Recently, I have been thinking about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia a lot. Well, honestly, this is a topic that is often on my mind. You see, in my mother’s family most people die from Alzheimer’s disease. Three of my great grandparents and both of my mother’s parents had it, not to mention many of my great aunts.
I have to admit, I find this disease to be terrifying. I remember the first time my grandparents did not remember me. My heart broke into a million pieces. I had to walk away for a few minutes, just so they would not see me cry. You see, they were happy, and I saw no reason to disturb their happiness.
Now I worry about how many good years I have left with my mother. I am pretty sure that I have at least a decade. Yet, I wonder, “How I am going to deal with it when my mother no longer remembers me?” I also worry about my child having to go through the same ordeal with me.
When I have ministered to people who have loved ones with dementia, I mainly walk with them, letting them know I am there for them. I have walked that path myself, and I fully expect to walk it again. Sometimes we just need an ear to listen, a hand to hold. Sometimes, we need a break from our loved ones, which is why respite care is so important. Sometimes we need to hear that it is okay to tell God how we feel. It is fine to take off our kid gloves and let God know that we hurt or that we are angry this happened to our loved one. God can handle it. I have often found the psalms to be helpful prayers through the ups and downs of loving someone with dementia.
I am grateful that Clergy Against Alzheimer’s, an advocacy group that I am one of the founders of (http://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/networks/clergy), has just published a new book of meditations for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia (http://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/networks/clergy/seasons-caring). What a wonderful new way to minister to those caring for loved ones with dementia.
If you have found other resources helpful as you have cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, I would love to hear about them.