When I visit my 91-year-old mother these days I'm not sure where the conversation will go. More and more she struggles cognitively because of Parkinson's related dementia, as well as a series of small strokes. My brother comments that I am the strong one in the emotional moments with her, such as our visit on Christmas Day. In truth I manage to marshall my skills from many years of visiting those with dementia when I'm with her, but when I find my way to my vehicle I so often sit in the sadness and grief.
So, as I prepare a four-part study and discussion series called God in the Shadows: Dementia and the Spiritual Life it is personal as well as professional. We have a lot of people in the Bridge St. congregation with varying degrees of dementia, yet we seldom speak about it. Why don't we want to fess up to the growing reality of dementia in our society (roughly 750,000 Canadians) or in our aging churches?
During the weeks of the study we'll take a look at available resources, including the inspiring documentary Alive Inside. We'll hear from a guest from the Alzheimer's Society. I'll have a conversation with a member of the congregation whose husband has Alzheimer's about her journey from home care to the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home. We will look at the recently passed Canadian legislation called Bill C-233 which will result in a national Dementia and Alzheimer's strategy. I'm hoping that we'll talk with Rob Oliphant, one of the members of parliament who is behind this bill who is also a United Church minister.
We'll also explore the thoughts of Rochelle Graham who was recently interviewed in the United Church Observer is a piece entitled "the body has dementia, but the soul doesn't." I spoke with Rochelle after I read it and together we wondered why we have chosen to label this spectrum of illnesses "dementia." How unkind. She says that she uses the term "cognitive frailty," which I much prefer.
I suppose this is an infomercial for this study group -- blogmercial -- but I hope you'll join us. I've been doing a lot of pondering about the meaning of personhood as one of God's children, and I imagine you will to, should you show up.