Saturday, December 24, 2011

Visit With Neurologist - Merry Christmas

Dear Friends,

Wish I could say I have some good news after visiting with the neurologist yesterday, but I don't.   I clearly believe he doesn't know what to do with me.   I did catch him on a day where he had 10 patients waiting in the same waiting room to see him.   Maybe it was a bad day for him.  Usually he takes whatever time you need, but not yesterday.

I am more shaky again.   He wants to add another drug to my cocktail.  Sorry I can't give you the name because he's having it called in to our mail order pharmacy so I can get a 3-month supply.  (Hope it works)!   If i would have been thinking clearly when I saw him, I would have had him phone to a local pharmacy to try for a month, but as usual, I wasn't comprehending fast enough to keep up with him.

He did make the comment tho that if this didn't work, he'd put me back on the Levodopa/Carbidopa combination again.  He asked me what ever happened to various drugs that he had prescribed, and was I taking them.   No, I'm not taking them because they were doing strange things to me - a combination of being dizzy, losing my balance rapidly, and/or making me sick to my stomach and throwing up. Each time I stopped a drug it was because I called his office, told them the side effects being experienced, and he said to stop the drugs, thru the nurse I was talking to.   I would think my chart should have been noted as such, but clearly it was not - or he was too busy to notice.   I am going to sit down and write him a letter on Monday right after Christmas reminding him of all this.  Then I will take a copy of that letter with me on my next visit in 6 months - if I don't call sooner and ask to get in to see him.

I also brought up the fact that I had gotten sick to my stomach about 3 times in the past 2 weeks, and i thought it was from one of my drugs.   I also mentioned to him that my family doctor had prescribed the pain killer for my back along with Tylenol.   I think the added drug is what is making my stomach upset.    

I'll be seeing my family doctor the first week of January, so plan on having a long talk with him on the best course of action.   I'm very tempted to get an appointment in Milwaukee with Don's doctor (not thru the VA tho, because I'm not a veteran).   That doctor is a Parkinson's specialist working out of Froedert Memorial Hospital.  But there is no point in trying to get an appointment with her now because of winter driving.  It will have to wait until spring/summer when there is no worry of a snow storm making a 2 1/2 hour drive into a 5-hour, nerve-wracking trip.  It's nerve wracking as it is just driving in Milwaukee.

The above picture is the front of our house - taken last Christmas.  This year we are minus the outdoor lights and have snow on the ground - thanks to mother nature delivering an inch yesterday.   I have to laugh because the weatherman has been saying for a week that it looked like we would have a brown Christmas this year.   Wrong again! he he - I still think they sometimes predict the weather by shooting darts at a dart board.   

Our daughter and her husband are coming early afternoon today and will spend the night here.  After we give them breakfast Christmas morning, they'll leave for Ken's family.   We were invited to do down there too, but have declined due to the hour's drive back home in the dark.   Neither Don nor I are up to that anymore.   I think we just may take in a movie tomorrow afternoon.  Or, we'll stay home and get ready for the Packer game in the evening.


I hope you all have a blessed Christmas, Holiday Season or Happy Festivis, as the case may be. 

Sorry for the "down beat" post at Christmas, but I wanted to document everything that happened at the Neurologist's appointment last Monday while it was fresh in my mind.

Thanks to you my faithful readers for taking the time this busy season to read my blog.   It is so appreciated.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Brain Fog

Dear Readers,

The tree is up, the cards in the mail, and Mario is a happy kitty to be the added decoration under the tree - his favorite hangout place during Christmas season.  All the kudos go to Don for decorating the tree, and doing such a great job.  Other years, the job was usually mine after the tree was carried up from the basement and set in place.   It's amazing how things change in a year.

Getting the cards and letters out was a big job this year.   I've always relied on address labels and keep a current list ready to go in the computer.   This year Avery changed their template numbers - at least for the 8160 that I've always used.  Of course I had bought a new package of labels.  I can't tell you how many times I printed the same set of labels trying to get them to line up correctly.   I fiddled with the margins, changed settings, stood on my head, said a few choice words, called Avery, stood on my head some more, and said more choice words.  The air was turning blue, and even Mario didn't want to be in my office.  After Day 1 out of the 5 I worked on cards, brain fog was setting in, and I really didn't know what I was doing for the remaining 4 days.    

The long and short of the story is that some friends might get 2 cards and some may have been omitted by mistake.  I clearly didn't know what i was doing anymore.  Today Don confirmed one error after talking to his sister, who mentioned she had received our card and letter.   When Don was talking to her he was holding the envelope and card in his hand that we were going to mail out later today.    YIKES!  That's one we know about - how many others were duplicated and how many have been missed!

I hate living with this brain fog and feeling like I don't know what I'm doing.    Yes, it's probably the meds, but I still don't like it.  There are so many days where I feel like i'm mentally losing it.  A Twitter friend once told me 'Getting old "ain't" for the faint of heart.'    How right she is!!

ha ha- so if you are a friend who received two cards, count yourself lucky and save one for next year in case you are missed at that time.  If you were missed this year - well, what can I say...............maybe next year you will get one!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Random Acts Of Kindness

Dear Readers,

The past two weeks I was out and about more - dentist one day - short shopping and errands on other days.  My faithful companion - the walker - was with me on each of those outings.   

Walkers on wheels are a great invention, but they are a little cumbersome to use, especially when going in and out heavy doors that don't have the automatic opener.  Going in isn't to difficult, but you do have to position your self off to the side of the door, open the door with the right hand, then slowly navigate the walker thru the door while holding the door open with your right hand or body - or butt.

Going back out when the door is heavy is a real challenge.   Again, you have to move yourself to the left of the door, hold the walker with the left hand, use the right hand to pull the door towards you, then swing your butt over to hold the door open while you grip the walker with both hands and turn the walker in the right direction to go out the door.   (Big rumps do help. he he)

I was pleasantly surprised at the dentist's office recently when a gray-haired man (probably close to my age) came over and asked if he could assist me.   I was struggling with that door - a room full of people all waiting to see the hygienist or dentist, and ignored by all except the nice elderly gentleman.   I was very grateful and thanked him profusely.   It was a random act of kindness that was so appreciated.

Then on Saturday we were invited to a birthday party for the granddaughter of a friend.   It was a rainy, drizzly day, so Don pulled in the driveway to let me out.  I didn't bring a walker because I knew it would be crowded in the house, and I usually don't need it in a house anyway.   Much to my surprise, the son of my friend walked out to greet me, offered me his arm for assistance, and helped me up the steps to his home.   Their entry way has wooden steps leading to a deck like platform - there is no railing.    That was another random act of kindness that was so appreciated.

When we got ready to leave, the other son of that friend asked me if he could assist me to the car where Don was again waiting in the driveway.   Another much appreciated random act of kindness.   I mentioned it to their mother the next day and told her she could be proud of her sons for their willingness to help.  So very thoughtful of both young men.

Then this morning I was attempting to get into Barnes & Noble's store and again was faced with big heavy doors that had to be manually opened.  Along came a lady who appeared to be my age and perhaps even a year or two older.   She said "Here, let me get that door for you!"  Another random act of kindness!

Thru the years I have tried to do the same for people struggling with a door and a walker or wheel chair.  I guess what goes around eventually comes around.

You never know when an opportunity will present itself so you too can perform a random act of kindness.  I do hope you will take the opportunity and "make some one's day" because, in time, you too will be in need of the extra help.   These wonderful people certainly did "make my day" and I'm so appreciative.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Chance Encounter

Photo from Blog of Dr.  Jefferson

Dear Readers,

I'm always amazed at the chance encounters available in the Blog World and Twitter World.   You just never know who you will meet along the way and from what country.

I'd like to introduce to you today Dr. Duncan Jefferson who lives in Australia.   I was searching thru the blog world a couple of weeks ago and happened on Dr. Jefferson's blog  I immediately took a liking to his blog and followed it.   He writes on medical issues and non-medical issues, and i have found his blog most helpful and easy to read.  

There have been times when I've touched on a subject, and a couple of days later he has expanded on that same subject.   I'm honored that I can provide him with some post ideas, and he certainly has helped me with valuable information.   So thank you Dr. Jefferson for reading my blog and taking an interest in the subject matter I have talked about.

Please go over and take a look around his blog - I think you'll like what you see.

Stay tuned later this week for my next post on "Random Acts Of Kindness."


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dementia - Not Yet

Dear Readers,

The last of the leaves have been cleaned up, lawn mower put away, and snow blower ready to go, thanks to Don.   The above picture was taken about 10 days ago, the leaves have since fallen and the tree is bare.   Tonight we are to have snow!  Mentally, I'm not ready.

Well, there is good news and bad news for the week.   My 6-month checkup with the psychologist  was this week.   After testing, he asked me how I felt I was doing.   I said, "mentally I've slipped a notch - just in some areas".   He said he agreed with me.   I did slip a little in some parts of the test, but remained good on other parts.   It's an exhausting test as you are mentally challenged on every question or problem.  He didn't do the entire battery of tests.  Only did those that I scored poorly on 6 months ago.

Now 6 months ago I clearly remember the psychologist saying that I have a little Dementia.   This time I brought it up and he said "Oh, you don't have Dementia."   Now I know mentally I have declined a little since 6 months ago and the tests indicate I have declined, so did he make a mistake when he said I had the start of Dementia 6 months ago?   I can only suspect that was the case or he didn't clarify enough as to what he did mean, and I didn't question enough and accepted what he said. 

Why is this important to me?   Well, my mother's side of the family is full of Dementia/Alzheimer's history - starting with my grandfather (Dementia), followed by my mother, two of her sisters, and her remaining brother - all diagnosed  with Alzheimer's.  Because of this history,  the psychologist wants to see me every 6 months just to keep a handle on things and I agree.

The bad news is that I have declined a tiny notch mentally, but the good news is that clinically speaking, I don't have Dementia!    I can tell you that I'm in a mental fog a good share of my day, which I believe is from all the drugs that I'm on - most of which make me tired.   I can't seem to even prioritize things that need to be done.  Yes, I've tried making a list, but never am able to check off more than a couple of things a day on that list.   Several times a day I can wander into a room and wonder why I went in there.   I know this is somewhat normal as you age, but I think with me it happens more than what would be normal.  I'm talking several times a day.

The other thing I've noticed is that I've slowed down to a snail's pace physically too.   It takes me so long to accomplish anything.  Much of the time I feel overwhelmed at all that needs to be done around here leading up to Christmas.    The slowing down is no doubt the Parkinson's kicking in, and the drugs only magnify the problem.

To complicate matters, my back has been painful lately.  The MRI taken a week ago showed the arthritis in the spine has increased since 3 years ago.   My family doctor said I'm not a candidate for surgery (nor would I want it at this stage of the game), and the back doctor yesterday confirmed everything.   He did offer to give me a shot in the spine, but I'm not sure I want to go thru that.   I know it's risky to start fooling around with the spine.  I really can't stand upright for very long - about 3 minutes is max, then I have to lean on something or sit down.   So trying to accomplish anything standing up is about impossible.  Walking from the far bedroom into the kitchen is tiring on my back.   Don has been wonderful and has assumed so much of the physical work around here.  He does it willingly and without complaint, but i feel guilty not being able to do my share.  The spine doctor feels the weakness in my back and legs is due to the Parkinson's.    He's probably right.

Now on a good note - I bought a Nook, color, touch e-reader yesterday.   It's not the tablet, but one step down.  I'm able to navigate around it quite well, but typing on that tiny keyboard takes awhile as I keep making mistakes.   Kim says I'll get adjusted more after I've used it several times.   I do like it tho.   Now if i can only stay awake longer at night when I try reading.  Why don't I read during the day you ask?   Well, any time of day when I try to read, it puts me to sleep.  So, there is no good time of day for reading.

I called Kim for help and she walked me thru the process of getting the WiFi set up, something I've never had to do before.   She gave me some mini instructions, and now I should be able to read tonight.   It will be fun playing with a new toy!   I spent the extra money and bought the hard covered book that was available because I have trouble remembering things after reading.  All the information is on the device, but you have to remember what you read, leave the page, and do the steps involved.   It was just easier to buy the book for $8.00.

Stay tuned - next week I have an appointment with the Neurologist (I think it's next week).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Are Grateful - Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Readers,

Just a quick update on my last post about the episode I had with freezing.   I'm sure now it was the drugs, so I've stopped taking the Gabapentin.  I'm sure that drug, combined with my Mirapex (which makes me sleepy) and with the Tramadol (which also makes me sleepy) I was just over drugged.  By noon on Saturday I was back to myself once again.     I believe the doctor prescribed that drug to help with the RLS problem, which is what the Mirapex also does, but wasn't quite doing the job any longer.   For now the Tramadol is helping with the RLS, so we'll leave things alone for now.

I'm so looking forward to dinner today.  We're invited to our daughter and son-in-law's house for Thanksgiving.   Our son-in-law loves cooking this special meal for his parents, his brother and girlfriend, and this year the girlfriend's parents, and, of course, Don and I.   He does a fantastic job, and this is his 12th year to treat us with this wonderful dinner.    We all bring a dish to help  out, but Ken does the basic meal along with special pies.  (Can't wait to see what pies he bakes this year - usually there are two kinds and sometimes three).   I always tell him that Kim's marrying him was better than marrying a doctor because he not only cooks, but keeps our computers in top shape too, and is so very good to our daughter and to us.

I'm very grateful for my wonderful family (especially Don who has been taking over with so much of the household duties and our wonderful daughter and son-in-law, and of course Mario.   I'm also very grateful to for our dear local friends and those wonderful friends I've met on Twitter and the blog world.  I am truly blessed.

Thank you dear readers for reading my blog and leaving your great comments.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.   I'm so blessed to have you in my life.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

OMC - That Was So Scary!

Permission received from KokoroPurrs to use this Cartoon
Dear Friends,

What a horrible night I had.  So, to cheer myself up and my readers, I just had to post this delightful cartoon by @KokoroPurrs.    His mom is a cartoonist and does wonderful work.  Her cartoon drawings of her cat  always makes me giggle.    Please take a minute and go over to their blog site and look thru some back issues of the blog.    She very graciously gave me permission to use some of her delightful cartoons in my blog.  (Mario is going to be so jealous).   

Now back to last night.   I went to bed at the normal time of 11:00 p.,m.   Some time during the middle of the night I felt the need to make a bathroom trip.   I tried to turn over on my side to get myself out of bed.   My body would not move.   I couldn't roll over nor could I sit up.   After struggling for a few minutes to get myself up, I started yelling for Don (who sleeps in the room next door).   He's hard of hearing, so he didn't respond immediately, but did finally come in to help me.   He had to help me up out of bed, and it was all I could do to lift my body with his help and to grab on to the walker.   Then my legs didn't want to move.  I felt like my body was frozen in time.    Finally I got them to take tiny, tiny baby steps to get myself to the bathroom.   After I finished what I went in there for, I had all I could do to raise my body to start walking again - well not really walking but taking tiny dragging steps to get back to bed.  Talk about scary.   If it would not have been the middle of the night I would have suggested going to the emergency room.   Something was drastically wrong.

This morning when I woke up, I could move enough to get myself out of bed, but my feet were still taking the tiny steps, and I really had to hold on to the walker for dear life.   After choking down some cereal, I went back to bed and slept until 11:00 a.m, and was more like my old self when I got up.  Still not real stable on my feet, but at least I could take my normal, usual steps.

I began to wonder if I was experiencing Bradykinesia that Debra discussed  in my last blog post.   Or was I progressing to the next level of Parkinson's?    It really scared me and I think it scared Don too.  

Then I happened to think today that I had seen my family doctor on Monday for back problems.   After getting the results back from the MRI and finding my back had worsened since 2008 (no kidding - I knew that before the MRI results were in), he gave me 3 new drugs to add to my cocktail!!   One of those is Gabapentin 300mg 2 x day.   This drug is sometimes used to treat seizures and used for RLS (of which mine has been getting worse).  I'll be calling the doctor's office Monday morning to tell him of these latest developments, but in the meantime, I dropping that drug.  

He also prescribed Clonazepam 0.5 mg 1 x day at bedtime.   This is used to treat panic attacks (I don't have that???).  The PAL says it clams your brain and nerves.  YIKES.     Now I'm not sure which one gave me the immobile symptoms, but I'll be stopping that one too until I talk to the doctor.  Fortunately, I had only started those drugs on Friday and it was Friday night when I had the problem.  So at least I don't have to go thru withdrawal symptoms.

The other drug he prescribed was Tramadol  HCL 50 mg 3 times a day with Tylenol - used for pain.  I'm sure Tramadol didn't give me the symptoms I experienced, so it has to be one or both of the other drugs.   I will take Tramadol before bed tonight along with Tylenol.

Oh how I wish I didn't have to be on all these drugs.   "They shoot horses - don't they?"  I've tried to maintain a sense of humor thru this entire time since being diagnosed with Parkinson's - but I must be honest - the humor is running out.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Exactly Is Parkinson's Disease, by Guest Writer - Debra

Photo by Debra - location Northern Florida 

Dear Readers,

I'm so happy to have Debra of @Manxmnews back as a guest writer again.  
You'll remember from her post here on 10/8/11 her husband was diagnosed with PD in his 50's.   Debra has managed to sum up PD very well, as you will see.  

From Debra,

"Parkinson disease is a slow progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that occurs when nerve cells, called neurons, in the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. These neurons normally produce a substance called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical messenger transmitting signals in the relay stations of the brain, allowing for smooth, coordinated fluid movements of the body’s muscles.

The 4 main motor symptoms of PD are:

(1) Shaking and tremor Tremor is present in approximately 70% of people diagnosed with PD. The tremor in a hand or foot at rest is called a resting tremor. In 75% of cases tremor only affects one side of the body, especially in the early stages of PD.

(2)Slowness of movement, called Bradykinesia
Bradykinesia, is a profound slowness of movement, and a loss of automated movement, and is often a very disabling symptom of PD.

(3)Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk

(4) Trouble with balance called postural instability This causes people diagnosed with PD to develop a forward or backward lean and to fall easily.

Secondary symptoms of PD -Micrographia which is small cramped handwriting
-Reduced arm swing
-Slight foot drag on the affected side
-Freezing, a term used to describe being stuck in place when attempting to walk
-Hypomimia, loss of facial expression
-Dysarthria, low voice volume
-Retropulsion, tendency to fall backwards
-Festination, walking with a series of quick small steps

PD can also affect other body systems, resulting in non-motor symptoms. Some of those symptoms of PD include:
-decrease in automatic reflexes such as blinking and swallowing
-increase in dandruff or oily skin
-sleep disturbances

Not all of the symptoms will be present in every individual, and the rate of progression will also vary from one person to the next.

Neurologists usually do not diagnosed PD until at least two of the four main symptoms are present over a period of time. The disease is both chronic, meaning it persists for a long period, and progressive, meaning it’s symptoms may gradually worsen over time.

PD is in most forms of parkinsonism, the label for a group of disorders with similar features. PD is also called primary parkinsonism or idiopathic Parkinson Disease. Idiopathic is a term used to describe a disorder for which no known cause has yet to be found.

The loss of dopamine producing neurons in the brain results in difficulty with movements. When the brain losses 80% of the dopamine producing cells in the brain, the main features of PD become evident. The cause of cell death is not known.

One theory about the cause of PD is free radicals -- damaging molecules generated by normal chemical reactions in the body -- may contribute to nerve cell death and lead to PD. Free radicals lead to oxidation, which is thought to cause damage to tissue, including neurons.

Another theory is PD may be caused by certain toxins, such as pesticides that destroy dopamine producing neurons. But there is no conclusive proof that external toxins are the cause of the disease.

Research is also exploring the role of genetic factors in PD. While several genes are known to cause specific forms of PD, the majority of the cases do not have a genetic link to PD.

One other theory proposes that PD occurs for unknown reasons associated with the normal age-related erosion of dopamine producing neurons in individuals. This idea is supported by the loss of antioxidant protection that is associated with both PD and normal aging.

There is not a clear understanding of PD, nor is there a current cure.


Thank you so much Debra for summing this up so well.  It's a complicated disease as you and I so well know.  And thank you for being such a good friend.   If I can ever manage to get back to Florida, I'll be anxious to meet you in person.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another Aide!

Photo taken from Google Images
Dear Readers,

First I'd like to publically thank Kathy of @Meow_Girls for sharing her story of being a care giver (along with her sister Anne) of their father in the previous post.   I think it reminds all of us that being a caregiver to any disabled person is a full-time job and not an easy one physically or mentally.  Kathy and Anne truly are an inspiration to all of us.  They do have their hands full.

A few weeks ago, the neurologist suggested I get a walker because I had mentioned that I felt like my legs were going to give out sometimes.  This was especially noticeable when trying to shop.   Grocery shopping was not a huge problem, because I push the cart.   But when going to a department store or the local mall, I was always hoping there would be a cart at the entrance of the store to grab on to.  

I did not rush right out tho to get one because it's easy to procrastinate until the day comes when you really wish you had it to use.

When the neurologist prescribed the walker, he also wrote a prescription for Physical Therapy.   This was invaluable as the therapist was so very helpful.   Not only did she teach me things I could do at home to help build strength, but she also worked with me on trying to improve balance (a big problem with persons who have PD.   She watched me walk and suggested I also get a walker then proceeded to dig one of theirs out of the back room.  She recommended getting one with wheels, a seat so I could sit down when tired, and most important of all - brakes. 

Brakes are very important if you have PD and if you have a walker with wheels.    Going downhill on even the slightest decline (like the driveway) makes you want to go faster.  It's hard to control the momentum for some reason.

The therapist had me driving it all around their facility.   It was great.  I could stand up straighter when walking versus having the stooped over walk which is so typical of PD people.   One very nice thing I noticed right away - I could finally walk at a decent pace instead of creeping like a snail.   I felt like a kid with a new bike to ride.  

That afternoon Don and I ran downtown to the same Home Medical Store that we had bought the stair climber from.   They had to measure me for the walker, so I couldn't take it with me then, but I could pick it up the next day.   

When I asked if Medicare would pay for it.  The answer was yes, as long as there was a prescription form the doctor.  I proudly handed over my prescription, thinking I was so smart to already have that in my hand.    

WRONG - not so smart after all.   The prescription had to be exactly for the type of walker I was looking for. It needed to say with seat, brakes, and basket.   Otherwise, I would get the basic model - no seat, no brakes.  Something to keep in mind if and when you ever have to do this.

This meant going home, calling the doctor, and having the correct prescription faxed over to the home Medical store.    Nothing in life is ever easy or simple.

The walker was ready to be picked up the next day.   Fortunately, we drive a car with a HUGE trunk because this walker is not easy to transport because of the shape.  It does collapse by pulling up on the seat handle, but is still rather bulky.   It JUST fits in my trunk.   It is NOT the type of walker you can just shove in your back seat for transport.   A girl friend picked me up for lunch recently, and she had her car, which is somewhere between a car and a van.   It would not fit in the back without dropping the seat.   

One other piece of information - Medicare will only pay for a walker for you once every 5 years, so you are wise to keep that in mind when shopping for one.  In my estimation, that is fair, and quite frankly I was surprised that they even paid for this one.

I know this sounds like a product review - well it isn't.  I'm just so happy to have the mobility to go into stores without having to worry if I'll find a cart of some type to hold on to and, most importantly, I can sit down when I feel the need.     

It is a great invention, and you don't realize how great until you really need one.

Hope you'll come back next week because Debra, human mom to @Manxmnews will be a guest blogger again.  She's been doing lots of research too on PD, so came up with an excellent post you won't want to miss.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Parkinson's In The Elderly, by Human Kathy of @Meow_Girls

Tippy grooming Pops!
Dear Readers,

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our guest writer, Human Kathy of the @Moew_Girls.   Kathy and I have been good Twitter friends for about three years now.   Knowing that her dad (Pops) had Parkinson's, I asked her to do a guest post.  I was so delighted when she said yes.  Here's Kathy in her own words......

"Our Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2009
No, I am not a doctor, nor am I arrogant. That’s just the way it was. We had noticed he was getting more nervous but attributed it to his normally anxious nature.

One summer afternoon he called me from his daily walk to ask me if I would be able to pick him up. That’s unusual, I thought. I was not prepared for how I found him. He was trembling and had wet himself. Now, understand, Dad was always fastidious about his appearance. This old man I saw could hardly lift his feet to walk. His clothes were hanging on him. I immediately went home and made a doctor’s appointment for the same day. Our doctor said Dad was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure....and he was. That was true. We went directly from the doctor’s office to the hospital where Dad was admitted.

His CHF was pretty well resolved that day. But because he was so weak, it was decided to keep him in the hospital for observation. One problem our family noticed was the trembling. It was not just his hands but his entire body. He was shaking so badly that the bed was moving. The staff gave him a tranquilizer and the trembling continued. One evening his regular MD’s partner examined him and called us into the hall. We asked her what could be causing the violent shaking. Her answer to us was that he is old and his body is breaking down. She wanted us to put him into a nursing home.

Now you and I know that a person does not go from fully functional to being in need of a nursing home so quickly. Next day we contacted his regular doctor and he said that Dad could come home. Dad was now only shaking and nervous.

Oh yes, while in the hospital, Dad was seen by a Psychiatrist. This doctor gave Dad some anti-psychotic medication which when he took it. put him in another world.  He was off that medication within a week.

The shaking and slow walking went on through several doctor’s visits. I kept asking the doctor what was causing it. The doctor’s answer to me was “I don’t know”.

A few months and a lot of Internet research later. I put the puzzle together. Pop was walking slow, his face was nearly expressionless and he trembled. To me that could only be one thing. Parkinson’s Disease.  Knowing I could be wrong, at Pop’s next check up, I asked the doctor, “Could it be Parkinson’s disease”? His answer was something like “there’s a strong possibility”. I said to him, “you have been treating him for awhile now and you are saying a strong possibility”. He explained that Parkinson’s is not always easy to diagnose. Ok, that is sometimes true. I asked,” should I take him to a Neurologist?” His answer to me was” yes you should.” So why didn’t he tell me this before?

In another week, we went to the Neurologist. I was standing by the doctor and Pop was coming out of the men’s room when the doctor said to  her nurse: “That man has Parkinson’s”. That day she gave him the most common medication used for Parkinson’s which is Carbodopa/Levodopa.  His trembling has since decreased. He now takes five pills spread across the day. But he is pretty weak. He has a hard time picking up his feet to walk and still trembles some but the Neurologist does not want to increase his dose. Dad also has developed leg movements at night so he is now taking Mirapex, which really helps.

He is eighty six years old and has apparently developed some form of Dementia. He is afraid to be in a room by himself. He does not like my sister and I to go out shopping. He is starting to repeat himself and sometimes gets confused. The most difficult part of the Dementia to deal with is what I call his “Meltdowns”. He will start saying things which are completely untrue. Such as we don’t care about him, we don’t feed him. he is crazy, etc. He will try and leave the house even if he is in his pajamas. He has thrown himself onto the floor. Thank goodness he has never hurt himself. The reason I am writing about the Dementia is that the Neurologist has told me that at least 60% of Parkinson’s patients go on to develop some form of Dementia. That is a large percentage.

This is where we are with Pop and his illness now. All we can hope for is that his symptoms get no worse."


Thank you so much for this post Kathy.  Being a caregiver to someone elderly with Dementia and Parkinson's is not easy.  You and Anne have your hands full.  Pops is blessed to have you both watching over him.

It's very hard to separate what is a normal part of aging and what is Dementia.  I will be doing more research on Dementia and PD in about a month, after I've seen the psychologist for my own 6-month followup the day before Thanksgiving.   


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Comments on Brand Name versus Generic and Clarification on RLS Syndrome

Dear Readers,

There were so many interesting comments to my last two posts regarding Generic vs Brand Name Drugs.     I knew when I published that post it would lead to controversy, and that is healthy.   I would never steer you away from trying a generic drug, if they work for you, because they are so much cheaper.    The post was merely to make you aware that generics are not always identical to the brand name.   As one reader said "I think this is especially the case with drugs that work with brain chemistry and the nervous system."   My feelings exactly and that has been my experience.  

I was not surprised to read from some of you that you too have had problems with generics, yet they work well for others.   I have had generic antibiotics, and they worked fine.   It guess it depends on your own body and how the drugs react in you.  We are all unique and "one size does NOT fit all."  Sometimes it's the fillers they put in some of the generics that cause the problems.   You might have a sensitivity to the filler.   

I found this interesting article in the National Parkinson's Foundation post on the subject of Generics vs Brand Name.   Too bad I didn't read this first because I could have saved myself a lot of time.   They too warn against PD patients switching to generic drugs after taking the brand name PD drug.    You might also find it interesting.

Another reader wondered if I really had/have RLS or could it be Dyskinesias (Involuntary movements provoked by medications, especially Levodopa).  This one I'm sure of - It's RLS.   My mother had it - long before they had a name for it and it often runs in families.   At the time I was diagnosed (some 15+ years ago) I was only on Thyriod medication, an acid reflux drug,  and some harmones, none of which contain Levodopa.  But in researching this, it was interesting to learn that either too much or not enough Levodopa in your brain can cause Dyskinesias, which is similar to RLS only the movements are somewhat dance like and fluid, versus jerky as in RLS.   My movements are jerky.

It's also interesting to learn that RLS appears in 3 to 8 percent of all the population, and may be even more frequent in those of us who have PD.  

I'm happy to report that I'm back on Mirapex - and what a difference!   No more RLS problems like there were with the generic version of the drug.   It took a few days of being back on the Mirapex for the problem to settle down, but that particular problem is now history (until the next time something causes it to kick in).

There is so much to cover yet that I'm not sure what the subject will be next week.  Guess it will depend on how much time I have to do a the research.

One final note.  Some of my local friends think I spend too much time dwelling on this subject because of the research that I do.  Nothing could be father from the truth.   I spend approximately 2 - 3 hours a week in research and writing this post, if even that.   And, I rarely ever talk to anyone about it in person or on the phone.   Anyone who knows Mario from Twitter (and most of you do) you know how many things he's involved in.   It also takes me much longer these days to do anything in comparison to a year ago.   More on that subject later.

Until next time dear readers,



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 2 of Brand Name Vs Generic

Dear Readers,

Sorry to bore you again on this same subject, but something happened in the wee hours of this morning and I just had to document it.

My Mirapex came late yesterday afternoon.   It was too late in the day for me to take it for the 2nd pill of the day, so I waited until bedtime.   Good thing I did too.

Now usually I take my last pill around 11:00 and immediately go to bed.   Well, apparently I fell asleep while reading in bed and missed my 11:00 p.m. pill.   I woke up at 1:00 a.m. however and discovered my pill still in the container waiting for me to take it.   I did take it at that time.

It is now 8:30 a.m. and I'm a drunk!!   I mean a staggering drunk!   I have a doctor's appointment in 1 1/4 hours and I know i don't dare drive like this.  It's a good thing Don is home today because he'll have to take me and pick me up, even tho the doctor's office is only 2 1/2 blocks from our house.    And I'm very thankful for my walker.  

I'm telling you this because there is that much difference (in my body anyway) between the generic and the Brand Name drug.   Parkinson's drugs are quite potent and work on the brain to replace the dopamine, which is lacking in PD patients.

I should have remembered this this reaction when they increased my dosage a a few short weeks ago.   Now I don't dare take my morning dosage or I'll be flat on my  back in bed.   I will have to delay first pill of the day until 1:00 this afternoon at least and then perhaps only take a half a pill.  Then try to get back on track with a full pill at bedtime tonight.      

Who would ever think that going from a generic to Brand Name or Brand Name to generic could ever make that much difference.

I remember when I first met with the neurologist concerning Parkinson's.  He did explain that we'll be going through lots of periods of medication adjustment.   

Next week we'll cover a different subject, I promise.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brand Name versus Generic

Dear Readers,

How many times has your doctor said "the generic drug is the same as the brand name?"   I was under that impression until I started taking medication for an under-active Thyroid many years ago.   One year the family doctor forgot to specify "Synthroid only" on the script, so a generic was sent.   I was an emotional basket case after trying the generic for 1 week.  When I called the doctor's office, they immediately wrote a new script for brand name only. My symptoms were that of being a nervous wreck and crying at the drop of a hat.    Once I got back on the brand name drug, things were fine. 

I've been taking Mirapex for RLS for years and now Parkinson's, as I've mentioned before.  When the Nurse Practitioner ordered the new drug dosage for me, she did not know I needed Mirapex only (although it should have been on my chart).   I forgot to mention it to her, so I can't blame her.    But, why didn't the pharmacy question it due to the letter they had received from the doctor one month earlier, which they had requested?    

The generic drug does an okay job of managing the Parkinson's symptoms.  But, it makes my RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) worse -much worse.  It is for this reason that I need the Mirapex brand only versus a generic version.   I'm about going nuts when I sit longer than a half hour.  The legs have a constant need to move.  Apparently the gal that I talked to last Thursday didn't really put a rush on mailing the Mirapex like she said she would.  The gal today assured me it would be shipped tomorrow, marked for overnight delivery, at no charge to me.  At least they are taking some responsibility for the snafu!

Because my RLS has kicked in big time and my Arthritis has also kicked in, I made a trip to Walgreens to pick up another bottle of Tylenol (can't take the other types like Alieve, Naproxin, due to Colitis).  There was not a box of Tylenol anywhere in the entire store.   I'm stuck because apparently the Tylenol manufacturer has recalled all the Tylenol - AGAIN!  I did buy Walgreens private label Tylenol, came home took 2 and it's done nothing for me, except make me feel hyper!   

I wonder if they make one of those medical alert necklaces that could say "Brand Name Only."  If I had remembered to tell the NP that I needed Mirapex instead of generic, I wouldn't be in this "holding pattern."  Hmmm, I think we still have my mother's antique cow bell in the basement.   That might work!   "Brand Name Only" could be engraved on it.   It could be worn around my neck and always be with me.  he he - wouldn't that be stylish!

I'm always willing to try a generic - it does cost me less.    But once I have tried the generic, and if the generic doesn't work, I NEED THE BRAND NAME!!!    

Have you noticed a difference between brand name and generic on any of your drugs?

Sorry if I'm sounding grumpy - I am.  The fact that you can't buy any Tylenol presently just pushed me over the edge because my entire body hurts.  (added note just before publishing: The Walgreen brand Tylenol made me hyper last night.)   

I shouldn't complain because some people today can't even get a prescription drug that they desperately need because there is a drug shortage, brought on by the drug companies themselves I hear, so they can raise the price of the drug even more.   Hmmm, now I wonder if this is what Tylenol is doing!   Food for thought!

I hope you will come back again next week.  I promise to be in better humor.  

Update at 4:00 EST- YAY - the Mirapex came.    I'll be a happy camper tomorrow.   

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thank You To Debra

Mariodacat whiffin the leaves

Dear Readers,

First a public thank you to Debra of for sharing her knowledge and first-hand experience with PD in the blog post of 10/8/11.    I am so happy @AdmiralHestorb's mom introduced us on Twitter or we might not have found each other.  Debra, you have been so helpful to me already with your sharing, caring, and support in emails.  This is exactly the type of thing I was looking for when starting this blog - a way to learn together and share.

There have been so many great comments and suggestions left by you dear readers.  I've learned from each one and will take time now and then to address them in a blog post.

One of the first comments left was from @jbkitteh.   His human/staff person had just lost her mother to Parkinson's and dementia and was headed out of town to be with her family, but took time to read my blog and share.   She is the one who suggested I pick up the book The Parkinson's Disease Treatment Book, by J. Eric Ahlskog., M.D. (PD expert at Mayo Clinic).   I'm so happy she did too because it's a great book.  A little thick perhaps, but it has just about anything you would want to know in it.    She also mentioned that there are drugs out there that can cause PD symptoms.   Needless to say, that comment peaked my curiosity and I had to do some research on that subject.

Page 57 of The Parkinson's Disease Treatment Book by J. Eric Ahlskong, M.D. does indeed list Drugs that cause Parkinsonism.   I will list those drugs that are mentioned in his book.   IMPORTANT:  I want you to promise me that you will NOT stop taking these drugs without talking with your doctor first.  Most of the drugs mentioned are used to treat psychiatric disorders, psychosis, etc. The purpose of this list is to make you aware only so you can check with your doctor to see if the benefits of the drug outweigh the risk.   I am no doctor.   I'm simply sharing my very limited knowledge with you.

The medical field knows that when your brain is lacking in Dopamine, you may exhibit Parkinsonism symptoms.   Some of these drugs are known to "Block Dopamine Receptors,"  

Aripiprazole, Chlorpromazine, Haloperidol, Loxapine, Mesoridazine, Mesoridazine, Molindone, Olanzapine - in highr doses, Perphenazine with Amitriptyline, Thioridazine, Thiothixerne, Trifluoperazine, Ziprasidone, Amoxapine, Metoclopramide, Promethazine, and Chlorpromazine.

The book also lists:

Valproic Acid - used to treat Migraines, Seizures, Psychiatric disorders;    It's unknown how this relates to Parkinsonism.

Amiodarone - used to treat heart rhythm disturbances - again unknown as to how this relates to Parkinsonism.

Some of the comments received have been from people indicating they have a relative with PD.   If you ever wish to share your knowledge on the subject, please just leave a comment stating that.   The more input we have on this subject, the more we learn.

On a lighter note - this morning Don and I went to Sam's Club for a few items.  Well, that store is gigantic!    Instead of taking my walker, I decided to push a cart because we were picking up several items.  I did not remember that a cart gets heavy as you pile things in it.   I was wiped out by the end of the excursion and wondered if I'd make it back to the car (which was parked in a handicapped area).  

What really makes me feel bad is that Don had already spent about an hour this morning mowing up a large bunch of leaves to drag to the curb (we could hear the truck used for picking up leaves navigating the streets near us).    Because it's supposed to rain on Thursday for sure and maybe tonight and/or some tomorrow, he wanted to get as much picked up as possible while it was dry.   Anyway, he was breezing thru Sam's Club like he was 20 years younger.   I'm happy he's doing so well, but I feel badly much of the time that I can't do more to pull my weight around here.  

Until next time,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guest Blog Writer @Manxmnews' Mom

Photo provided by Debra, Guest Writer, taken at the beach near their home in Florida


I am Abby's Mom from Mary has graciously asked us to guest post on her blog and share our story with you about Parkinson Disease.

When your life partner and husband is diagnosed with Parkinson Disease you realize how dramatically life changes.

Several years ago my husband who was in his mid-50's noticed his left hand was having sudden slowing movements. He wasn't sure what was wrong so he went to see his primary care Doctor who in turn referred him to a Neurologist. The Neurologist confirmed he had a form of Parkinson Disease. The Doctor explained at the time that PD is like ice cream flavors, and that when the medical field refers to PD they are categorizing it as 'vanilla'. He explained that my husband had another flavor of PD and he was diagnosed with Parkinsonism.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with a barely noticeable changes. Most people are familiar with seeing people with tremors but I think that some people may not know that Parkinson's also covers a slowing or freezing of movement too.

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease will vary from person to person. Early signs may be subtle and can go unnoticed. Symptoms typically begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.  In my husband's case it started affecting the left side of his body. It began in his left hand and has now progressed to his left arm and leg. It has also affected his speech, voice, and the ability to swallow.

For many many years my husband refinished antique furniture. He had to work with some very strong chemicals. In researching PD I found that there is a very strong correlation between PD and farm workers who have been exposed to harsh chemicals and pesticides. This has made me wonder if there is also a cause and effect between the chemicals used in refinishing and PD. I can't begin to tell you how important it is to use caution when working with strong chemicals .

He has always been so active and it's been hard on him to know he has limitations that are beyond his control. Parkinson's  has impacted his stamina as well as his ability to move easily. Parkinson's is a progressive disease and it will have a greater impact him as he ages. It has meant changes in the things he can do that we both once took for granted.  But we are fortunate and we can work around these obstacles. Parkinson's is hard because there are physical inabilities, and mental ones as well.

There's no cure for Parkinson's disease, but medications can help control some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. My Husband takes a carbidopa/levodopa drug called Sinemet which has been his lifesaver. He has had to adjust the dosage over the years to keep it working in his system.

Living with any chronic illness can be difficult, and feelings of anger, depression, or simply feeling discouraged are normal. Parkinson's disease presents special problems because it can cause chemical changes in the brain that can make a person feel anxious or depressed. And Parkinson's disease can be profoundly frustrating, as walking, talking and even eating become more difficult and time-consuming.


You can visit Debra's delightful, beautiful kitties -   Abby, Boo, Gracie, Jinx & Ping at their blog:   Wait until you see Debra's stunning photographs.

Thank you so much Debra for your excellent post.   I learned a few new things from you.   I do see myself in some of these symptoms.  But, more on that another time.   Your insight and information is greatly appreciated.   As I have mentioned to you before in emails, it's so sad when a young person (yes, 50's is still young) has this disease.  At least it hit Don and I at an age when we expect to get some chronic disease or illness sometime soon.    Kitty kisses from Mario to Abby, and a big HUG from me for doing the post. 

Readers, please feel free to leave comments for Debra.  I get an email on all comments and can easily forward them to her, or she can visit the blog and see them that way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Solution II - Help From The Most Amazing Places

Fall in beautiful Wisconsin

Dear Readers,

Having made the big decision to stay in our house led to another problem.   How to find help for some of the work around here.

Don used to do most of the handyman things himself - fixing things, minor plumbing problems, etc.  We started hiring things like that out about 10 years ago after he had a knee replacement.   We have a good list of resources available now for the handyman type of jobs, if needed.

But.... what to do about yard work (mowing, fall cleanup, and the inevitable moving snow around)?   We live in a neighborhood consisting of more retired folks than young families.    We have no neighborhood kids to hire. 

We were discussing our progress with our very good friends at breakfast one morning (2 couples whom we are good friends with,  have camped with,  gone on cruises with, and had breakfast once a week with for 30+ years).   I happened to mention we'd probably need help with some of the yard work: mowing, fall leaf cleanup, snow shoveling, etc.   My thought was to start calling ads in the local newspaper.

Well, to make a long story short, one of the couples called me later that day and asked if we'd be interested in hiring their 13-year-old grandson who was just starting to help with those types of things a home.   Prayers had been answered! We know the grandson, his sister and parents so well too because they are part of our camping group (we gave up camping last year because it was getting to hard for us).  Harrison and his sister were practically born on the campground with us.  (Not really, but they camped as babies still in diapers.)  A very lovely family.

What a blessing it has been to have Harrison's help (and his dad's help too).   There are times Don felt like mowing and there were times he didn't.   Harrison to the rescue!  I don't know what we would do without him, and Harrison is happy to have green papers to spend.  it's a win-win situation, and sure has helped us out. 

Just this past week, leaves began to fall off the trees.  We have 2 old, large trees in the back and one tree in the front.  Harrison just mowed them up last Friday for the first time - now the yard looks like this again, and it's only 6 days later.   By the way, the front yard barely has any leaves on it - that tree is waiting to shed after the backyard is thru.  Sometimes I think the trees talk to each other and plan this on purpose.
Leaf cleanup will extend probably into the first week in November unless snow arrives before then.  (Parish the thought!)

We are so very thankful for Harrison's and his dad's help.   They are a blessing to us. 

So, it looks like all our problems of how to manage the work are solved for this year.  Maybe Harrison will want the job next year too, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Don and I are so fortunate to have a wonderful support system of good friends that we can discuss things with and have some fun with.   Another blessing in our life. 

Now for some news:  I'm very excited to announce that I'll have two guest bloggers sometime in the next few weeks.  They both have experience with PD, but from a different perspective.   So stay tuned - both are Twitter friends.  But I'm keeping their names secret for now.

Thanks so much for visiting.   I do hope you'll come back again.