Friday, August 21, 2015

My 36 Hour Day - Or "Why I Can't Get Shit Done"

I was having a conversation with a friend recently and was lamenting the fact that I just don’t seem to ever get anything accomplished on my “to do” list.  It seems I’m busy all the time and constantly on the move, but nothing is getting done. 

Now, this friend knows my situation.  She knows I have an 87 year old Alzheimer’s toddler to deal with, a 16 year old dog that was NEVER trained to do anything but yip and whine, two grown cats who are relatively care free, and one new kitten with special needs.  Oh, and I work full time and just picked up a second job doing some work from home. 

So, really, this friend just looks at me and says, “you seemed to have a good schedule going, doesn’t that help?”  To which I reply, “you’d think, but for some reason, no.” 

The Alzheimer’s Association passes out a book to those of us in their support groups called The 36 Hour Day.  Basically, it describes what it’s like to live with someone who has Alzheimer’s and being their caregiver.  It offers advice, some hints at the obstacles we’re likely to encounter and basically the tagline should read: “Buck up, you’re not alone and this too shall pass. Meanwhile expect to deal with all this crap you before it does.”

My response to that: I’m tired of bucking up; basically, no I AM alone; and I’m really not sure if it will pass before it kills me.  Meanwhile, yes, I’m dealing with all this crap.

Yesterday I decided to really pay attention to my day to see why I wasn’t getting anything done and so, here’s what I found: For people in this situation, we do indeed need 36 hours in our day.  We worry about not only ourselves, but about the safety of the person we're caring for, maybe their finances, maybe an illness. 

Eats what he wants ONLY.

We cook for them if they will eat and worry if they won't and then make special arrangements so they will eat again.  We clean them and the messes they make over and over and over again, because that's just the way life is.  We pars out our own lives in increments of whatever amounts of time we can leave them either unattended or find someone who will stay with them while we're not there, but while we're gone we worry that we need to be at home.  Plus, unlike those caring for children, we don't have the future to look forward to - these people aren't going to get smarter, better, know who we are, or how to deal with their own shit ever.  It's all downhill from here and we're on a fast jog trying to stay one step in front of it.

So, here's my typical day...let's try to see where I loose out on those extra 12 hours.

Up at 6:15 in a panic because I’m worried about Dad’s finances.  IRA distributions are due but Dad steals the mail most days before I get home, so if there was a check in there it could be trash by now or hidden away in one of his drawers (last week I found my paycheck stuffed in the back of his closet underneath some old pillows).  This gives me nightmares and some mornings I wake up in a panic that I’m missing something or have lost track of something important.

Purr-fect for Meditation
Being awake now means the cats have noticed me jumping out of bed yelling “Oh God!” because I’m in a panic.  Cats now want attention, so I get back into bed for a few minutes to get some good purring to settle my nerves.

6:30 Alarm goes off, officially time to get up.  Kitten still cuddled on my neck so I give him an extra 2 minutes.  Big cats know it’s almost breakfast time so they wander downstairs.

Dad must have already been awake because now he’s in the bathroom.  (Disclosure: old men are gross.  Especially old men with Alzheimer’s.)  Pee is everywhere in the bathroom.  Poop is wiped on most surfaces within arms reach of the toilet.  Because of this, first task of the morning is to wipe down the toilet and surrounding surfaces with bleach wipes so that it’s usable to the other person in the house…me.

Dad heads downstairs to forage for cookies so I take a minute to look in his room for the missing wash cloths.  I usually keep mine in my room because he steals every single wash cloth and towel from the bathrooms every single day.  I don’t know why, but that’s how it is.  Last night I forgot to bring in my wash cloth so now it’s missing and I go looking for it.  Find a dozen cloths in his room, put them all in the laundry and get a clean one out of the closet for me.

Get into the shower. Dad makes his way back upstairs and I guess he can’t hear the shower because he barges in again wanting to use the toilet.  I chase him out so I can finish my shower and quickly decide that’s probably not the best idea.  I turn off the water, put a towel around me and rush out to find him standing in the back room getting ready to pee on the floor in the corner. (note to self, that was probably not rain I found there the other day after the storm.)  Get Dad back into the bathroom to pee while I stand outside in dripping wet hair waiting for him to finish.  And waiting. And waiting.  Oh, did I mention, he’s not only gross, but he’s really, really slow.

Dad back in his room, me back in my shower and back on track.  Only running 10 minutes behind schedule so far.

Due to all the commotion, the dog is now awake and prancing around because she has to pee too.  Throw on a robe, rush downstairs to let the dog outside but cannot find her leash because Dad’s “put it away” again somewhere only he knows about.  So out the dog goes and she runs off down the driveway barking.  I’m not dressed to chase her so I hope she gets run over by the garbage truck.

My floors after the cookie handler
Back upstairs and into my room to get dressed for the day to find Dad in my room making my bed.  For him, that means, taking all the pillows and putting them in the closet and when he’s done doing that he usually steals anything on my nightstand that looks shiny, like my reading glasses, nail clippers, iPhone, TV remote, etc.  So I have him empty his pockets so I can retrieve my glasses and send him out of my room so I can get dressed.  And let’s note here that one hand is holding a squished up cookie, so as he’s doing all of this he’s scattering cookie crumbs all over the room.

Finally I’m dressed and ready to head back downstairs where I hear the dog barking to be let back in. I remember to close and lock my bedroom door to keep Dad from “making” the bed anymore today.  Or peeing in my trash can.  Or stealing the cookies I have stashed in my nightstand.  Or taking the jewelry out of my jewelry box (he’s been wearing my old wedding ring now for about 4 months, go figure).

Dad’s been down to the kitchen multiple times overnight so there are cups on the sink where he’s been getting something to drink (a fresh one each time it appears), water dripping from the counter because he doesn’t get the concept of emptying the cup before turning it upside down on the counter, cookie crumbs are all over the counters and floor, the dog leash is stuffed inside one of the cups and there is pee all over the downstairs toilet.  Not the worst morning, but still not good.  *More later on other stuff that makes me scratch my noggin.

Anyway…first things first, feed the crying cats.  Then let the dog back in.  Wipe down the toilet with bleach and wash my hands hoping I don’t stink like pee when I get to work.  Clean off the counters and floor of cookie crumbs, wash out the cookie/snack container and put in more for this morning’s foraging efforts while I’m gone.  Double check to make sure whatever he’s being fed for lunch is ready for Joyce to give him.  Pick up my own lunch if I had time to make one last night, pack my lunch bag.  Remember to put the bedroom key on its hook because so far Dad hasn’t figured out where it’s at.  Check to make sure there isn’t any food left out that he can make a mess with and then…

It’s 7:20, time to head out for work.

What follows is almost 9 hours of blissful not-at-home-ness.

Then I get to come home from a good day at the office to do some more fun stuff.  Let's see if I can figure out yet why I'm not getting all that other "stuff" done that I want to get done.

Tonight Dad's dinner is pancakes and I'm eating an ear of corn and some tomatoes.  Ready?  Get set!  Let's go!

Discovered I was out of pancake mix so stopped to make a big batch of mix before I could make dinner for Dad. 

Dinner finally fixed, 6 additional batches of mix put in freezer for future use.  Here's a link to my favorite pancake mix recipe.  Thank you King Arthur Flour!

Discovered Dad has shut the basement door (again) locking the kitten away from his litter box.  Kitten forced to poop on my carpets after finally learning last week that his box is in the basement.  Kitten poop, but the way, is a lot like baby poop.  Stinky and messy.  Picked up the messy parts, note to self to clean carpet tonight sometime.

Chopped Corn Salad!
Since I’m cooking corn anyway, I decide to fix all 4 ears and make a corn salad for the weekend.  While the corn is
cooking, begin chopping garlic, tomatoes, radishes, onion, peppers, cilantro, etc.  And while I’m at it, once the corn is off the cobs, boil them to make corn stock for the freezer for later corn chowder making time.

Coax Dad downstairs for dinner.  Finally on his third trip down the steps, I corral him outside to the table to eat. (It’s well noted that when I call him, or go get him for dinner out of his sitting room on the second floor, he might make his way downstairs but forgets why he’s there, so invariable he makes several trips up and down the steps before I finally grab him to come to the table.  Such is the life of a person with no memory.)

Sit down for 5 minutes to eat.  Dad’s finished first so before he runs back upstairs out of my grasp, I shove him into the bathroom for his shower.

Shower night for Dad again.  45 minutes of struggling to get him undressed, showered, shaved and into clean clothes and back upstairs out of my way.  I realize I forgot to get his clean clothes from his bedroom upstairs, so while he’s in the shower, I run up to get them before he comes out of the shower and walks out wearing nothing but his shoes.  Yes, I speak from experience.

And while I was upstairs grabbing his clothes, I notice something missing from his bed...all the sheets are gone.  Not much time to scratch my head over this one just now, but a quick search around the room fails to reveal where he might have hidden them.  We'll never know WHY they're missing, just that they are.  One more thing to chalk up to Alzheimer's.  Quick, get back downstairs before he's finished in the shower.  Worry about missing sheets another time.

Thankfully, Dad is still pretty good at dressing himself after a shower.  As long as it's staged properly, he usually comes out fully clothed.  Most days his shirt is on right side around and sometimes I'll find his clean underwear stuffed on the towel rack, but there's no shame in that I suppose.  I know that won't always be the case, but for today, he looks like he's all dressed so I shoo him back upstairs.  Where he will promptly go to bed in a bed with no sheets.  Oh well. I'm choosing to ignore that battle for today.

Wash the dinner dishes.

After deciding to make the corn salad I discovered I didn’t have any black beans, so a trip to the store was made to buy beans.  While out, got gas for the car and took the dog to the park to run for a few minutes.

Forgot about the corn salad dressing.  Get out limes, squeeze limes, make dressing.  YUM!  Best part of the whole night!

While chopping stuff for the corn salad, might as well clean out the refrigerator to find all the rest of the stuff I need.  Discovered spilled something all over bottom shelf so had to clear out said shelves and wash down completely.

Since Dad was done in the bathroom, clean the shower and sink and scrub down the toilet AGAIN.  Clean out his razor.  Shower water all over everything so, hang rugs, towels outside to dry and mop up the floor.

Cats hungry – feed cats (easiest task of the night)

Dog wants out.  She runs off again out of the yard because Dad has once again hidden her leash and I cannot find it.  When I finally find it, it’s knotted up so much I cannot undo it, get frustrated with it, throw it in a heap on the floor and hope the dog gets run over by a car.

Corn salad a complete success but it’s made an overwhelming amount.  Text to friends to see if they want some.  Put into travel containers for pick up.

While clearing out the fridge, discovered two melon halves stuffed in the back.  Still good.  Seed,
peel and cube melons.  Add the bit of pineapple also discovered stuffed in the back.  Take out trash.

Freezer - a little too well stocked.
Oh, buy the way, the corn stock is ready for the freezer.  Locate containers with matching lids, and try to fit in freezer.  Freezer full.  Now spend 20 minutes clearing out the freezer to make way for the corn stock.

It's getting late, nearly 9pm and I'm still in the kitchen.

Wash salad making dishes, containers emptied from fridge during clean out, wash the cat dishes.

The dog is finally back home and hungry.  Rummage in fridge for rotisserie chicken, chop up and give to dog.  She turns her nose and walks away, the kitten gobbles it down.  Dog still hungry.  Kitten over full and pukes up chicken all over carpet.  Note to self, clean this spot too when cleaning the poop spot.

Snack Box
I’m tired.  Before heading to bed, must put out snacks for night-walking Dad who will be tearing up the kitchen foraging for food if nothing is left in his reach.  Wash his snack box, find fresh snacks and put up for him to “find”.

 While cleaning out the fridge, chopping up vegetables and peeling melons, etc, I managed to track old food stuff all over the kitchen floor making a total mess.  So final act of the night, mop the floors.

4 hours after pulling in the driveway from work, my day is about complete.  By the time this was all over I was too exhausted to sit at the computer or start to paint the kitchen or mow the yard or weed the garden or talk to friends.  Every night seems to go exactly the same.  Plus, because I didn’t get it done last night when it happened, I still have to clean the cat poop off the carpets tonight. 

10pm and I'm finally drudging myself up to bed.  Lucky me, all this time Dad's been in bed and now for him, it's time to get up.  While I wash my face and get ready for bed, he gets up, "makes" what's left of his own bed and starts wandering the house turning lights on and off, looking for food and the dog.  That usually means that at least once or twice a night he barges into my room, flicks on the lights and yells "Susie" (that's the dog).  So tired or exhausted or whatever I may be, doesn't matter, when he's up, there isn't a full night's sleep in the forecast.

So there we have a wrap.  My 36-hour Day.  

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