On the back cover of this book, Lyndon Bowring (Executive Chairman of CARE) commends it as ‘Poignant, powerful and practical … it’s a must read!’ I wholeheartedly endorse his comments. As a senior citizen, I began reading tentatively, but was soon gripped by the information supplied, the concern and challenge, and the life stories used to underline the subjects discussed.
Louise Morse is the current Publicity Manager for Pilgrim Homes and Roger Hitchings was previously Director of Age Concern for Birmingham, and a trustee of Pilgrim Homes. He is now a pastor in the Midlands. From such hands-on experience, they supply an all-round approach to, and analysis of, the subject.
The book is easy to read, with fourteen short chapters covering differing aspects of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I found the five middle chapters particularly helpful, informative and challenging – Prevention; Diagnosing dementia; Listening; A cup of cold water; and Sharing the suffering of Christ. An invaluable appendix lists organisations offering advice and help.
The facts and figures in Chapter 1 (which cover the US, Australia and the UK) hit you and stay with you. For example, in the UK in 2007 around 684,000 people were suffering from dementia. This is expected to rise to 940,000 by 2021 and 1,735,000 by 2051. Dementia affects 1 in 5 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 4 of those aged over 80.
Dementia is a debilitating condition, profoundly affecting not only patients but also their carers, who are generally family members. Many professing and true Christians are sufferers.
Applying all this to the local church scene, should we be doing more to minister practically, spiritually and lovingly to older people in our fellowships and communities? We have youth pastors and children’s workers – what about a pastor for senior citizens?
Confusion is at the heart of dementia, with 24/7 caring often required. Handling Grandma when she acts out of character is not easy! Thankfully, the subtitle of the book is for our comfort and assurance – ‘Losing your mind does not mean losing your soul’.
We thank God for every caring, loving family involved in this ministry and for Pilgrim Homes (there are only nine throughout the UK). Despite the cliché, ‘Old people have had their day’, our churches can also help make this ‘their day’ – a day to experience the grace and love of our compassionate Saviour.