10.1.17 Tinsley’s Struggle

Tinsley seemed to adjust his first week in his new home. I spent a couple of hours each evening to show my love and support for him. I showed him how I organized each drawer for his T-shirts, pajamas, and underwear. I showed him how I arranged his closet. Since Tinsley can’t carry on a conversation with much clarity, I mostly sat with him to be emotionally present. Sometimes I kept him company while we watched TV. When he needed a smile, I gave it to him. When he spoke, I nodded to affirm his attempt to make conversation. When he was ready for bed, he would lie down. I would put my chair right beside his bed and hold his hand for another thirty minutes. When he fell asleep, I headed home.



But his sweet personality changed beginning the second week of living there. 

“Why did you do this to me?!” he asked.

“I followed your doctor’s medical advice to keep you safe,” I replied. “You were in the doctor’s office with me when Dr. Booton said “It’s past time. Tinsley needs a higher level of care.”

Tinsley didn’t remember that appointment. He observed other residents with their walkers and wheelchairs. He became agitated.

“See that?!” he asked while pointing at a woman in a wheelchair. “This is just ridiculous!” I interpreted his comment to mean that because he didn’t need help with walking, he didn’t belong there.

Tinsley remained convinced that he shouldn’t be there. I began to doubt myself. Did I make the right decision for Tinsley? Did I hear God’s voice accurately? Was it the right time? When I observed the majority of residents compared to Tinsley, I have to agree with him. He looked like a misfit. Unlike the other residents, Tinsley dressed neatly and had no mobility issues. Maybe this decision was premature.

I decided to call a family meeting. They had interacted with Tinsley since Mother’s death and have seen his quick decline. They also went through this kind of decision with their own parents. They listened intently as I shared tears of pain and discouragement. After an hour of dialogue, they reassured me that Tinsley needed more care than I could ever give him at home. They shared multiple reasons to support their conviction that I have done all I am able to do for Tinsley.

But there was one person who felt it was the wrong decision, and he had no difficulty communicating that to me.

I showed up one Saturday to have supper with him. When he stepped into the dining room with me right behind him, he turned around and walked out of the dining area. I didn’t think much of it the first time. Then he would try again. He walked toward his table and saw me joining him, and he turned around and said, “No!” and walked out again.

“Tinsley, do you want me to leave?” I asked exasperated.

“YES!!!” he said angrily.

“I’m leaving now,” I said.


Each day that I showed up, it appeared that I was the trigger for his anger. When I arrived in the community room, he was calmly watching TV with other residents. But as soon as I hugged him and said hello, within five minutes he paced around the facility. He vented his frustrations.

“I need to get out of here,” he said. “Did you come in your car?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I want to go home,” he said.

“This is your home,” I said.

“It is NOT!”


After a month went by, I decided to talk with the doctor. I expressed my concern that Tinsley seemed to have enough awareness to know what is going on.

“I need a second opinion. Did I make the right decision for Tinsley?” I asked. “For someone who has declined rapidly since my mother died, he sure seems to have clarity on what’s going on. He does NOT believe he needs to be here.”

“I have been doing this for sixteen years, and I promise you he is where he belongs,” Dr. Woodall said. “When I evaluated him, he became teary at times. He is still grieving the loss of Betty Ann. He is also deeply frustrated at his own loss of not being able to think clearly. He knows he’s confused, but can’t tag why. So there are many losses going on.”

The doctor and I agreed that I should not see Tinsley for at least a week to help him acclimate. I waited nine days because Tinsley’s sister would be in town to see him. We decided to see him together, which we hoped would be encouraging to Tinsley. Aunt Kathy brought a beautiful gift basket full of snacks Tinsley likes.

Aunt Kathy’s Snack Basket for Tinsley

Aunt Kathy and I spent two hours with him, and she experienced seeing his anger and negativity. When Tinsley said, “I don’t belong here,” she would try to reassure him that he is safe here. When Tinsley vented his frustrations, she coached him to think positively to help him make the best of his situation. Tinsley didn’t care to hear that as he looked the other way. He remained agitated and unsettled. Aunt Kathy decided to lean on a tradition that Papa Harvey had with her and Tinsley as children. While sitting on patio chairs, she grabbed our hands and invited Tinsley and I to recite the Lord’s Prayer with her. Tinsley knew it by heart and seemed to be calmer when we were done. When we left the facility, Aunt Kathy could see what I have been enduring the majority of the time I’ve been with him. As we drove back home, she said, “That is NOT Tinsley. It IS the disease speaking.”

It has been a couple of weeks since her visit, and Tinsley has not improved emotionally. In fact, I believe he has worsened. One Sunday afternoon I came to visit him and found him in the community room watching TV. When I joined him, he stood up to walk away from me. He turned around so that our eyes locked.

“NO! Do you HEAR me?!!” he said loudly. I just got there! I never know exactly what he’s trying to say, so I’m forced to read between the lines and observe body language. It was clear that he didn’t want me there. So I said goodbye and left. It was a five minute visit.

He has become physically aggressive in the last week. When a resident asked me a question and I turned to respond, Tinsley grabbed my forearm and angrily said, “No!” His reaction isn’t rational, but it is heart-breaking to experience his hostility. The doctor is working on the right balance of medication to help Tinsley deal with his anxiety and his depression.

It has been a sad time for me. It feels like I have lost Tinsley. I have been grieving the emotional loss of Tinsley more than I have been able to grieve the loss of Mother. Though the doctor assures me that “it’s the disease, not Tinsley,” it’s still hard not to take it personally. It’s hard not to wonder if I am the reason he is so unhappy and angry. How do I know when it’s Tinsley speaking or when it’s the disease? It is so HARD to tell. Many family and friends are ready and willing to help him get out and play some golf, go to the club, have lunch with the guys, as he used to do. But right now, if any of us took him out, we’d never get him back in. He’s already taken a patio chair and set it against the fence and tried to scale it. I don’t know how long it will take for Tinsley to reach acceptance that he is where he needs to be. But at this rate, it appears that it will take another month or two.

I ask you to keep praying for Tinsley and his well-being. He has already lost fifteen pounds in three weeks. He said to me, “I’ve quit trying.” He needs the Lord’s peace and comfort. Please pray that the Lord will allow us to have a healthy relationship and that he would embrace it and appreciate it. The Lord knows how to heal Tinsley’s heart. I know many of you are prayer warriors. If you’ll continue to lift him up before the Lord, He can help Tinsley’s heart rest spiritually and emotionally in His perfect peace. I also need prayer for wisdom on how often to visit him. I want to see him every day and make sure he never feels abandoned. However, that isn’t prudent given Tinsley’s emotional condition.


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34 thoughts on “10.1.17 Tinsley’s Struggle

  1. Dear Lee Ann,
    I have never been through anything like this, so obviously I cannot advise. I will tell you my heart breaks for you. You have such a sweet and caring spirit and I will keep you in prayer daily as well as Tinsley. I’m so sorry to see you go through this.
    As hard as it is you have to remember what the doctor said it’s not personal. I pray for your peace.
    Love you

    • Thank you, Ro. I so appreciate your prayers for both of us. One of my friends had a mother-in-law who had Alzheimer’s, and she said that I need to look at it as “Tinsley’s sweet self has been invaded by this disease.” It sounds like such a simple prescription, right? But people with dementia aren’t in a 100% state of dementia. They have lucidity from time to time, and that’s what throws me. When I hear a toxic or harmful words from Tinsley, is it him or the disease? AAAARRRRGGGHHHHH! I guess I just need to assume that it’s the disease 100% of the time.

      Love you, too, friend!

  2. Lee Ann, my heart breaks for you. This is a hard time for both of you, and I am praying for peace and comfort for you. You are one of the most caring people I know, and you made this decision with much prayer, advice from his doctor and with support of the family.
    This is a horrible disease for everybody, and you are under attack through an innocent Tinsley. The frustration, anger and grief he feels is being focused on you- he would never act like this if he were in his right mind. Hate the disease, hate Satan’s attack, and give grace to the victims, especially yourself.
    You are not alone – there are many of us praying for you. The Holy Spirit intercedes for you. There is perfect healing on the other side, but when you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, do not fear. If I could send hugs through this, I would. Love you, dear friend.

    • Dear Bliss:
      Thank you for your encouragement. Alzheimer’s really is a horrible disease and robs the minds of our loved ones. You are so right when you say he would never act like this in his right mind, and I just need to “lock it in my own mind” that this is truly the disease. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and hugs right back to you!

      Love and Hugs,
      Lee Ann

  3. Hey Lee Ann,
    My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry that you have to experience this double loss. All I can think of is to say is that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. Gee. I wonder where that inspiration came from?! Meaning, this too shall pass. I know from my own experience with my late mother, who had dementia that enduring the ups and downs of her final days with her, like you are doing for Tinsley, the grief was much easier when she died. I had a moment like you had too, where her feelings switched about the personal care home she was in. It wasn’t long after that, that she declined another notch and seemed to enjoy the place again. Being a foster mom, I had the experience of caring for one child who really resented my attempts to care for her. As you know, it became untenable, because I was not able not to personalize it. And, I know you know from your therapy training that the hardest clients to take care of are the help-rejecting clients. We are care-givers and we brighten when anyone responds to our care, and the obverse is also true. One way that I have learned to not personalize help-rejecting behavior is to realize that in a way it is a compliment. Hannah felt safe enough with me to vent their anger. My love reminded her of what she lost.

    I think we give our loved ones a gift when we don’t reject them for their bitterness, since anger expression helps with acceptance. I know I let Mark see my anger more than anyone else, because I am aware of his unconditional love. Of course, I try not to wear out his welcome. All this is to say, take good care of you. This could go on for a while. I work with a lot of head-injured people who will never be able to go home. They all want to go home, even when they don’t have a home. Home seems to be a state of mind and is code for many wants and needs. Distraction works wonders.

    I don’t know if it is biblical, but I know that whenever I endure a season such as you are going through, God always seems to reward me for my faithfulness. You certainly have my prayers. I do believe the Drs. will come up with something that will help too. Meds helped a lot with my mom.

    • Dear Sarah:
      Thank you so much for all of your thoughts. And Dr. Haney’s sermon series is certainly timely! Everything you’ve shared is spot on. It is hard to be in the “helping” profession, and especially helping a loved one, and to be rejected in the process. I agree that the fact Tinsley feels permission to show his anger with me indicates that he feels emotionally safe to do so. I have thought of that from time to time over the last several weeks. The part that still remains confusing to me is that Tinsley actually states “I don’t want you to be here” off and on. I want to respect boundaries AND I want to keep showing up to express my love, care and support of him. I think this communication trips me up. I have put a day or two in between visits to “test” if that was Tinsley speaking or the disease speaking. But there is no question that my desire is to see him every day without upsetting him! Please keep praying for both of us.

      Lee Ann

  4. Lord, bless Tinsley and Lee Ann. May your peace permeate and prevail. May Tinsley feel your love coming through Lee Ann and rest in it. Thank you for Lee Ann and the love she shares with your world. Grant her peace as she makes this journey with Tinsley. Comfort her heart. Let it be so. p

  5. I am so sorry and do not even know what to say, other than to let you know you are both in my prayers!

  6. My heart aches for both of you. In years past I’ve made it a ministry to visit such places and have seen such behavior in residents. My husband recently spent 3 months in a skilled nursing facility and we did our best to bring joy to the other residents. I will pray that Tinsley will find a friend, a purpose, and a comfort in his new home; and that he will overcome the anger that he feels. For you, I pray for peace and calm assurance that you have done the right thing. You are such a loving and compassionate person – no one can ever doubt your love and devotion to the Lord or to others.
    Much love,

    • Thank you so much, Sandy. Your prayers mean so much to me! Thanks for standing with me as my sister in Christ to bring us before the Lord.

      Lee Ann

  7. Lee Ann, this breaks my heart. I know how much you’ve experienced emotionally since moving to Austin, and I know of the love you have expressed. Tinsley, physically, is in the right place, spiritually and emotionally he knows he’s not himself. The Lord will provide for his needs, and I’m sure you are part of the plan. I will say a prayer for Tinsley and for you, for the strength you will need in the coming months.

  8. This is heartbreaking but not unexpected from our experiences. Just know you did and are doing the right things. Rely on your friends and your faith. However do not expect it to get easier soon.
    We will be back in the States mid/month.
    Larry and Karen

    • Thanks, Larry and Karen. I don’t know how I’d make it without the Lord in all of this, and I am so glad He is always in control! I appreciate the reminder that it’s not going to get easier.

      Lee Ann

  9. Our Heavenly Father, I come to you humbly asking you to wrap your arms around Uncle Tinsley. Whisper words of comfort, peace and easy his fears. Let his mind and body adjust to his new surrounds and let him make friends that he can feel comfortable around in the facility. I pray that his anger toward Lee Ann will ease, that he will acclimate where he is and starting to feel As close as he can to himself.
    I lift Lee Ann up to you right now Lord. Wrap your arms around her and give her the comfort and reassurance that she needs. Let her get the rest she needs to deal with each situation that arises with Uncle Tinsley. Give her the affirmation she needs that she has done the best thing for him. Place your hands on her and lead her in all decisions and visits concerning Uncle Tinsley. Thank you Lord in all you are doing for this situation and will continue to do. It is in your Son’s most Holy And Precious name I pray, in Jesus name, Amen!

    Love you Lee Ann! Keep on Keeping on!

  10. Lee Ann,

    You and Tinsley have been on my mind a lot lately. My family went through this about 10 years ago with my dad. The worst day of my life was when he begged me to take him home. It is so hard and I can’t help either one of you but I pray that the good Lord will send his angels to both of you and give you peace and joy. I can’t believe that rascal tried to climb the wall! What a sweet man and I know it must be a shock for you to see and hear anger from him. I look forward to seeing you both when the time is right. Thank you and bless you for all you do.

    • Thank you so much, Jim. It would just rip my heart if Tinsley started begging me to take him home. His vein of thinking is that he just wants to quit and “doesn’t want to do this.” I am hoping that his medication will start to level him out enough that he can be more level in his moods, but staying grounded in that his thinking will rarely be organized or rational. I just continue to pray that the Lord will reach his heart and mind to insert the truth that Tinsley most needs to know and understand that will help him know he is where he needs to be. I look forward to seeing you as well when you are able to head Tinsley’s direction.

      Lee Ann

  11. Praying for you and Tinsley sweet friend. I know this is very difficult for both of you. Know you are not facing this alone.

    • Thank you, Candy! Your prayers mean the world to me and Tinsley and our family.

      Lee Ann

  12. Lee Ann, I am praying for both of you. Working for 14 years at Elm Grove, I know how hard this is for families. When you see the anger and resentment in Tinsley, know that this is not him. Don’t take it personally. I know that’s hard to do, but remember he is different because of this disease. I’ve seen Godly men and women who have become mean and belligerent, full of hatred and such foul language coming out of their mouths. It’s hard to see and to hear. And they would be mortified if they were aware. But they aren’t. Take heart. It’s better that you’ve got him there now, than later. Praying my sister in Christ. Sue Rue.

    • Dear Sue:
      Thank you so much for reassuring me that it’s really the disease. And your words have power given that you see this hands on at Elm Grove. I have witnessed directly the hateful, belligerent, and foul language, and you are right – it’s hard not to take it personally. I keep wondering if those are moments of “lucidity.” I will take heart in your words, and thank you for helping me with your words of encouragement. Thank you for praying!

      Blessings and Hugs,
      Lee Ann

  13. Lord, please, please help Lee Ann hear your gentle reassurances that she is listening to you and her obedience is producing the outcome you have planned. I pray for your overwhelming peace for both her and Tinsley. May your love shine through both of them and reconnect them. May they find comfort in each other’s presence once again. Bless you, Lee Ann!

  14. Dear Lee Ann,

    I can identify with you since I am having the same issues with one of my sister right now and as a family, it is hard to make the right decision. We can rely on doctor’s advices but the reality is an other thing. I wish him well because I always had great thoughts about him. With time, it will all be well. Thinking about you and praying for you and a Tinsley.

    • Dear Manon:
      I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this issue with your sister. I totally agree that there will be the authoritative voice of doctors who give advice and see it everyday, but our loved ones also have a voice and we need to do our best to understand them and help them.

      Tinsley always enjoyed your company, Manon, and it warms my heart that you have great thoughts about him. He is one sweet soul for sure! Thanks for praying for us, and I will start praying for you and your family as you make decisions to care for your sister.

      Blessings and Hugs,
      Lee Ann

  15. My thoughts and prayers are with you through this battle. I cared for my Mother in my home until her condition got beyond my ability to handle certain situations – mainly personal care. I prepared breakfast for us one day and as I placed her plate on the table, before sitting down with her, she asked my name! I suddenly realized she no longer knew who her daughter (me) was. It may be possible that Tinsley doesn’t realize who you are (a beloved daughter), but only the “person” that moved him. Please take care of yourself and know that all of this is in God’s magnificent hands. Prayers and love, Martha

    • Thank you so much, Martha. There have been a couple of occasions that I have wondered if he’s forgotten who I am. I will take care of myself and keep gathering data with the help of the medical team and most importantly, the Lord!! Thank you for sharing your experience and what I may come to expect!

      Love and Hugs,
      Lee Ann

  16. Lee Ann,
    Thank you for sharing your painful journey with Tinsley these last few months. Our hearts and prayers go out to you.
    Your transparency is turning out to be so insightful for us as we watch Kendell’s mom deteriorate slowly with her dementia. Thank you for modeling prayer, kindness, love and gentleness to the rest of us. The lessons you’ve learned will help us to navigate the path ahead.
    Praying that Tinsley will find a new normal in his new home, and be able to see the love you obviously have for him.

    • Thank you so much, Holly. I so appreciate your prayers for Tinsley. I will pray that the dementia Kendell’s mother has won’t rob her of her personality! I will also pray that the Lord gives you wisdom as to how and when to provide more care for her. There are so many variables that come into play.

      Lee Ann

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