There are two elderly men in this congregation, whose combined age is roughly 180, who go every day to visit their wives at a nursing home. They go together because one still drives and they sit with their true loves who both have dementia. The one couple recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. She is still quite responsive, but often confused. The other "bride" doesn't register much, but he is there faithfully and cheerfully. Their dedication makes me quite emotional each time I visit. These guys are my heroes.
Actually, I could name dozens, perhaps scores of family members who conscientiously and lovingly support loved ones who have drifted into different gradations of the shadows of dementia. To say that I am in awe of them is not an exaggeration. In many cases their faithfulness is not known by others, except perhaps for the institutional staff members or friends who are close to the situations. So often I have the sense that I have walked onto holy ground when I am in the presence of the afflicted individuals and their supporters. I use the word afflicted advisedly. I see dementia as a miserable affliction.
This week CBC radio's The Current did a series on dementia called Diagnosis: Dementia, and while each segment sounded worthwhile, I wasn't able to listen to any of them in the morning because of early work starts, http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/ Thank God for podcasts.
I am so glad that this national forum was used to give listeners both the big picture of dementia and individual snapshots of intimacy and heroicism. The Current invited responses from listeners to describe their circumstances and I caught some of the phone-in descriptions of living with dementia in families last night and found them quite moving. I wished I could let The Current know how significant ministry and pastoral care to those with dementia has become in many congregations.
I appreciate that I have invited your thoughts on this subject often, but feel free to offer any further comments.