Dementia: What Congregations and Clergy Can Do


John Graham, President of the Institute for Spirituality and Health, Pastor Tabatha Whitten of the Remnant Fellowship,  Chapelwood's Scott Endress served on the Clergy Panel at "Lighting the Way: Illuminating Dementia Care, " January 13. The Conference was sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association and met at St. Martin's Hope and Healing Center. 

Articles:
 
http://www.alzheimers.net/9-23-14-power-of-gospel (review of book,  the Second Forgetting)

http://www.uuworld.org/life/articles/297028.shtml  (what congregations can do) 

Congregations and Faith Communities:
  1. Trust that there is a monumental need in your area, if not also in your congregation. Estimates (Powerful Tools for Caregivers) state there are approximately 100,000 family caregivers in the Houston metro area alone. 
  2. Advocate for this ministry in your parish. Start a conversation. A solid ministry to the frail elderly is an authentic witness, and a much overlooked path to reach adult children and their families.
  3. Provide practical help, such as respite care with option for support groups for caregivers.
  4. Provide educational resources for families (financing care, legal and medical). 
  5. Learn to partner with other groups, such as Interfaith CarePartners (Houston), the Alzheimer’s Association, and others. 
  6. Suggest a free care consultation with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Clergy:  
  1. Reach out to care facilities (activities professionals). They are not charged with spiritual care.
  2. Offer gatherings of worship and prayer in care facilities and in homes, where the sacred words and actions are available, accessible (Christians- Holy Communion).
  3. Equip care teams of two persons who will “adopt” a homebound person/caregiver, offering visits, phone contacts, and support.
  4. Help caregivers explore not only the best interests of the care receiver, but also, what is in their best interests as a caregiver.  
  5. Adult children have new responsibilities as their role changes from child and care-receiver to parent and caregiver.
  6. Give responsible pastoral guidance but refrain from attempting to fix dysfunctional family dynamics that have long been in place.
  7. Long distance and in-town caregiving are both a challenge to manage. Empower caregivers to see that their vocation and mission is to render faithful care, more than fulfilling any congregational responsibilities.  
True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. James 1:27 CEB   

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