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Friday, November 28, 2014

"Unkinking The Garden Hose" and Other New Therapies

Well, Bob started his new stroke rehab program at the fitness center, and,  I must say, it is totally different than any therapy he's done before. Usually, at rehab, the PT's would just push and push Bob to get out of that chair, stand up and walk, usually at the first session. And when Bob couldn't keep up to their expectations, well, he was booted out the door...

This trainer is exactly opposite and is taking things slowly. Starting with Bob's neck and what the PT calls "unkinking the garden hose":

The trainer also says that Bob is not ready to stand up and walk yet. He needs to work on strengthening all the individual muscles needed for the job first:

And another different thing about this stroke rehab, they actually invite you to take photos and videos! Unlike the other places we went where signs are posted all over that recording/photographing is STRICTLY prohibited. (I always had to sneak those photos in....)

The idea is that by videoing the session and taking it home, you can review what you learned.

And this PT has not given up on Bob's paralyzed right arm/hand.

All I can say is, I wish we had this type of therapy four years ago...

PS: If you experience any problem with sound quality/picture quality on these videos, click on the YouTube icon to go directly to YouTube for a better viewing experience.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Caregiving X 2

So, I knew this was coming, but as always it seems to happen too fast.  Boomer, my beloved, best friend, best buddy, Great Dane/German Shepard/lovable mutt and 12 year companion, recently turned 13 years old. And man, he is showing it.
Boomer in his favorite spot on our front porch.

I had the vet come to our house last month for a check-up, as Boomer is really slowing down and his appetite has been picky/poor. She diagnosed severe arthritis and also neurological problems caused by the arthritis, including loss of sensitivity to his rectum, which is why he sometimes, you know, looses control of his bowels while he is asleep and, of course, the big dog hip dysplasia...

Surgery could correct the hip problem, but the vet thought that would be too risky at his age. And now, it's down to "keep him comfortable" and happy and quality of life issues and take it day by day...

Soooo -- Boomer has been prescribed doggy hydrocodone (WHICH IS A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE! GA! So once again I am on the "try-to-find-this-pain-med" trip, but now for the dog!) and Gabapentin, plus glucosamine supplements (he was on these before) and recommended daily walks (which I have been doing for 12 years, so no problem there). So I am popping pills down this poor dog's throat several times a day... not fun for either of us.

Also, she suggested acupuncture and hydrotherapy.  Oh-kay -- I'm starting with the pharmaceuticals and we'll see how it goes. I guess I might have to put a pool in the back yard at our new house, not only for aqua therapy for Bob but for Boomer!

Also, I bought him a doggie orthopedic bed, which he didn't like at first, but has gotten used to. He needed something as he has so much trouble getting on the couch.

Boomer in his new bed, by the fireside

I hate to say, I know Boomer's time is coming, and it will be heartbreaking, but it's not here yet. He will tell me when it's time. And I'm glad to know that I have a vet who will come to our house to do the heartbreaking deed, if/when needed.

Meanwhile, I will take care of this wonderful dog who has always been there to protect and comfort me.

And, on another note, I am still trying to get this wheelchair order mess straightened out! Basically the medical supply company blames the doc and the doctor's office blames the supply company, but someone somewhere did drop the ball and now we have to go back to the prescribing doctor's office next Tuesday, because they say the wheelchair eval is "too old" and we need a new appointment ---  grrrrrrr-OWL!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Remember this:
That pic was taken in July, when Bob test-drove the power chair and the chair was "ordered" in August...

And since then, I've been told, repeatedly, that all the paperwork was turned in to the insurance company and they are "processing" it....

Seems like it was taking a long time...

So, this week, I called United Health Care to check on the status of the wheelchair...

And was told, they never received any paperwork regarding a wheelchair.

That's all I'm saying, before I hit the roof...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unmasking a Beauty

So! Renovations started today on our new house! We are now in the "demolition" phase, meaning the things that need to be taken out, are being taken out.

First to go, the front porch enclosure (remodeled in the 1960's):
Before --

And I know, this is really an aesthetic thing, but man, Bob and I have long loved old houses (and even Bob said (about the porch), and I quote "open it up!") We knew that there was a beautiful old porch hidden under all this---

In process...

But I wasn't prepared for it to look like a miniature Southern Plantation! And already, I am more in love with this house!

Unfortunately, this a.m. I get a call from the contractor. The vinyl siding was hiding the fact that we got one really badly damaged support beam (GA!) that has to be replaced.....

As Bob says, "oh well"...

But, truly, isn't it lovely?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Neuromuscular Re-Education-- or "It's all about your butt!"

So, two weeks ago, Bob had his four week "re-certification" at Outpatient Rehab. He passed speech with flying colors, not so much PT...

Once again, he's caught in that "plateau" trap, the "no progress" or "slow progress" and "no functional improvement" crap and he's about to be booted out of the insurance-paid-for-therapy door....

This time, however, because Bob has a trust fund and we can afford to private pay for therapy, Bob's PT did some legwork and a found a highly recommended personal trainer at a local fitness studio who specializes in stroke and brain injury rehab.

Friday, we went to the fitness studio for a "free consultation" and "evaluation" with the personal trainer.

And I tell you, it was very different from the usual insurance-paid-for-therapy evaluation. In fact, the "therapy" is very different from anything we've run into at all the different rehab centers we have frequented in these past four years. This place practices the "BEST method" (stands for "Better Educated Strength Training") and the stroke rehab program concentrates on "neuromuscular re-education" and this therapist/personal trainer actually talked about things like "neuroplasticity" and "brain-to-muscle connectivity" and things I've really only read about -- up to now.

So, this sounds like pretty exciting stuff....

Our one hour evaluation consisted mostly of the trainer explaining the theory of "neuromuscular re-education" which is basically re-training the brain to take back control over the muscles, then taking Bob's history, and checking out Bob's range of motion. Then we got, what I will call for lack of a better term, "The Butt Lecture." Which went, something like this:

Your Butt is the largest muscle in your body.
As the largest muscle, your Butt is connected to and affects all other muscles in your body.
If your Butt is weak, your whole body will be weak!
If your Butt is weak, you will be unable to properly stand or walk!
A weak Butt will make you walk hunched over and unstable!
A weak Butt will cause your spine to twist!
And sitting on your Butt all day, weakens your Butt!!

Therefore, step 1 in the program will be to Strengthen 
Your Butt!!!

He then asked Bob to squeeze his butt cheeks together. I was really unsure if Bob could even do this -- in fact, I really don't remember any therapist ever asking him to do this -- but lo and behold, Bob did manage to do a butt squeeze, albeit a sort of wimpy squeeze.

This PT says Bob needs to work on his butt squeezes, and then he needs to work on being able to squeeze one butt cheek at a time, and alternate each side -- I'm thinking, huh? Can a person really do that? And you know, I tried it (right there in that therapy room), and tried it again (at home), and, um, am still trying this ---and heck, I don't think it's even possible! -- but then, I am no butt expert. Perhaps, my butt is weak, too!

The "evaluation" was coming to an end, and I asked what type of equipment they used. And the PT told me they would not be using equipment with Bob, at least not right away. That his first goals for Bob would be 1) butt strengthening and 2) re-training Bob's brain to control Bob's neck muscles so Bob could hold his head upright again.

Then, he told me that all the other therapists had been attacking Bob's neck problem all wrong. That those therapists had been, hands-on, stretching Bob's neck muscles for him and this was in no way training Bob's brain to hold his head upright and that could only be done by teaching Bob some methods to stretch his own neck...

So, after Bob's neck is straighter and his butt stronger, the therapist would then work on standing and taking steps.

And, he said, he would also like to see Bob move his right hand and arm. And I'm thinking, what?! Is that even possible? Four years post-stroke?

I mean, Bob's right arm/hand have been pretty much "dead" now for four years and every other therapist has given up on it, so I tell the guy this, and he tells me about one of their other clients, who also suffered a massive stroke, and three years ago he came to them in a wheelchair, unable to stand or walk, and all his previous therapists had told him that he would never walk again and today, he is walking with a cane...

So I called Bob's trustee and she's sending a check, and I signed Bob up for eight weeks of "neuromuscular re-education" therapy (2 times/weekly) and we'll see what happens....

Should be interesting.

Makes me sad, though, to know these types of therapies are out there, and available, but only to those who can afford it. Bob's eight weeks will cost $960, something we never could have paid for, before....

So, I'll share what we learn here!

Right now, everyone, Lesson #1:  Squeeze Those Butt Cheeks!!!! (and if anyone figures out how to squeeze one cheek at a time, let me know.... )

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. And this morning, when Boomer and I returned from our morning walk, imagine my surprise, and how very touched I was, when Bob greeted me with a rousing rendition of the traditional "Happy Birthday" song! This is the first year, post-stroke, that he actually remembered my birthday!

His version went like this:

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birth--day, dear Lisa!
Happy Birth--day to yooooo!

All righty....

And then he said, "See? See?" meaning "See, I remembered!"

And, I could tell, he was so proud of himself for remembering! So I didn't say a word about the, um, you know, "Lisa" part.

It is the thought that counts...