The majority of American adults say they're Christian — 63% as of 2021. And 80% of people who identify as Christian Protestants say their religion is very important in their lives and note that they pray daily. For seniors of faith who are facing a dementia or Alzheimer's diagnosis, questions about faith and life in general can be worrisome.
Many people wonder if they'll eventually forget the things that are most important to them. Will they forget family and friends, a passion for an important hobby or even the Lord their God?
While a dementia diagnosis can bring a lot of change — to the person who receives it as well as their loved ones, friends and eventual caregivers — seniors of faith can take comfort in the fact that God doesn't change no matter what the diagnosis is. Read on to discover some of God's promises for those with dementia and their caregivers and loved ones.
Stories from the Old and New Testaments alike make it clear that God has a heart for the vulnerable. The sick, the downcast, the outcast and the meek all receive special mention in numerous Bible stories. And when Christ puts the apostles to work setting up the early church once they're alight with the Holy Spirit, one of the first tasks they turn to is ensuring that orphans and widows — some of the most vulnerable among them — are cared for.
When we face any type of medical diagnosis, we can feel shaken and vulnerable. That's true whether we're dealing with cancer, diabetes or dementia. But none of these medical conditions change the fact that God cares for us.
In Romans 8:38-39, Paul writes, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If death or demons or any power on the earth or in the heavens can't separate someone from the love of God through Christ, we shouldn't worry that something as temporary as our cognitive function in this world can. Our brains of flesh and blood are not that powerful, after all. We must trust that when God said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love," (Jeremiah 31:3), he meant it.
Isaiah 55:9-10 says, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
Scripture is full of verses that tell us God's ways are mysterious and beyond our own understanding. We don't know how the Holy Spirit might commune with someone who's entered a stage of dementia that makes normal human communication difficult or impossible. But we do know that when he said the Helper (the Holy Spirit) would come to his followers, he also said, "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
He most certainly did not say, "I am with you as long as you can talk to others the way they believe you should," or, "I am with you only as long as you can remember the Bible verses you hid in your heart all these years." He said, "even to the end of the age," and that age has nothing to do with the number of years you've been on the earth or the state of your own cognitive function.
God doesn't forget those who are called to stand in the gap for loved ones with dementia, either. It can be hard sometimes to remember the peace of Christ when we're wringing our hands with worry about a loved one. But Jesus reminds us, "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)
The peace he gives us is not tame. It doesn't follow human rules, and it doesn't have to be cultivated in the most perfect of quiets or the happiest of circumstances. In fact, Jesus knew more than anyone that the world is hard and harsh. So he sent a peace that was wild enough to grow lush and green in the untamed valleys we must walk through. Christian caregivers can rely on this peace and the strength of Christ when they're working to help a loved one with dementia.
It's also helpful to remember you're not alone. God created us to love and fellowship with one another, and that doesn't change when we are sick or have a memory disorder. The caring staff at Autumn View Gardens in Creve Coeur work hard to provide memory care services that allow residents to live their most vibrant lives — in fellowship with one another.