What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 4

Alzheimer’s cannot change lifelong habits.lifestyle image

Although some routines will change as the disease progresses, many of the lifelong habits remain ingrained in the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients.

Mom has always loved to read. She goes to the Hospice sales and buys a stack of books. Then she reads the book on the top of the stack. She no longer comprehends what she reads, and she forgets that she read the top book on the stack – so she reads it again. And again. Then she takes the entire stack to another Hospice sale and buys another bunch of books so she can read the top book on the stack.

She is content as she reads because that has always been one of her habits.

She also reads her Bible every day and a page from her “Our Daily Bread” devotional book. This has always been her morning exercise, so even though comprehension is gone, she continues her devotional practice.

On Sundays, Mom dresses up for church and carries her Bible with her. She can no longer find the passages in the Bible as the order of the books is gone. But every Sunday, no matter what, she has her Bible with her and if the weather is good – she goes to church. Because that is what she has always done.

She begins every morning with coffee, a little cream, no sugar. Morning coffee begins her day. Never tea. Never hot chocolate. Always coffee. Alzheimer’s has not yet destroyed her taste buds.


Even though osteoporosis has shorted her 5’8” frame, Mom continues to demonstrate careful posture. She walks tall, her congestive heart failure causing a bit of breathlessness – but still – her shoulders back, her head erect, her poise intact.

A cartoon bubble over her head might say, “Don’t mess with me. I know who I am.”


Like many in her generation, desserts were always part of the meal, so Mom continues to love her sweets. She plays Bingo every week and often wins. With choices of candy, peanuts or trail mix – she always chooses a Snickers bar.

She cannot understand when I turn down cookies or a piece of cake on the menu at the assisted living dining hall. Sometimes, to treat Mom, I drive her to Braums for an ice cream cone.

Maybe because she has been a lifelong reader, Mom hates the television. She calls it, “The Idiot Box” and only watches the news or turns it on for some noise to break the loneliness.

These habits of life define my mother. They make her real and vulnerable and show her personality. They cement our memories of Mom and remind us that Alzheimer’s cannot steal all of who she is.

The reader, the tall woman, the lover of sweets and hater of TV – these traits characterize my mother. Alzheimer’s cannot take that away from her.

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

Mom Walks Tall

As a child, I thought my mother was literally ten feet tall. At 5’8”, she towered over me both in height and in authority.

During the last few years, osteoporosis has reduced her to almost the same height as me, 5’4”. Now we look at each other on equal footing, although I still emotionally look up to her.

Lately, Mom has seemed taller again – or maybe she’s just feistier.

For several months, she seemed content with her apartment in assisted living. “You’re so lucky,” I told her. “This is such a beautiful place.” I thought about Cove Creek, the assisted living facility in my book and how much Reverend G loves it.3D Rev G cover

“I don’t have to cook or clean here,” Mom said. “The food is good.”

But during my recent visit, Mom regressed back to the anger she felt when we first moved her. “I want to go home,” she repeated. “I can’t believe I’m here.”

No amount of placating seemed to help. None of my comments about how lucky she is made a dent in her attitude. She was back to anger and frustration, both of us ignoring the fact that Alzheimer’s would keep her out of her home for the rest of her earthly life.

Yet her dogged determination still persisted and in spite of everything, she complied with what we told her to do, especially when we came to pick her up and take her to an event. “Put in your hearing aid, Mom.” “You’d better put on a sweater. It’s cold outside.” “You’ll need your scarf. It’s windy.”

But I could tell that anger waited, right below the surface, along with confusion and the strange reality that is now her life.

After a family lunch together, we drove Mom back to the facility. She stepped out of the car and let me hug her, but she wouldn’t say, “I love you,” even though I said it first. I wanted so desperately to hear her say it. “I’m going back to Kansas,” I reminded her.

Won’t you please tell me that you love me? Can’t you forget the anger for a moment?

Instead, she walked away with that perfect posture back into the building – her shadow reflected on the windows as she proceeded down the hallway – back to her apartment, back to the place she doesn’t want to be.

I don’t want you there, either, and I don’t want you to struggle with Alzheimer’s.

I want to see her standing tall again over the kitchen sink or planting flowers in the garden or hanging wash on the line. My mother shouldn’t be 85 years old with her complexion as white as her hair.

This is not fair, God. I can’t stand it, and I’m sure Mom can’t either.

I wonder…what does she do during the nighttime hours? Does she cry for the life she once had or has she forgotten it entirely? Does she remember the confusion, how she passed out and needed a pacemaker? Does she realize the doctor told us she could no longer live alone?

Does she ever think of us, her children, and how we are feeling about this difficult family dynamic?

Does she know how proud I am of her that she still walks tall?