I have decided that God must have a sense of humor–at least I hope so because life with Lewy Body Dementia in it has some twists and turns that just cannot be anticipated or even understood. This week’s/or better said, is this particular challenge was not a mind-bender, and the injury not life-threatening thankfully, but the compilation of so many things that a caregiver has to deal with in this situation is simply overwhelming. Not even the strongest of us make it out of this experience without serious battle scars (emotional, mental, more) if we have the resources to even hang on.
It was supposed to be the simple running of an errand. I got Someone in the car, backed out of the garage and pressed the button on the garage remote to close it. Ready to get the mail, happy to get some fresh air and to get something to bring home for dinner for Someone and the dogs (many), my “alert button” was on low until I heard a very loud noise from INSIDE the garage. We hadn’t even left the driveway.
My first thought was that some industrial shelving that line the inside walls of the garage must have fallen over but how I wondered. Other than that, I would think of nothing that heavy or that could even fall from anywhere in the garage that would be loud enough to make my heart skip a beat–outside–and to make the dogs act like there was a burglar inside (I could hear them all in a panic, ready to protect the Rescue Ranch.)
I left Someone in the car (it was off), taking the keys to get inside, and went right into the garage. Everything was in order much to my surprise. Silence. Not a thing had been moved or had fallen. I ran through the possible sources of the noise that I heard. I heard it outside and it definitely came from the garage, but nothing qualified. The water heater, which had just been replaced last year thanks to an angel, sat proud and shiny in its corner. The shelving was all standing and not a thing was on the floor. “Well, I’ll be…” I thought to myself still trying to figure it out. I couldn’t leave until I figured out what was wrong.
Someone Was Outside Alone
Talking to me through the garage door, Someone was out of the car (my anything-can-happen radar was now activated) and banging on the other side of the door, asking me what the noise had been. “I can’t figure it out. Everything seems OK,” I yelled. “Look all around. Something broke,” he hollered through the insulated door. On an off-chance, I looked up. The giant two foot long screw that turns the double-garage door opener had snapped in two. A light bulb moment.
“Hang on,” I said. “It looks like the screw that opens the door has snapped. Let me see if there is an emergency release that I can open the door with.” Someone with LBD doesn’t like to be alone or out of sight of his caregiver. Seconds is too long…
“Uh-Oh”–That Famous Word
He panicked, I think, over the minute that it might take me to try to open the door and began trying to lift the door from the outside–using the little handle that just turns the deadbolt lock. “Uh-oh…” I heard outside. “Nuts,” I thought.
Well, any caregiver who hears those words, especially when dealing with the dementias, I am certain has their gut clench up and their adrenaline ramp up in less than five seconds flat. You never know if you are dealing with something simple that just needs to be fixed or something major. It is constant and ongoing.
“Ummm, there is blood dripping all over my pants and on the concrete,” Someone said. “I think the door handle is in lots of pieces, too.” My heart, oh my heart. “OK, hang on, I am on my way out. I can’t figure out how to open the door so I will come out of the house door.”
I ran to get a clean towel on my way out. I had no idea what I was going to find but I was prepared to go to the ER. I am always prepared it seems. When I got outside, the blood was all over the place. It had gone under the door, on the driveway, it was all over Someone’s clothes. It was dark out so I told him to hold still while I wrapped his hand up to put pressure on whatever had happened and grabbed his elbow and “ran” him into my bathroom which has become first-aid central.
I flipped the light on and carefully unwrapped the towel. “I don’t feel any pain,” he said. “You will later,” I said. I have noticed that LBD causes either a lack of sensitivity to pain or an exaggeration of pain. An injury like this would have had me crying–while a muscle spasm in his arm will have Someone needing to have all types of first aid and attention for hours. It just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. I just accept that.
When the garage door handle snapped into three pieces, one piece sliced a nasty diagonal across the inside of Someone’s hand. “I guess I shouldn’t have used all of my weight to try to pull the door up with that handle,” he said. (Yep.)
After washing away the blood and getting the bleeding to stop, I said, “I don’t think you need stitches. I think I have everything we need to fix this.” He asked me to individually lift up each of the (many) skin flaps in the slashes to examine them to see if pieces of the garage door got under them. Dementia-thinking but if it was needed, I would have. “I rinsed it out really well and when I put the sterilizer and ointment on with the bandages, it will get the stuff into each nook and cranny. OK?” I said. (If I used proper names of the things I was using, I would have had to explain each thing and argue why each thing was necessary.)
He patiently stood there as I did what I had to do. He started to object to how I was placing bandages that were “restricting” (yep) the way his fingers moved but in those moments, you have to just take complete control and be emphatic. There is no wiggle-room for dementia stuff (he has an odd case of OCD) when the situation is serious.
Knowing that the bandages would be wet with any one of a dozen substances within five minutes, I decided to put a nitrile glove over them. That has kept them dry until each changing time. His wounds are looking pretty good but I have to constantly watch that a glove is still on. If not, it will require an immediate first aid station visit.
I went outside with a gallon of water to rinse off the blood. Seeing what was there and evaluating what had happened was upsetting but I would learn that we averted an even bigger emergency thankfully. When I called the garage door company to come fix the door, they told me that we were lucky that we couldn’t figure out how to open it–because it would have/could have fallen off the track–and onto us! (Whew.) Thank God. I say that a lot these days.
Thanks for listening and for caring. Especially for caring.
Just a Thought
If you have anyone in your life/who crosses your path even, who is struggling to take care of someone with a serious illness or is suffering from a serious illness themselves, please try to support them in any way you can for as long as they need it. Please don’t forget about them in a month–it may take a few years. Be grateful that you are well and able and blessed and stick it out with them for the duration.
Ways you can help caregivers or the seriously ill:
*Send them prayers, prayer cards, anything to build their faith and to hold them steady (calls and emails aren’t always possible to respond to but mail can be opened any time of the night or day).
*Drop off meals or supplies (leave on their door-step) and text that they are there (doorbells disturb the sick or wake them up so try not to use it).
*Send gift cards to local or national restaurants or send generic visa or gift cards that they can use as needed. Maybe include a brochure or two from local delivery services (a lot are free now) and menus from the restaurants.
*Send a gift card or e-credit to amazon or a local (to their zip code) grocery store. Let them order online what they know that they really need instead of trying to guess.
*Volunteer–or hire someone–to cut their lawn, trim the trees, shovel the snow–or just do it. You’d be surprised how much is neglected outside just because they are trying to take care of what is going on–inside! If you feel like you need permission, text them and say that you’d like to gift them a blessing. No one will refuse a blessing.
*Offer to relieve them of errands or caregiving–maybe during nap time–or text that you are going to the store, do they need anything–and text when you leave it at the front door. One of the biggest resources caregivers lack (beside funds) is time. They don’t have time to stand and talk for an hour–their loved one probably needs a bath or meds or dinner.
*Bring over flowers (leave at the door and text that they are there), send small surprises, little things that let the caregiver know that they are still important and still a person. They don’t “need” validation but when you are caring for someone who is terminally ill, you don’t have someone to tell you that you matter or even to say, “yum” for the warm dinner or get any positive feedback whatsoever. They forget what life before the illness was like. Every resource they have is going into the care and well-being of the ill person and they neglect themselves and their needs. Find a way to remind them who they are.
*Please don’t abandon them, most of all. Many caregivers find that their “friends” and family “turn and run” when illness strikes. It is hard to watch a loved one decline, I guess.
In our lives, we had some wonderful “couples” friends, who had common interests like animal rescue and faith-based activities and volunteering but when Someone began repeating sentences six times in a row during a normal conversation (we didn’t know what was wrong)–and sometimes in frustration, his agitation came through in his voice. They pretty much all disappeared socially, although I do know in an absolute emergency that I could call on them. My girlfriends, however, and some Rescue Ranch angels, have stuck it out and are keeping us alive–and keeping me sane!
…and, know that whoever you are helping are thanking you in their prayers and with their tears and as they use or eat or look at whatever you sent. Don’t help for the praise or the thanks–that is unspoken but not forgotten. Do it because it is the right thing to do and you will get the blessings in your life somewhere, some how–it is a spiritual law. If you get a thank you, know that it is really special because time is so precious and they have little left to give but of themselves.
Helping This Blog/Our Herd of Special Needs Dogs and Someone
IF you would like to help me continue this blog, you can give on my online fundraiser or mail something or send prayers. All are gratefully accepted and appreciated.
To Send an E-Card/E-Anything: email@example.com
To Mail: Rescue Ranch, 4057 Riley Fuzzel Road, Ste. 500-130, Spring, TX 77386
Prayers as simple as a good thought, a wish, a blessing, a rosary…all work, I believe. It is the intention that counts.
Grateful. Always grateful.
Have You Read About When Lewy Body Dementia Entered Our Lives?
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