness, it tears me apart.

All is not negative, however. A Nurse Practitioner who works at our hospital system’s Center For Successful Aging prescribed Namenda to help slow the progression of some of hubby’s symptoms. While he only started this drug last week, his mood changes already seem to have leveled out somewhat.

Now I need to work on my own stress levels. (Better sleeping habits would be a good start.) I have been doing some research, as well as subscribing to a newsletter from the Alzheimer’s organization. Additionally, family members and friends have been super supportive all along, even before our first appointment at the aging center. There is also a local support program for caregivers – called REACH – and I will be meeting with one of their folks soon.

If you deal with a similar situation, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments. Maybe we can help each other.