National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Living with dementia

August 2016

No cure but God’s promises

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

My confirmation text offers me comfort and encouragement and is one I often recall: ‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:3-6).

The promise in that text applies to all of us – no matter what age we are, or what frailties we have.

My husband has his birthday in August and I’m wondering what sort of tacky messages will emerge on his birthday cards. Will there be references to uncontrollable bodily functions? Or will there be bottles of wine (he likes an occasional glass), golf clubs (he has terrible ball skills), or sailing boats (he comes from Port Adelaide)? Or a reference to the fact he is getting older and must be entering his dotage?

One of the challenges of ageing is the increasing frailty of people around us. We also develop a growing awareness of our own declining health and wellbeing, whether physical, emotional or mental. One of the scariest possibilities may well be dementia – whether it is a personal diagnosis or affecting someone near and dear to us.

Some people choose to accept what is happening, and adapt their lifestyle accordingly. Others will seek information and treatment if it is available. Both are valid choices.

There is no magical cure for dementia. But you can get help and support from sources such as Alzheimer’s Australia at fightdementia.org.au or on 1800 100 500 or, if you are in New Zealand, www.alzheimers.org.nz or 0800 004 001.

And if living with dementia is your destiny, God will always be there for you and for those dear to you. I love the pictures in these words: ‘There is no-one like the God of Jeshurun who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deuteronomy 33:26,27).

Recently I wrote a booklet on dementia for Lutheran Media. Through it I shared the stories of some courageous and generous people, regarding their experiences living with this debilitating and seemingly indiscriminate disease. For them and all of us, there is hope through the promises of God. The following are excerpts from that booklet.