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

Television Becomes Mom’s Companion

As I entered the assisted living facility and walked down the hallway, I heard Mom’s television. I knew what I would discover even before I knocked on the door.

televisionMom sat in her maroon recliner, watching but not really comprehending the images on what she calls, “The Idiot Box.”

Television was never a revered object on the farm. In fact, the set was turned off after the evening news so that my siblings and I could finish our homework or start reading a new book. The only sound in the house came from the old stereo and Dad’s many classical albums.

So nowadays, it seems odd that Mom’s television booms its sounds not only throughout her room, but also down the hallway.

Whether from boredom or loneliness, the need for some type of humanity in her room, Mom turns on her television and powers up the volume. Her hearing has slowly declined.

She does not use her hearing aid because it only gets lost or in her mind – stolen. Truthfully, the design is not easy for older folks with shaky hands as the tiny battery has to be removed after each wearing and replaced every time she inserts it into her ear. The order of tasks seem impossible, so Mom just ignores it and goes without.

My sister is the keeper of the hearing aid, so she takes it home for safekeeping, then instructs Mom all over again every time she needs it.

Mom turns up the volume on her television and mindlessly watches shows she cares nothing about. I turn down the volume so we can talk.

“I hate the TV,” Mom says. “I’d rather read a book.” She points to one of the many books in her stack that she reads over and over again, reaches for one of the Reader’s Digest condensed versions and opens it. Occasionally, she looks at me and asks one of the many questions we have just talked about.

The core values of the Alzheimer’s patient do not always coincide with their behavior.  What the heart and mind believe does not always jibe with action.

So Mom’s television is another reminder of the difficulties of communication. When Alzheimer’s overshadows a behavior that is not consistent with life’s memory, all we can do is seek patience and another level of understanding.

The television is now Mom’s companion, the noisemaker in the room, but it will never replace the life story of a woman who read voraciously and made sure that her children also learned to love books.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Who Are My Readers?

A royalty check arrives from my publisher at CrossRiver Media. My novel, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” has traveled to more homes and more hands. Someone is reading my words.3D Rev G cover

I look at the list and marvel at the numbers of people who read the story of Reverend G – these folks who follow her journey into Alzheimer’s and learn to love the characters: Gabriel, Chris, Roxie and all the others.

Who are these people who order my book and read it?

Some of them order directly from my publisher. That is good. I want my publisher to succeed and thrive.

Some use the popular Amazon site while others download my book onto Kindle with its electronic convenience. Are some of these people like my friend who has multiple sclerosis? Kindle makes it easy for her to turn pages.

Or are some of my readers like me who love to feel the texture of a book, to highlight favorite phrases, to read and reread the same page and experience the wonder of the words.

I stare at the list and pray.

Maybe some of these readers are like me, long distance caregivers who wonder how they can help their loved ones deal with Alzheimer’s when they live so far away.

Maybe some of them are the primary caregivers who live in constant stress within their 36-hour day. They need a respite, a place to laugh at the similes of Bert and the antics of Gabriel. I included funny stories in my book on purpose. We all need to laugh and seek joy.

Maybe some of my readers are ministers such as Reverend G, who know how it feels to have an Edna Simmons in the pew, an EGR – Extra Grace Required. Or maybe they are looking for ways to provide hope and encouragement to people in their congregations who struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia, with death and discouragement.

For all of these, I pray.

Because this is why I write. This is why I come home from my ministry job and then work another couple of hours at my writing job. This is why I sit in my office and type on my laptop and let the words flow from my soul to yours.

I write to somehow share the hope that God is with us on this journey. We are not alone. That whether we are the readers or the writer, the words do have a purpose.

And although I may not know your name or where you live, I do know that God loves you and somehow he will use the words he has birthed in me to send you a message.

So I thank you, my readers. I thank you for the royalty check because life is reality and I need the money.

I thank you also for encouraging me to stay the course, to keep writing and telling the rest of Reverend G’s story.

I thank you for letting me enter your lives and share God’s hope.

©2013 RJ Thesman

Reading Reverend G

It’s just the sweetest thing.

A lady in my Sunday School class has a difficult time these days. She struggles from the side affects of a brain cyst. Although she has lived a full life and raised children, worked outside the home and managed the household – she now struggles to deal with the basic necessities of life. Her husband cares for her, while a daughter and her family moved in to also help with her care.

Although this dear woman no longer reads for long periods of time, she bought one of the Reverend G books. 3D Rev G coverShe and her husband wanted to support and encourage me. It awed and humbled me at the same time.

Another couple in my Sunday School class decided to take on the task of reading my book to this dear woman. So every week, they drive over to her house and read a chapter or a section of the book. Together, all of them laugh and cry with Reverend G.

Each Sunday, they tell me about it and I imagine them sitting together in the living room, sharing the words that God birthed in me, ministering to each other.

I also imagine angels in the room as these dear saints share a kindness with each other. Again, I am blessed and awed for the ways this simple story blesses people.

Reverend G illustrates the importance of living each day to the fullest – of finding extraordinary joy in the ordinary details of life.

That’s what these folks are doing. They are finding and sharing joy with each other, reading through a fiction book and imagining it as real. They are showing love to each other even as they validate my task as the writer.

It’s just the sweetest thing.

©2013 RJ Thesman