7 Stages of Alzheimer’s

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned that my mother is slipping into Stage 5 of Alzheimer’s. Some of my followers  asked me, “What are the stages and how do they manifest in our loved ones?”

7 Stages of AlzSo I’ve decided to answer that question with a series of blog posts about the 7 Stages. Each week, we’ll look at the next consecutive stage – but not totally from a scientific point of view.

My journey into the world of Alzheimer’s has included my mother’s disease but also the viewpoint of a special lady – Reverend G.

These posts will include Reverend G’s personal experiences and her thoughts through each consecutive stage.

Also, each post will end with a Bible verse that Reverend G hangs on to during that stage. She is, after all, an ordained minister and her faith is important to her – no matter what is happening to her brain.

As we move closer to the book launch for the third book in the series, “Final Grace for Reverend G,” I’ll also include some videos to help my followers understand each stage of the journey.

So to introduce the series, here are the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s – as Reverend G experiences them – with a bit of scientific information from my research. I hope you’ll join me on this series of posts and share them with your friends.

Stage 1: Preparation. No cognitive decline is present, but a sense that Reverend G doesn’t feel exactly well and wonders what is going to happen. She believes God is preparing her for something in the near future. Isaiah 43: 2-3.

Stage 2: Questions. A small amount of forgetfulness is present, but nothing that impairs life. One example is when Reverend G forgets a line from “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is the stage where “The Unraveling of Reverend G” begins. Isaiah 48:2.

Stage 3: Fear. Something is definitely wrong and life is beginning to seem more difficult. Early confusion sets in. Reverend G loses an entire carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Fear is a constant companion. Psalm 34:4.

Stage 4: Diagnosis. Reality confirms the diagnosis as more and more confusion affects Reverend G. Handling finances becomes more difficult and while short-term memory begins to fog, long-term memory is still coherent.

This is the stage where most families begin to consider assisted living arrangements. Reverend G begins to accept what is happening to her. Psalm 43:5.

Stage 5: Early Dementia. Reverend G no longer cares about time or the days of the week. She has difficulty counting backwards although she still knows the names of her loved ones. She still enjoys eating cheesecake with blueberries but she may have some trouble tying her shoelaces or making decisions about what to wear.

She may have dreams that seem real, although they just confuse her further. Her comment appears often, “Oh God, oh God – I can’t stand it.” Reverend G lives through Stages 4 and 5 in “Intermission for Reverend G.” Hebrews 13:5b.

Stage 6: Back to Childhood. Severe cognitive decline as Reverend G is now entirely dependent for her survival. She experiences expressive aphasia as speech become more difficult.

Her beloved Chris is with her and her family remains a source of comfort, but she has forgotten major events and the seasons of the year mean nothing to her. Time has virtually disappeared.

She does know her own name, but others will have to help her with daily living. At this point, she is relying on God to keep her faith strong, because she has no cognitive ability to comprehend what the Bible says, even though she may be able to recite some passages or find comfort in music.

“Final Grace for Reverend G” begins at the end of Stage 5 and continues through Stage 7. Psalm 56:3-4.

Stage 7: The Race is Won. In this final stage, Alzheimer’s patients are virtually infants. All speech is gone. Feeding and toileting need assistance. They lose the ability to walk and are bedridden.

Reverend G is visited by family and friends, but it is God’s faithfulness that continues to sustain her.

As the author, I wrote Reverend G with some ability to comprehend thoughts although she can no longer voice them. The deep viewpoint was the tool I used because I wanted to show what we cannot know – how the Alzheimer’s patient can still feel love and experience faith.

This is where final grace becomes most important. John 14:3.

So these are the stages of Alzheimer’s, told from the viewpoint of our beloved Reverend G.

In the end, with final grace, even a fictional character can help us understand that once we belong to God – he will never, ever let us go.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Where Is It?

For three days, I lived on the edge of fear, hoping and praying that what I suspected was not true. I had searched through all my cabinets, even in the pantry and could not find my favorite glass measuring cup.measuring cup

Each morning, I checked through all the cabinets again. Maybe I had missed it the day before. Maybe it somehow reappeared during the night in that clandestine hide-and-seek that dishes and socks and silverware play.

No. I looked in the dishwasher. Maybe it was dirty and waiting to be washed. No. Maybe it somehow found its way to the cabinet with the smaller appliances. Was it stuck inside the blender? No. Hiding behind my son’s George Foreman grill? No.

The reason this search for the missing glass measuring cup was so important had nothing to do with the fact that this is my favorite measuring cup. I could probably replace it at Target for less than five dollars.

But this is the exact behavior that my mother exhibited when she began to struggle with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. She “lost” items around the house. She forgot which cabinets held her pots and pans. She safety-pinned her house key inside her pants whenever she left the house so that she could get in again, because her keys were easy to “lose.”

Was I beginning to see the same pattern and this time…in myself?

Please, God. Oh no, please, please.

After the third day of searching for the measuring cup and not finding it, I mentioned it to my son. “Have you seen it? Do you remember taking it out of the dishwasher and putting it somewhere?”

He helped me look through the cabinets one more time and sure enough – there it was. Hiding behind the divider on the top shelf, within the shadows where I had easily missed seeing it before.

But how did it get there? I have a particular place where I keep my measuring cups. Why was this cup in the wrong place?

I thought about Reverend G and how she misplaced a half gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Instead of placing it in the freezer where it belonged, she hid it in the pantry where the “brown and white droplets of melted ice cream puddled on the floor.” http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Was I joining my own main character in the world of Alzheimer’s, putting things where they didn’t belong?

Please, God. Oh no, please, please.

Then my son fessed up. “I may have put the measuring cup in the wrong place, Mom.”

Whew! “Okay. It goes here, in this other cabinet. Next time, we’ll both know where to look for it.”

Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you.

©2014 RJ Thesman – Intermission for Reverend G – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

What Alzheimer’s Teaches – Part 4

We know that Alzheimer’s Disease can teach us several things: patience, the importance of each day and how we should make memories while we can. But another, rather negative lesson also surfaces.

Strongholds endure. Number 4

A stronghold is any type of behavior or attitude that has a strong hold on us. Sometimes, it is the result of a lifetime of bad choices. Sometimes it is from a learned behavior and other times, it is based on a lie someone told us. Then we believed that lie and based our lives on it. Sad.

I have observed how strongholds endure, not only in my mother, but in myself as well. As we age, our strongholds may revisit us with a vengeance.

My mother’s propensity to worry has magnified with her Alzheimer’s. She admits it. “I’m a worrier,” she says. “I stew about everything.”

She worries that someone is stealing her money, her house or her car. All of us in the family know this is not true, but Mom’s fear is even stronger now that it is coupled with nightmares and the side effects of some medicines. Although she lives in a beautiful facility where she is perfectly safe, she is still a fearful person.

I don’t want that to happen to me.

So whenever I notice some of the strongholds of my past rearing their ugly heads, I fight against them with scripture and prayer. My favorite passages become fightin’ words that fill me with peace when the cares of this life attack me.

When fear tries to invade my peace, I hit it with Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He heard me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

When the lie of rejection torments me, I remind it of Hebrews 13:5 as God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When failure screams at me, I holler right back from the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, “God has a good plan for my life. So there!”

Although strongholds may endure throughout a lifetime, we don’t have to let them torment us forever. The more we fight now, the more victories we’ll have later.

I want victory now so that I can live well and leave well.

5 Ways to Stall Creativity

When the words flow, our creative juices whet the appetite for more. Writing becomes enjoyable work. But when we have to fight ourselves to keep in the chair and force our fingers to keep typing – then we wonder why in the world we ever chose to do this mammoth task.writers block

Most of the time, when I sit in front of the computer – my fingers just take off. But occasionally, I have to force feed the sentences and that’s when I try to discover what has stalled my creativity.

Perhaps it is one of the following:

  • Lack of sleep. I know some writers crawl out of bed hours before they need to be at the “other” job or they stay awake long after Letterman says, “Goodnight.”

But I can’t do that. If I don’t get my regular eight and sometimes nine hours of rest, I invite sickness, crankiness and all sorts of nasty attitudes. Nay, nay. To be creative, I must sleep.

  • Stress. Neck muscles tighten. Blood pressure soars, and a headache begins to throb. Stress visits through unpaid bills, too many night-time activities when I don’t get the afore-mentioned shut eye or when anything at all happens to affect the car.

In my opinion, any type of car problem equals stress which results in stalled creativity. I find nothing at all creative about oil changes that turn into leaky hoses, bald tires or anything at all that is goofy in the transmission. I might have less stress if I just bought a horse.

  • Wrong Direction. Sometimes we have to write a while to find out which direction the characters want to go, but if we come to a block where nothing is happening and we’re bored with our own words, creativity stalls.

That’s when the writer reverses gears, discovers a new character or resorts to binging on chocolate.

  • Fear. What if no one wants to read my incredible manuscript? What if I write and write and no one ever nominates me for the Pulitzer Prize? What if an asteroid hits the warehouse where all my books are located and obliterates every word that I have so carefully crafted?

The what-ifs with their roots in fear equal stalled creativity.

  • Guilt. So you decided to spend several of your precious hours working on your novel, but life interrupted and you didn’t get it done. Now you feel guilty because you’re supposed to write every day (that’s what they tell you in the conferences) and you haven’t done it.

That monstrous guilt voice overpowers you and stalls your creativity. You decide God probably didn’t call you to write after all, which adds to the guilt because real Christians are supposed to know what God wants them to do.

So how do writers unstall and move forward?

I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out in the next post. Right now, I’m feeling stressed and I need to sleep.

©2013 RJ Thesman