Hope Bleeds at Sundown

sunsetWe first noticed this phenomenon with Dad. During the final stages of his dementia, dusk triggered an inward call. He rose from his chair and began pacing up and down the living room, going nowhere yet constantly moving.

His eyes shone with an almost maniacal light, as if he obeyed a substance or a creature we could not see. By that time, he no longer spoke, so we couldn’t ask him what he was looking for or where he wanted to go. It became his nightly ritual until he could no longer walk.

I fully expected him to pass away during the dusky hours, when the Oklahoma sun begins its descent into the horizon. But no, he graduated to heaven in the middle of a spring day – simply by ceasing to breathe and walking away with Jesus.

Years ago, when my mother worked as a nurse in the hospital, she told me how important it was to work the night shift and watch out for her patients. “If they’re going to die,” she said, “they’ll die at night.”

Something about the night conjures up the dark fear of death – all those spooky movies with a full moon shadowing gargantuan monsters. I find that strange, because I love sunsets and when I finally lay me down to sleep, I say, “Ah! Yes!”


But then, the scenario is different when Alzheimer’s and/or dementia capture the brain.


 

We have noticed the sundown change in Mom as well. She eats supper early, around 4:30 at the assisted living facility. Perhaps they schedule it early for a purpose, because they know what is coming for many of their residents. Shortly after supper, Mom moves into her most confused state of the day.

We know better than to visit her in the evening, because she will be concerned about the farm and what is happening there, even though she hasn’t lived in the country for many years. In the evenings, she will forget Dad has passed. She will talk about him as if he is coming into the room and she must prepare his clothes for the next day.

At dusk, Mom will argue about nonsensical things – what day it is, what year it is, whether we have already celebrated Christmas and whose name she drew and what present she bought. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we try to explain, the shutters of understanding have closed for the day. She is lost within the sunset hours.

An old hymn reminds me of the timelessness of heaven and how we will someday no longer fear any type of sundowner symptoms.

“Beyond the sunset, oh blissful morning

When with our savior, heaven is begun.

Earth’s toiling ended, oh glorious dawning

Beyond the sunset, when day is done.”

 

You can listen to the entire hymn here: Beyond the Sunset

I guess there’s a good reason hope bleeds at sundown. Maybe that’s the time believers are most restless for heaven, searching for the Savior and for their loved ones who graduated before them.

Next time I see Mom at dusk, I’ll take her hand to calm her down and say, “It’s okay, Mom. Only a few more sunsets until your journey is over. Be still. The best is yet to be.”

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

3 Levels of Alzheimer’s

Until I started researching and living Alzheimer’s with my mom – nobody told me about the three levels of this disease. But I’ve seen them again and again as I’ve talked with other caregivers and observed my mom.Alz awareness

Level One: Your loved one begins to realize something isn’t quite right. He forgets where he parked the car. She forgets how to brush her teeth. They can’t count or say the alphabet. This is the level where Reverend G forgot part of the Lord’s Prayer. http://amzn.to/11QATC1

They begin to use coping mechanisms to help themselves remember. My mother parked in the exact same parking space every time she went to the grocery store. That’s how she remembered where her car was. She pinned her house keys to the inside of her slacks so that she was never locked out of her house because she couldn’t find her keys.

In Level One, the Alzheimer’s patient is afraid and usually keeps this fear a secret. During this time, the rest of the family needs to begin making some difficult decisions.

Level Two: I call Level Two, the intermission. This is the level where the Alzheimer’s medicines begin to work, where the loved one is more content, where everything seems to be okay – for a little while. None of the levels have a time frame because every patient reacts differently. Your loved one still remembers you and may be able to take care of herself, especially within the protective confines of assisted living.

During “Intermission for Reverend G” http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo, we see a love story, the residents play Bingo and converse fairly easily with each other although confusion still reigns.

Level Three: The Alzheimer’s patient begins to move into the final stages. He will probably forget his family members; she may forget how to speak and how to eat. For the patients, this is not nearly as stressful as Level One, because they don’t care anymore and don’t even know what they’re doing.

This is the most difficult level for the caregiver. Mom or Dad have now become infants, wearing diapers, needing to be fed and dressed. We grieve every day and beg God to take them home.

No matter what level your loved one is in right now, the important point is to take care of yourself, love them however you can and know that someday – no one knows when – someday this Alzheimer’s journey will end.

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