If your faith is solid, will it carry you through your life even if you develop dementia? I believe it is possible. Your faith may even grow stronger.
My husband, Marshall, was a believer raised in a devout family, but, from my observation, he did little to build on his spiritual foundation. He rarely went to church, and only prayed when he was in need. When Alzheimer’s was too advanced to leave him alone, I brought him to Mass with me. He soon forgot appropriate church behavior. He became loud and disruptive. At that point, I not only was I unable to continue bringing him to church I could not leave him home so that I could attend.
Ironically, when Marshall was moved to a memory care community, he wanted to pray with me. He attended Mass, communion, or devotions every day. Yes, he slept through portions of the services, but he also participated to the best of his ability.
Overall, I was fascinated with how many residents remembered the prayers, especially the Our Father, and sang the hymns. It was evident that their faith was important and they took comfort in participating. The symbols, words, and actions of faith were perhaps more important to them than ever.
The services at the home were streamlined for dementia residents. They were shorter, and exemplary behavior was not expected. Reading becomes difficult as dementia advances. However, most people enjoy being read to. I witnessed an appreciation and recognition of hearing the Word, devotional writings, and traditional prayers. Comfort in the familiarity of the symbols of faith, such as statues, icons, crosses, candles, and a menorah, appeared to continue.
Music was especially important as it is the most accessible element for persons with dementia. It touches the heart and spirit through the senses and emotions as music bypasses the devastated thinking parts of the brain.
Even if our loved ones with dementia showed little inclination toward devotion throughout their lives, offering opportunities to grow close to the Lord in their final years can be meaningful. We can bring the words, sounds, and signs of our faith to them in ways in which it is easy for them to access. And we definitely can continue praying for our loved ones. We all need those prayers.
For information on caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, see the easy to follow, informative books Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.
Photo: Church of the Pater Noster, Israel. Posters of the Our Father in many languages
Do you like poetry? See my poem, “Hello Spring” on my other blog.