“When we try to attend Church, it seems something ALWAYS goes wrong!”

When caring for someone with dementia, isolation develops as an increasing challenge for family caregivers.  Many caregivers feel cut off from places of comfort and community, such as attending church. Because frustrating and embarrassing mishaps can await most caregivers and their loved ones, the seclusion increases.

Yet, pushing back against isolation benefits not only the caregiver, and the loved one with dementia, it also benefits the church. “Go out to the highways and byways…” in Luke 14:21 is not just a nice sentiment.  The Kingdom of God came to us all in our condition as disabled, wounded, and needy sinners.  The more we reflect that understanding in our outreach, the closer we align ourselves as believers with our Savior’s heart.

If a person with dementia (or any other affliction) and their caregivers are not embraced warmly in our church, what does that say about our church? Families move at the speed of their slowest members. Churches are families.  Due to many churches evolving into corporate institutions,ministry becomes compartmentalized and designated.  As a result, the slow, wounded, and afflicted can become casualties of growth.

A Different Kind of Church Building Plan

Our Savior clearly laid out four things He looks for:

  1. Clothing the naked
  2. Feeding the hungry
  3. Visiting the sick
  4. Visiting the prisoner

If we fail to incorporate those things in our individual lives and church life, what kind of reaction from our King do we expect? In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus bluntly tells us.

An increasing number of families struggle with the brutal challenges of dementia.  Caring for a loved one who slowly loses the ability to reason and remember is heartbreaking.  The church can provide great comfort, strength, and community to a family living with a member suffering from dementia. Music, meals, message, fellowship all strengthen caregivers and their loved ones.

As believers, we have a responsibility and a mandate from the only one who matters—to minister to the ones who matter to Him. Helping a caregiver and loved one with dementia attend church sends a huge signal about the type we attend. Furthermore, affliction and aging knows no economic, social, religious, or even denominational distinctions. One day, we will all find ourselves in a similar situation with a loved one.  What kind of church would we like to attend?

A few tips for caregivers of loved ones living with dementia.

While caregivers valiantly try to make it to church, it takes a bit more than effort to make it a positive experience.  It takes a bit of planning and communication for the caregiver, loved one, and church leaders.  Church leaders can incorporate a few strategies and tips to help those caregivers.

  • Before leaving the house, make sure you have an ID bracelet for your loved one.  In addition, print off cards with the patient’s name, a contact number, as well as an address.  Furthermore, it’s advisable to add, “I suffer from dementia, please stay with me until we find my caregiver.”
  • Take along a bag with water, a snack, and clean clothes.
  • Be last in and first out for church services.
  • Coordinate with ushers to help quickly distract or escort your loved one to the restroom or a quieter room if necessary.

About Peter Rosenberger

A thirty-year caregiver for his wife, Gracie, who lives with severe disabilities, Peter Rosenberger understands the journey of a caregiver as few do.  His experience led to him to author four books including Hope for the Caregiver, and 7 Caregiver Landmines and How You Can Avoid Them.  

Peter Rosenberger’s radio show for family caregivers airs each week on more than 200 stations.

An accomplished martial artist, Peter recently earned a 2nd Dan (degree) black-belt in Hapkido.  The self defense course provides many life lessons that Peter incorporates into his show and speaking. Furthermore, Peter is an accomplished pianist and recently released his new CD, Songs for the Caregiver.  

Peter and Gracie live in Nashville, TN, where he also serves and the president and co-founder of Standing With Hope.

Songs for the Caregiver AMAZONSongs for the Caregiver ITUNES