Jamie Dean: Delight with dementia

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. At least 5,000,000 people in this country live with age-related dementia. That reality has a lot of implications about what’s lost, but it doesn’t mean that love is lost. Here’s WORLD National Editor Jamie Dean.

JAMIE DEAN, COMMENTATOR: Delight is not a word most people associate with dementia. 

But over the last few weeks, I’ve heard from many readers and listeners responding to a story I wrote about dementia, caregivers, and churches. And I’ve been moved by the current of delight that runs through the suffering in many of those messages.

Mart Martin, a reader from Georgia, wrote to share a story about his 90-year-old father.

I’ll read a bit of the note he sent to me: “My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about seven years ago. We are blessed that the resources exist for him to be cared for 24/7 in a wonderful memory care facility in my hometown, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My brother and sister live there and see him almost daily. I am a long-time Atlanta resident but try to make it down every few months.

He has always kept a small daytime calendar — a little diary. He would jot down just a few things that he did that day … “Played golf” … “Went to Lion’s Club” … “ Church then nap.” Though those entries stopped several years ago, he still keeps it by his recliner and looks at it often. Now my sister, Molly, makes notes in it — “Mart is coming today” or “Today is Brad’s birthday.” 

On May 1, the family gave him a surprise party for his 90th birthday. While he no longer remembers most family members’ names or their relation to him — beyond my brother, sister and me, — he had a wonderful time.” End quote.

Mart goes on to say that his sister visited his father the next day, and when she looked at his daytime calendar next to his recliner, she was delighted at what she saw: In shaky, but determined handwriting, he had written: ‘I love you all.’” 

Mart went on to say: Quote: “It confirmed for us the notion that a person with Alzheimer’s may not remember your visit, but they remember the feeling of being loved. And in Daddy’s case, enough to make him want to write in his diary again.” End quote. 

Some caregivers shared darker stories about their loved ones’ experience with dementia, but many also shared the confidence that the disease can’t take the presence of the Holy Spirit from those who are in Christ.

Even when afflicted believers can’t consciously delight in God anymore, the Lord delights in them. And it’s delightful to know that we just don’t know how He moves in their souls.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Jamie Dean.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

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