Dementia Caregiving Ain’t For Wimps!

As most of our readers know, Ducky’s HuDad was diagnosed with dementia last year; and we’ve been through some weeks of dementia-related episodes.

This past week has seen more episodes. Without going into details, I can tell you they were not directed at me like the past ones. BUT random short ones have been directed at poor Ducky all week. Thankfully he hasn’t tried to hurt her, but he has yelled at her. And we all know that “barking” back at a dog – especially an already anxious one – just makes matters worse. The problem is that hubby has absolutely no reasoning ability when the dementia takes hold. 💔

I’ve been able to keep myself on an even keel by constantly reminding myself that it’s the dementia, not hubby.

But how does one explain to a dog why “Daddy” sometimes acts like an ogre? It’s not possible. 💔 So I do my best to stay calm and help her calm down. She’s resting at the moment; but every time hubby says anything or gets up to do something, she gets anxious again.

If you’ve noticed I haven’t been around much lately, this is why.

Right now Ducky wants to be back outside and away from her Daddy’s negative energy.

It’s hot out here, but I’ve got her favorite toy, water bowl, and my water. If being outside helps my baby girl feel better, it’s worth putting up with the heat for a while.

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.

The Change, Part 3

Well, here we are again at the start of a new food transition process. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

When I first decided to switch Shadow and Ducky to The Farmer’s Dog, I knew it was expensive. More than we could really afford for both dogs. I just had to hope it would make a big-enough difference for them to justify the expense. And, in some important ways it did make a difference, especially for Shadow.

With the recent recalls by HillsPet of the dogs’ former food – for potential excessive Vitamin D levels – I am extremely happy I made the change to The Farmer’s Dog when I did. But now it’s time for another change to a more affordable option. And, actually, I have two options but for now I’m trying one at a time.

First, let me tell you that I am not transitioning the girls from The Farmer’s Dog for any reason other than cost. They both love the food, it’s easy to prepare and feed, it smells a helluva lot better than the Hills crap, and it doesn’t turn Shadow into a fart machine. In fact, since fully transitioning both girls in early December, Shadow’s digestive system has been able to handle emotional stress much better and she is not nearly as lactose intolerant as she had been on the Hills crap. The only thing I was getting concerned about was the fact that both girls seemed to always be hungry, even though I finally got their daily calorie amounts to an appropriate level for them. And Shadow even seemed to be losing weight. She looks now like she may have put some weight back on though so maybe she’s back on track.

Anyway, over the past few weeks I’ve been looking for more viable, affordable options. I want to stay with 100% human-grade food, but I wasn’t having much luck. Then, on Thursday night while I was surfing Chewy’s website, I found it.

The order arrived on Saturday afternoon, so I started the transition process on Sunday morning. For these first few days I’m going to just use it as a “food topper”, but I’ll mix it in and use some warm water to hydrate the veggies and fruit a teensy bit (and soften the carrots and other veggies in the TFD food). I noticed almost immediately that even though Ducky tends to “inhale” her food, she hasn’t had any of it get stuck on its way down her esophagus (like the kibble used to do, causing much anxiety and obsessive behavior). That’s a BIG plus in my eyes!

If this transition goes well – and I fully expect it to – I might switch to buying it direct from Only Natural Pet; but I don’t have to decide that right now. For now I’m focused on getting my girls on a healthy yet affordable food plan. Keep your fingers crossed. 🤞

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.

Thoughts On A Rainy Day

With all the rain in our forecast today it seems a good one to think “out loud”.

First of all, I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and had a safe and happy New Year’s Eve/Day!

We enjoyed the company of my only sibling – my older brother – from the 19th to the 28th of December. Poor Ducky was stressed-out a good part of the time. She just doesn’t like “strangers” in her house, especially men who are taller than me. All in all though, she did okay. Our house does not lend itself to containment at all, so we kept her harnessed and leashed.

The day after Christmas we left the dogs on their own in the house for a few hours while we spent time meeting up with hubby’s brother and sister-in-law. I made the mistake of not getting a pet sitter to let the girls outside for a break….

When we arrived home, I immediately leashed Ducky and took the dogs out to the backyard while hubby and bro put up their jackets. It was then that hubby found the consequence of Ducky’s boredom….

Several of our Christmas packages had been chewed on, and the contents of one was totally gone. Nine tiny pieces of dark-chocolate candy that bro had brought home from his trip to Costa Rica. I felt like such a jerk! Lesson learned the expensive way….

Hubby, the dogs, and I spent the next two hours at the vet’s. First Ducky, and then Shadow, were treated to prevent chocolate poisoning. I won’t go into detail, so suffice it to say all is well.

Now, I know that before Christmas I had promised y’all a “Part 2” post about the change in the dogs’ food. Well, it’s not even in the draft stage yet; but I’ll get it done eventually. For now, though, it’s time to get some lunch and finish reading the book I started right after Thanksgiving.

The dogs are enjoying a nap and allowing me some much-needed peace and quiet.

Grateful for Good News

Last weekend I was watching all of us here. I was watching Shadow for signs of a returning UTI. I was watching Ducky for signs of snarkiness toward Shadow. I was watching hubby for signs of dementia-induced temper tantrums. And I was watching myself for signs of stress overload.

Well, so far it’s been a good week. No snarkiness from Ducky, no temper tantrums, and no stress overload on me.

But the best news? I got good news from the vet yesterday afternoon: Shadow’s UTI is cleared up. She’s not just looking and acting like she feels better; she actually IS better. Her white blood cell count is back to normal.

So, this last week will be added to the list of good weeks to be grateful for. And here are two lovelies for whom I’m eternally grateful…

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.

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.

While I Was Gone…

Have you been wondering where we’ve been the last few months? Well, I promise we hadn’t forgotten about you all. It’s just that our living arrangements were a bit skewed.

I spent the last few months helping my brother take care of some household work that’s more easily handled by two (or more) persons. And making sure his dog, Boozy, got the love and attention he deserves throughout. And look at this face. Isn’t he precious?!

I admit that although I was happy to be able to help my brother, I left home with some anxiety about leaving Shadow and Ducky alone with their dog-daddy. Thankfully, Angel Callie, God, and the universe were watching over them all and things were pretty peaceful.

Some of the good news is that Ducky was – in hubby’s words – “really, really good” and got along fine with Shadow.

While I was gone, hubby decided to allow Ducky the freedom to roam the house with Shadow whenever he had to go out somewhere. I wasn’t very happy about it at first. I know how snarky Ducky can be toward Shadow at times. But there was never any sign of even the slightest “argument” between them, so I relaxed. Angel Callie was watching over her sisters for me.

Then there’s Ducky’s rather vociferous way of saying “I have to go out.” I was a bit concerned that the ever-impatient dog-daddy would make her forever afraid of him with his grumpy responses. Thankfully, hubby kept his cool more often than not.

Long-time readers of our blog know that Shadow has caused me some rather stressful hours, days, and even weeks with her eating habits over the last few years.

In February – before I left to go to my brother’s home – I was still splitting her breakfast into two meals. And getting stressed when she wouldn’t eat. And hubby continued the “schedule” for the first two weeks. And he started getting stressed-out about her not eating. And he’d call me and get me stressed-out.

Then I “decided” our stress was getting to Shadow and making it worse for her. So, I instructed him to just pick up and cover her bowl when she wouldn’t eat and stick it in the fridge. “Just give it to her for dinner.” Some mornings she ate all her food, some mornings only some of it, and some mornings she wouldn’t touch it. But by dinner time she was hungry enough to eat a full meal.

I came home for a week while my brother’s best buddy visited with him. Shadow’s follow-up blood work and abdominal ultrasound came due that week. More good news: her liver enzyme levels were back to normal and the nodule on her spleen was still unchanged (after a year’s time). The vet said to keep her on the Denamarin long-term “and keep up the good work” with her exercise.

So, while she still refuses to eat some mornings, my girl is doing really well for her age. And I no longer worry if she doesn’t eat breakfast, as long as she eats dinner and otherwise acts “normal” during the day.

As the weeks stretched into months, I grew more and more concerned about hubby’s stress levels. He’s not meant to be a “bachelor”. It was past time to come home. I’ve been here a week now. I miss my brother and Boozy – and they miss me – but I’m back where I belong. And it feels good.