More than four million people in the U.S. are affected by Alzheimer’s/Dementia.
There is much research being done on how spirituality affects those with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. All of our churches have, or will have, many members with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. Right now more than four million people in the U.S. are affected. That’s 1 in 10 people above the age of 65 and nearly half of the population above 85 years old.
The baby boomers are starting to turn 65 and an estimated 10 million of them will develop Alzheimer’s. These are the long standing, faith-centered members of your church. They will have upset in memory, trouble with following and reading a sermon, problems with listening/noise, wandering, and the list goes on. Is this your church already? How do the Indiana United Methodist churches meet the needs of these members? The church must now find a way to bring God’s grace to these souls when they need spiritual assurance and security.
My favorite aunt who lived in Florida writes, “They tell me I have Alzheimer’s,” but she would question it while at the same time quietly accepting it. As she drifted away she needed her self-identify reassured and her faith as well as the concern and love of her church family. She had played the piano for church services for more than 30 years.
Unfortunately her church, not United Methodist congregation, wasn’t there for her when she needed them most. She needed help to maintain connection with her faith. She didn’t have the assurance of God’s future and comfort. This can threaten the quality of faith. How can the church help them work through this lost feeling?
Remember, the short-term memory is going quickly but the long-term memory is still there. The church can help by tapping into these deep memories through music, color and Holy Communion.
Music from the past, whether it be hymns they love, songs of childhood, music of revivals, classical, country western, Christian music.
Color – the church can accentuate colors of the church to touch their long term memory and let them discuss what this reminds them of.
Holy Communion – the words, the taste and the smell.
The list goes on.
The church must help them remember they are God’s child! – I’m in here.
Ann Stant serves as Indiana Conference Older Adults Ministry Coordinator