Thursday, November 29, 2012

Catching Up! PART II

I couldn't get all I wanted to write on the previous entry, hence this Part II.

A Word Or Two About Medicare And Drug Costs
Life In The Gap

If you're on Medicare or have a loved one who is, you'll know what I mean. For those of you who don't here's quick and dirty explanation.

Medicare allows your Part D insurance carrier to pay only a set amount (about $1900.00) a year for drug costs. When you reach that limit, you'll be in "the gap" or "the donut hole" as it is more popularly known. You'll know it right away because (for 2012), you will pay 86% and your chosen Part D carrier will pay 14% of your drug bill. This is for generic drugs only. Sometimes brand-name manufacturers will offer a discount, but until you're out of the hole (when you reach about $4300.00 or the first of the following year) you'll suffer financially.

Recently Dondra and I were floored when our pharmacist  rang up our drug total (6 prescriptions) and the cost was $315.00! Her drugs understandably cost more than mine and the majority of them are brand-name, but still we didn't see that one coming and it was an all-time record drug expense for both of us.

I got a laugh from the pharmacist and waiting customers when I said to Dondra, "I think it'd be cheaper if we just went ahead and died, Honey,"

My Dementia Symptoms 

I saved this one for last because I'm thinking it may be time for another of those psychological tests which measure dementia and are a whole battery of tests lasting up to 3 hours or more.

The reason I think it's time is because lately I have begun noticing myself "living in the moment" a lot more than usual. This is my own term and not one you may see in a psychology magazine.

To me, living in the moment means a kind of "avoidance-compensation" for my short-term memory loss. For instance, I can be watching a movie or the news on TV, and while I do grasp things as they are being said, a minute or so later I couldn't tell you what even a sentence of the content was. I could tell you what it was about maybe, but if you were to ask me, "What did he/she say?", I couldn't tell you.

Why is this happening?

I can't say, but as I wrote above, it's a form of avoidance. That is, it's more comfortable not to have to remember stuff, so I don't try anymore.

What do you think?

End Of Part II

Catching Up! PART I

Hello everyone and apologies for not having posted in a few months. Other things have occupied me, not the least of which is Dondra, who has had 2 hospital admissions for atrial fibrillation (rapid , irregular heartbeat). It was a scary time for us, because she needed to convert to a normal rhythm which sometimes happens on its own, but when it doesn't, off we go to the ER.

She was put on an IV and after about an hour and a half she finally converted with the medicine they gave her. She's done this both times, but had the meds not worked, then shocking the heart would have been necessary.

Right now all is well and she's feeling good. She's on a new medication which we hope will control the a-fib.

Let's go from the latest to the earliest.......

A month ago I had another sleep study. We did this because I have sleep apnea, which could be one of the causes of my symptoms and a CPAP machine would be an indication for use by someone like me to improve brain function and overall well-being.

The results were shocking: I had an average of 80 episodes an hour of either cessation of breathing or breathing too shallow to oxygenate my brain. This means I'm in the "danger zone" and I could either have a stroke or die of a heart attack. 

A week ago, there was another study done, this one with me wearing a CPAP mask hooked up to the machine. This test was to determine what settings I would need in order to properly oxygenate myself during the night.

The setting is called "Auto Synchronized Ventilation" or Auto SV. This just means the machine gives me a breath as I demand it, or if I don't, it cuts in and delivers a breath.

We are currently waiting for a home care company to come to the house to instruct me and set me up. I am looking forward to using it, because I hear people raving about getting the best sleep they've had "in years".

Dondra, herself a polysomnographer or "Sleep Technologist", was with me both times watching and listening to me on cc tv. She told me afterwards that when I fart, I breathe normally, so I'm considering eating Mexican every day. Just kidding.

Having worked as a respiratory therapist, I should have my ass kicked for not having this done sooner. I have no excuse at all.
In other news, due to recent lab results ordered by my primary care physician, I've stopped drinking diet sodas and drink water now. Only water, nothing else. I just ended my first week and I'm doing great. I thought I would miss the sodas, but I don't. I do need some sodium, but I get that from the foods I eat, and I have begun watching that content as well.

Before I started this regimen I was drinking no water at all, only diet sodas and I was putting away over 2 liters a day!

Another reason I stopped with the sodas is because I was so dehydrated that when I went for an epidural (more about that in a moment), the nurse had problems penetrating my skin to start an IV.

The epidurals (there have been 2 since last we "spoke") were necessary because my Osteoarthritis has gotten so bad that I have developed  C3 and 4 "compression", otherwise known as herniated disc, in my spine. I went to see a bone guy and there is a procedure which can be done, but it would leave my neck rigid, completely immovable, according to the doc. I am still thinking about that one, and in the meantime I have some pain meds if I need them.

While we're on the subject of my physical health, have you ever heard of the term "trigger finger"? It's not what one would think: something out of a western, but a painful condition of the thumb or fingers which, due to inflammation, causes them to lock. It hurts like hell to pop them back out and I plan to have this fixed after the first of the year.


When I began this blog, I did so with the goal of being proactive and fighting my disease with involvement and humor, but today, even though my sense of humor is intact, I'm feeling more like a "patient" and this frightens me.

It frightens me because during my employment as a respiratory therapist, I saw my patients as people lying in a bed depending on me to help make them well, to help end their suffering, as it were. 

I don't want to feel like that. I don't want to feel like that, but every now and then I do and I fight it by doing something, anything just to be active until that feeling goes away. That didn't used to happen.

To end on a positive note, a couple of weeks ago, in my role as an Alzheimer's Advocate, I was invited to speak to a local church group. We had a great time, with me sharing some anecdotes, including the time I went into the wrong bathroom, didn't realize it right away and began looking for the urinals.

Of course there weren't any, so I entered the stall and used the toilet. When I exited, there stood a woman with eyes as big as saucers, and as I passed her, I indignantly said, "There's no damn urinals in here!" Of course, I cleaned it up a bit for my audience.

So that's it for this time and I'm sorry it was so long, but there was a lot to tell you about and it helps me to write it all out of my system.

In the spirit of the season, I'd like to leave you with a rendition of an old holiday classic which I think is the best version I have ever heard. There's a bit of dialogue in the beginning, but it's short. At the bottom of the page you'll see an icon to click on to help feed homeless animals. It's free, so please go to the site and do it daily.

The Animal Rescue Site
Thanks! Bill

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Update Coming Soon!

I'm still "kickin'", so don't forget about me. Got lots to tell y'all and I'll get it posted before the weekend, promise.