Mini Quiet Times with a Loved One with Alzheimer's
Do you have an aging loved one who, in their younger and healthier years, loved spending time with the Lord, but who is losing – or has lost much of – their mental ability to spend time with Him anymore?
Or do you have a mentally-impaired loved one who is open to spending time with the Lord, even if it has never been the norm for them?
My husband's mom – my dear mother-in-love – always had time with God in the wee hours of the morning, before heading to work. Here is one of her Bibles, obviously well-used and well-loved:
When she was about 81, Alzheimer's and what they call "Parkinsonian Disease" invaded her mind that, up until then, had functioned efficiently, and started taking her down a dark, frustrating, and at times agonizing path.
They say that the Alzheimer's-affected brain is like Swiss cheese, with holes in it that worsen and get deeper as the disease progresses. This results in memory loss spots, episodes, and lapses, but it's not a steady decline, as with dementia. They can remember things and be in a good frame of mind one minute, but then decline down a dark slope into fear, paranoia, rage, depression, and anxiety the next minute, and then shortly afterwards come back out of it, but still feel affected, as if they had just gone through a traumatic experience – which in their mind, they had. So it has deep emotional and memory ramifications.
When Mom's illness was still in the earlier stages, she had expressed being fearful of dying and even of going to Heaven. I thought, how sad to be getting this close to passing on to Heaven, having lived a beautiful life of giving to others, but to not be looking forward to it now!
So one day when I was at her house doing a bit of quiet time with her, I read to her out of Within Heaven's Gates (more on that in a moment), and then prayed for her.
Then when I was done praying, Mom said, "Now I'd like to pray for you, Barb."
I hope I didn't lose any prayer points for opening my eyes and sneaking a picture of her as she was praying for me! I just had to look at her because it was SO precious to hear – and see – her praying for me! And, once I looked, I just wanted to capture this moment forever because I knew that a moment like this might never come my way again!
As it turned out, this (above) was the last such time I experienced with her, and I will treasure it forever! This is a woman who was very connected to her Lord, who prayed faithfully for her family and loved ones for decades.
As I thought back on all the years I'd known her, I remembered her habit of having Quiet Time with the Lord each morning. This was not just a "nice thing to do" nor a religious duty; it was the core of her soul, and the strength of her life. I know these times were an anchor for her through any trials and difficulties she went through.
Here are some of Mom's precious thoughts on spending time with God and prayer, written in her own handwriting, on the inside of her Bible:
Here's an inside flap of her Bible cover (which I made for her around 35 years ago):
Another precious note she had written in her Bible about prayer:
Our son, Tory, says more about her heart for God in the blog article: "Tory's Memories of Grandma Shelton" – which is the transcript of what he shared at her memorial service. (If you're not in the mood for some tears – and laughter – don't read it!)
But, with Mom's diminishing state of health – mental and physical – due to Alzheimer's and the Parkinsonian disease, her mind could no longer hold onto the train of thought needed to have a quiet time in an intentional and orderly way. Her heart was still completely with her Lord, but her mind was not cooperating.
And, with how challenging and emotionally stormy the disease had made her life, if there was any time she needed this time with the Lord, it was certainly now. Here is something she wrote in her Bible about hard times many years before:
So, knowing how vital her time with the Lord had been, and how deep her faith, I came up with the idea of our family – Dave, I, and our kids – having Mini Quiet Times with her and basically being her "Quiet Time hosts." ☺️ I created a format for these times, which I will share in a moment.
I knew she would love this idea of us doing Mini Quiet Times with her, especially with her own family doing them with her! But I knew I would need to ask her, not just start without her knowing what we were doing .
ABOUT DOING THIS
When I approached Mom about the idea of us doing Mini Quiet Times with her, I told her I knew that, throughout her life, her daily time with the Lord at 5:00am had been a spiritual anchor for her, so I asked, "Is that right?" Shaking her head yes, she said "Well, yes it was."
I said, "OK, would you say that what you are going through at this time in your life is possibly the hardest and worst storm of your life?" And she answered quietly, but firmly: "Yes."
I said "I'm guessing you miss those times with the Lord because you're not really able to do that yourself right now – is that right?" She answered, "Yes" again, with a sad look on her face.
So I said "Well, Mom, Dave and I and our kids would like to give you the gift of having a Mini Quiet Time with you each day on the phone. It would be very simple and short, but hopefully an anchor in the Lord in your day. They would be only 5 minutes; maybe 10 if you're feeling up to it.
I told her what all it would include, and said that we wouldn't do them at a set time because we're all on different schedules, but it would happen just at some point in the day. I asked her if she would enjoy that.
Her first response was a nod "Yes," and then "I need to ask Dad about it."
[Side note: Mom had gotten very dependent on Dad for everything. This is a common trait for how this disease progresses. And Dad did an amaaaaazing job of caring for her all the way through, as far as he could. At one point, talking about it, he said that caring for her was difficult, and hard to see her this way, but he treasured it all and wouldn't trade it for the world.]
I told Mom: "It'll just be a quick phone call once a day, and if it's not a good time for you, we can always call you back later. I'm sure Dad will be happy to have us doing this for and with you every day!"
The look on her face after that was sweet and peaceful – I could tell it meant a lot to her for us to want to do this.
So we started them. Dad actually appreciated these times. He even asked Sharnessa one day if she could extend her time with her Grandma a bit so that he could have time to take a shower.
In honor of Mom's love of gardening, I'm going to intersperse photos of flowers throughout the rest of this article. These aren't from her garden; just ones she would love, and is currently enjoying perfectly in Heaven!
First, here's the simple outline without any of my ideas or verses added in. Just the "brass tacks" for you minimalists as well as you creatives who can take a simple idea and run with it:
MINI QUIET TIMES
WITH MOM / GRANDMA:
🌷 GIVE THANKS
🌷 WORSHIP THE LORD
🌷 A PROVERBS VERSE
🌷 DRAW CLOSE TO GOD
🌷 ASK GOD TO HELP HER
🌷 VERSE TO DISMISS FEAR
🌷 READ AN EXCERPT FROM
WITHIN HEAVEN'S GATES
🌷 YOUR OWN THOUGHTS
🌷 PRAYER REQUESTS
MINI QUIET TIME OUTLINE
If you want ideas for what to do for each of those, they are comin' right up...
I told everyone that they were welcome to do whatever they wanted during their mini quiet times with Grandma. They could use – or not use – my outline. But they said they'd like to have a basic format with several options under each category.
You would choose only one of the verses – not read all of them, unless your loved one was capable of and wanting that much.
The wording in this "outline with notes" is me talking to my kids about how to do this with their grandma. You will want to read through the Scriptures before your Mini Quiet Time with the person to be sure that what you read will minister to them where they're at. (I use the pronoun "her" because this was for my mom.)
🌷 GIVE THANKS - "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart" - Ask her what she is thankful for today. Even if she can only think of one thing, that's great! Feel free to add anything you think of on her behalf.
🌷 WORSHIP THE LORD - "I will enter His courts with praise." – Help her worship the Lord in whatever way you want. You can just worship using words off the top of your head, sing a song for her, and/or read a short passage in Psalms, like this. (I have changed the words from being second person – about Him – to being to Him.)
• "Praise the Lord, O my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. You wrap yourself in light as with a garment; You stretch out the heavens like a tent and lay the beams of your upper chambers on their waters. You make the clouds your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind." (Psalm 104:1–4)
• "Oh Lord, You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. ... As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love for those who fear You. ... As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:8–13)
• "Oh the depth of the riches of your wisdom and knowledge, oh God! How unsearchable are your judgments! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen." (Proverbs 11:33)
🌷 PROVERBS VERSE - A whole chapter is too much for her, plus she doesn't need quite a bit of it for where she's at, so find just one or two verses in the chapter for "today." (There's one chapter per month in Proverbs.) It's important that you be aware of what's coming and just do the positive part of the verse. For instance, I'm looking at Proverbs 12:4: "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." I'd read only the first half of that verse. And obviously avoid references to judgment, chastisement, negativity, evil, stupidity, etc. Read your verse ahead so you'll know what to avoid and won't be mid-sentence when you realize it's not something she needs to hear.
🌷 DRAW CLOSE TO GOD - "Lord, would You tenderly draw [Gramma/Mom] close to You?
• "I have stilled and quieted my soul. Out of the depths, I cry to you, oh Lord; I wait for the Lord. My soul waits and in his word I put my hope. Oh put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, and with Him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel [and us] from all [our] sins." (From Psalms 130 and 131)
• "The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save you; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
• "The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in His Temple, living in His presence every day of my life, delighting in His incomparable perfections and glory. There I'll BE when troubles come! He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle, He will set me on a high rock, out of reach of all my enemies!" (Psalm 27:4-5)
• "As for me, Lord, my contentment is not in earthly wealth, but in seeing You and knowing all is well between us. And when I awaken in Heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see You face-to-face." (Psalms 17:15)
• "My heart has heard You say 'Come and talk with me, oh my people,' and my heart responds 'Lord, I am coming!'" (Psalms 27:8)
🌷 ASK GOD TO HELP HER
• "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against my enemies; with Your right hand You save me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, oh Lord, endures forever." (Psalms 138:7)
• "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:26–28)
• "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will. And may He work in us that which is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)
🌷 VERSE TO DISMISS FEAR
• "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
• "For God has not given us a spirit of fear or intimidation, but of power, and love, and a sound mind." (2Timothy 1:7)
• "Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous and victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
🌷 READ AN EXCERPT FROM WITHIN HEAVEN'S GATES - This amazing book gives a glimpse of Heaven and is so refreshing to the spirit, and in complete alignment with the Word of God. (Read the book description here.) It helped get Mom more looking forward to Heaven, and less apprehensive of what was to come.
🌷 YOUR OWN THOUGHTS - If you read something in the Word or a book that reminds you of Grandma, feel free to share it with her. For instance, I shared with her the verse where the Father says of Jesus (at His baptism) "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." I said: "Mom, I know that this is exactly what the Father says of YOU, as He looks back on your life and sees ALL that you have done to bless your family and loved ones with the many acts of kindness and service that you blessed so many of us with over the years!"
🌷 PRAYER REQUESTS - Ask her if she has any specific prayer request(s) and give her a few seconds to think. If she doesn't, just pray whatever comes to your mind for her. I always pray for the Holy Spirit to wrap His mighty, comforting wings around her and draw her close, and for her to feel his presence all the way down to the very depths and core of her being: her nervous system, the nooks and crannies of her mind and heart, wherever her body soul and mind are in need of His touch.
Here are some ideas for how to be effective and creative in leading them in a quiet time:
• It's sometimes a little hard for her mind to focus, so talk more slowly than usual. Give her some "breathing room" between thoughts.
• Her hearing is good, so you can talk more softly and gently, to soothe her spirit.
• Avoid verses that talk about saving us from death. At this point she is actually very ready and anxious to be done with her failing earthly body and to get to Heaven and into the arms of Jesus! So, for example, Psalm 41:8 would not be good: "My eyes are fixed on you, oh sovereign Lord, in You I take refuge – do not give me over to death." (She would say, I'm sure, "Yes! DO give me over to death, Lord!")
• If you selectively combine parts of verses, it's helpful to think this through ahead and highlight the parts of the verses you're going to read. Otherwise you could find yourself reading along and then all of a sudden reading something that you, at that moment, realize is not the best thing to be reading to her. 😳
• After each little section, pause and gently ask her how she's doing, and if she's okay with continuing, just so you don't get ahead of her if she's having a hard time. You could ask questions like "Are you doing OK?" ... "Still with me?" ... "Want to continue?"
•: CHRISSY :•
Chrissy had Grandma over to her home before we got this program going and did her own thing with her. Chrissy has been adding to her "1,000 Gifts Journal" for a few years now, using Ann Voskamp's concept of finding peace and healing through being thankful to God for the countless little (and big!) blessings He gives us, which are called "gifts."
When she got to 1,000 gifts, she loved doing this so much, she kept going, aiming for a second thousand!
And she made it! Chrissy dedicated her two-thousandth gift to Grandma Shelton, writing this in her journal: "Peace from anxiety! – for Gramma S" on the 2,000th line! (The two of them on this day...)
Chrissy shared with Grandma about being grateful in the midst of the hard things she herself was going through, and prayed for her.
Chrissy with Gramma Shelton
•: CARLIANNE :•
Carlianne wrote: "I just had my first QT with Gramma. It was so precious. ❤️ It was a bit hard to understand her sometimes, but not too bad. I was at Mom's house, and I put it on speaker so Mom could hear too. At one point, Gramma wanted to stop and go to the bathroom. [This is another common trait of her illness.] I asked her if we could finish first, and that was fine with her. Then we went on for a few more minutes. (She had just gone to the bathroom before she called me too. Lol.) We were on the phone for a total of about 15 minutes! She did really well.
At one point, on her own accord, she recited part of Psalm 11, from memory. I didn't lose it, but I could have! 😭 I think it was along the same lines of what we were talking about.
Towards the end of our time on the phone, Mom lost it. (Thanks Mom! 😉) I actually could've started crying way earlier, but kept it together. Then I started crying right at the very end, when I was getting off the phone. Then Mama and I cried. 😢
It's so hard, and so sweet to have these times with Gramma. She looks forwards to them. She asked who was doing tomorrow. She replied to something I said at the end (maybe about one of our family members doing tomorrow's?) with "Okie dokie." I just love her. 😭💕"
[Barb:] I was really glad that Carlianne let me listen. It was very precious for me to get to hear how Carlianne interacted with her – soooo sweetly, gently, and lovingly! There were times when Carlianne came to something that she wasn't quite sure how to answer, so I whispered an idea to her, to just help her know which direction to take something that Grandma had just said.
It was the way Carlianne talked to her Grandma as well as how Grandma responded that made me cry. And especially when she wanted to know who is doing this tomorrow. She has loved her times with each of you, and SO looks forward to them! I know they are LIFE to her!
Carlianne with her Gramma Shelton
•: ME / BARB :•
I told the family: "I did a Mini Quiet Time with her tonight, and it was very precious! She was weak and quiet, but I know it went in to her soul and did her heart and spirit good! When I asked her for a prayer request, she said, (and her voice was weak, but her spirit strong): "Soften hearts of loved ones." This goes along with what I know is heavily weighing on her heart right now – the salvation of those in our family who are not saved. I certainly can't know or judge who is and isn't saved, but God knows, and whoever they may be, they are definitely heavy on Grandma's heart. She wants to see ALL of her family in Heaven. 💕☺️💕"
Our time was only about 5 minutes. So even though the outline looks like a lot, really it's only lots of options, insights, and ideas that I give you, and not a whole script!
Carlianne, me, Mom, and Sharnessa
•: SHARNESSA :•
"I had a precious mini Quiet Time with Gramma tonight!! We started with a bit of small-talk, and then went into thanksgiving, and her thing she was grateful for was: "I'm grateful to the Lord for giving me such a loving husband." :)
I had to hold back tears a few different times - either due to the preciousness of it or the emotion of it all. She asked which part was next a couple times.
I read Isaiah 41:10 over her.
With the worship part, I gave her a couple of options of what we could do... and she asked me to sing. So I asked her what she would like me to sing, or if she would like me to sing something she knows, or if it mattered. She said she'd like something she knew.
So I sang "How Great Thou Art" "with" her. (I pulled up the lyrics to be sure I got them right - even though I led this at church and should fully know it, lol.) My voice cracked a few times as, again, I just wanted to cry as it was so precious and sweet, and so heartbreaking, too, but I kept muttering under my breath - between words - for the Holy Spirit to gird me up.
After maybe 10 minutes altogether, she said she needed to use the rest room. But Grampa was in the shower - he had asked at the beginning of our conversation if I could be on the phone with her longer than usual so he could shower. :) So anyway, I kept her on (talking, read another shorter scripture or two), until Grampa was out.
She asked a couple times "Who's doing it tomorrow?" So maybe someone ring her tonight just to let her know that you'll be doing that with her tomorrow? These really mean a lot to her (as Mom already said). Thanks for setting these up, Momma!! Amazing!! 💕💕"
Chrissy, Mom, and Sharnessa
(Mom got a kick out of being part of taking
a selfie, which might have been her first!)
I (Barb again) was disappointed that, after we had done only a few of these, Mom's cognizant capacity had deteriorated too quickly to continue. Different ones would still read and sing to her at different times, but I was sad that I hadn't known enough - or thought - to start them sooner.
My hope - my reason for sharing this with you - is that this idea would come to you in enough time to try this with your loved one, for whom such Mini Quiet Times could be very helpful in breathing life and hope into their hurting, failing, overwhelmed heart.
And into your heart as well. You may have only a small window of opportunity, as we did, but at least it will be a window with a clearer view, with hopefully a bit more beauty in that view than it might have had otherwise.
much love to my beautiful
Carolyn Anne Shelton:
Here, below, is a picture of our (my) family almost 20 years ago! It was taken by Mom. (See right below the photo.) This is on the back of one of the books I wrote. She took the photo in her back yard under the trellis that she always made so beautiful each year! (Our son, Tory, is now 39, and Sharnessa and Carlianne almost 40 and 31 as of this writing!)
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Portions of this article were taken from my Commune With Me Guide article, which goes into this topic of spending time with God in greater depth, and includes a free printable. I designed it to be used by you (and me), but it could be adapted and simplified for a loved one whose mental capacities are not too far declined.