The Alzheimer's Patient and Salvation-Leading the Lost to Christ
“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.
However she and I bonded together as Sisters in Christ and I know I shall see her again one day. Had I not been obedient and spoken out for God and for Mrs. F, she might have died and never known the bliss of Heaven. The opposite of Heaven is Hell and no one should end up there. One’s first protective instinct is to say the Alzheimer’s patient is no accountable because of mental incapacity. That is true but he or she had opportunity to accept Christ before the disease took over their mind. So they, like all of us, have had a choice to make and the consequences remain.
Another way to reach the Alzheimer’s patient spiritually is through praise and worship music. It opens a spiritual path to the throne of God and allows one to "speak” as if in prayer. Praise is a form of prayer and many people who cannot talk sometimes retain the ability to sing. Through music the Holy Spirit can reach through the fog of a webbed mind and heal an aching spirit, bringing the person into the arms of God.
Another way is too quietly and simply read Scriptures about Christ and exactly who He is to us. A recommendation is the Book of John. It contains verses such as, "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
No matter the state of the body, in a spiritual sense the afflicted person is alive and present. As concerned and loving Christians, we must not fail to shine the light of Christ and to bring the “good news of the gospel” to them. The power of God is bigger than any disease on earth and He never gives up on anyone. Let us not give up either.
Memory by Barbra Streisand
Bible Scriptures About the Elderly
Psalms 71:18"Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.
Leviticus 19:32 "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord."
1 Chronicles 29:28 "a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour"
Proverbs 23:22 "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old."
Job 12:12 "With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding."
"Psalms 71:9 "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
Psalms 71:18 "Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come."
Psalms 92:14 "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age ..."
"Proverbs 16:31 "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness."
- Isaiah 46:4 "And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you... even I will carry, and will deliver you."