“Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Memory impairment, as well as problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality, are necessary features for the diagnosis.” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
God is Love
Alzheimer’s and other dementias affect the brain, slowly eroding away the mind and personality. This insidious disease destroys lives, turning a vital person into a helpless dependent until the brain and body eventually shut down causing death. There is no cure, no reversal of mental function.
The afflicted patient turns inward due to a slow shutdown of the brain and therefore the body, over time losing the ability to recognize loved ones or even to care for basic bodily functions. Sentences become disjointed as words flee; the familiar can become frightening as mental responders drop the ball and memories are no longer reachable.
The day comes when the afflicted person seldom speaks and loses the ability to put sentences together, the words are gibberish and unintelligible. The patients sometimes have fleeting moments of understanding and know just enough to realize something is very wrong. Sometimes they are agitated and no one knows the reason why they are uneasy. Many times the patient may not be at a spiritual place of peace and this causes the upset while the caregiver is left wondering about a loved one’s salvation.
How should we approach the subject of the soul with people who suffer with Alzheimer’s and Dementia? First of all, they must be treated with honor and respect due them as a human being, an elder, and a son or daughter of God. They are not children and should never be patronized or treated as less than an adult. They have lived lives rich with experiences; loved, raised children, held jobs and were adults with spiritual accountability.
The Alzheimer’s patient becomes more and more confined to a chair or bed as the ability to walk leaves them. This is a perfect example to remember the Scripture in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Once the connection between God and that person is made, the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to rain down and fill them with comfort, grace and peace is opened. The hours, days, weeks and months spent sitting quietly allows the Alzheimer’s patient time to commune with God in a way most of us will never know. They CAN choose and experience God in, and even because of these circumstances.
This recently happened to me when I was asked to spend a short amount of time with a client who is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. She cannot carry on a conversation but sometimes blurts random words out or stutters trying to pull a word from the recesses of a mind that no longer supports her. Near the end of my visit, she awoke from a nap and I held her hand gently for a moment telling her I would be leaving soon. Mrs. F clutched me and desperately muttered “Scared, so scared.”
Mrs. F is tiny, only weighing about 80 pounds and my heart just ached to know she was feeling lost and frightened. I hugged her and wondered where the fear was coming from. She was in a familiar environment which may have been foreign to her when she awoke from her nap. It seemed to be more though and I prayed for insight and understanding. Instantly I knew she was communicating her spiritual unease and uncertainty.
Her fear was because she was uncertain what would happen after she died. She was not a Christian and her spirit was seeking confirmation of the future. But how could I, a person without education or experience with Alzheimer’s patients communicate with her?
I quickly prayed for guidance and it came swiftly, like a refreshing breeze on a hot day. So I told her to allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide her. While her mind was unable to grasp the concept of salvation, her spirit is keenly aware and cognizant. It can carry God’s image undiluted and well understood. “Just feel the Holy Spirit, let Him guide you,” I told her. I repeated it several times and she gazed into my eyes and calmed right down. For a precious split second, I saw clarity in her beautiful green eyes and then she was gone again.