A diagnosis of dementia is not something anyone ever wants to receive, but similarly many have spoken of the relief experienced when told what it is they are suffering from. Believing that life doesn’t stop as a result of a dementia diagnosis is a difficult but necessary step to take, and one which requires support for the families and carers about to embark on this journey with their loved one. The Dementia Week of Prayer is not just designed for the currently 850,000 people in the UK alone living with the illness, but for their friends and family too.
During last year’s Week of Prayer, Bishop David McGough summarised perfectly the purpose of this week:
“During this week we remember especially the often forgotten pain of those suffering with dementia, and those who care for them.”
Some of the symptoms experienced can involve a lack of inhibition and aggression. This combined with the progressive decline of one’s brain and memory means that it is not only distressing for the sufferer, but also for the family. To the family of someone with dementia, it can almost feel like their relative has become someone else. The person they know no longer exists and in their place, is someone who now requires much more care and patience. Catholics strongly believe that everyone should be treated with respect as an illness or disability has no effect on a person’s value as a human.
It is easy for us to realise that we should take inspiration from the way that Jesus looked after the sick, but something less likely to be at the forefront of our minds is to care for the carers. Not understanding how someone is feeling as a result of what they are going through is not to say that the trials they experience do not exist, and that they don’t need support.
Even to your old age and grey hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you
I have made you and I will carry you
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isiah 46:4)
These words from Isiah offer reassurance and can be read both by someone with dementia, as well as friends and family. It is a comforting reminder that God is always there in every stage of life, and no matter what you are going through.