March 18, 2013

I'm still here!

Have you given up on me?
I'm still here.  Just having new stuff happening around me.
As many of you know, my Mom has Alzheimer's.  She has her good days and she has her bad days.  Dealing with her good days and bad days creates good days and bad days for my family.  And dealing with all of that creates a great deal of stress.  My Mom doesn't live with us and I don't know if she could.  Our house is small and we cannot build on.  Mom's house is small and we can't build on.  It was suggested by my Mom's sister that we break up our household and have two of us live with Mom and two of us live in our house.  A lot of people have good intentions, I'm sure, when discussing Alzheimer's and what YOU should do.  However, not many of them are willing to actually help do the day to day stuff in the trenches.  And, although I do not live with my Mom, I pick her up every day and bring her to my house for dinner, take her grocery shopping, keep up with her prescriptions, watch her take her pills daily, take care of her cats, take care of straightening up her house, arrange appointments, pay her bills, and deal with anything 'emergency' she has.  The emergency can be anything from finding a TV remote, finding a channel on her television, plunging a toilet, finding a pair of glasses..... notice 'finding' is something we do a lot.
All of this is stressful.  It would be nice to have an evening of just the four of us.  It would be nice to go out to dinner and not feel guilty that Mom is not eating a decent meal that night.  A vacation is totally out of the question.  Traveling would be a nightmare.  So, when there is traveling to be done, RL does it with one of the kids.  His Mom was widowed the month before my Mom, so he tends to things she needs from time to time.  She lives 600 miles away, so that involves more than a short drive or a visit for just an hour or so.
What can happen when you are stressed out and have no idea what to do next?  Well, it can manifest itself in other ways.  Thankfully, the memory clinic at our hospital has a wonderful support system and offers monthly support groups as well as counseling.  We take advantage of whatever they have to offer when we can.  However, that type of support can't take away ALL of the stress in our lives and stress can manifest itself in even more ways than mentally. 
In October RL started having some pain in his shoulder.  We didn't think too much of it.  Thought maybe he had strained it or even slept funny.  The pain didn't go away.  It actually spread a little.  Over his Thanksgiving vacation, we had a wonderful and relaxing week.  Christmas was coming and we couldn't wait for the three week vacation he was going to take.  He still had the aches and pains though.  A trip to the doctor ruled out Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Whew!  Dodged a bullet there.  Christmas vacation came and we had a decent two weeks.  Then the day after Christmas, his pains got worse.  His joints were sore.  We noticed he had an increase in dandruff and it even looked to be in and behind his ear.  Strange.  His wrists got red and swollen.  His right index finger swelled, not twice it's size, but got close.  Then his knuckles on that hand started swelling.  A trip to the doctor was in order again.  More tests, a referral to a rheumatologist and some meds.  In January we saw the rheumatologist and walked away with a diagnosis:  Psoriatic Arthritis.  X-rays have shown he already has damage to his joints.  We had never heard of it.  Sure, we had seen the commercials with Phil Mickelson, but never really paid attention because it wasn't something that affected us.  RL hadn't even had symptoms of Psoriasis until maybe October.    Guess what causes a flare up?  Stress.  Guess what we have in abundance?  Stress.
So, we are dealing with it the best way we know how.  He has started taking meds, has monthly blood work to make sure the meds are not messing with his liver, sees his Rheumatologist every few months, and has to rest quite a bit due to the side effects of the medication. 
The reason I am putting this out there is because we really don't know anything about Psoriatic Arthritis besides what we've been told or can find on the internet.  Apparently it's not extremely common.  When we mention he has Arthritis, we hear, "Well, who doesn't?  We all get it as we age."  But this isn't that type of Arthritis. 
So, if you know anything about it, please let us know.  And if you don't know anything about it, we could sure use your prayers.

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