A Shrink Thinks

Dementia in the church

Dementia in the church
Source: Pixabay
Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.
12 August, 2023 4 min read

Sometimes I feel like a teacher doling out a thousand lines to instruct a dim-witted pupil. Repeat after me: Alzheimer’s disease is not the same as dementia.

But this is very unfair. I may have said the same thing many times, but I’ve said it to many different people. So I explain again that dementia is an umbrella term for a condition (a clinical syndrome) which can be caused by different diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of these. Others (such as Lewy body disease and stroke disease) are also common, afflicting hundreds of thousands of people in the UK every year. For people in the church, knowing which underlying disease is causing the dementia doesn’t matter most of the time: it’s understanding something of dementia and supporting those in your church with it that matters.

And you do have such people. Do the maths. More than one in four people over 80 have dementia; one in ten of those over 70. Of course, it is important to keep perspective and to note that the opposite is equally true: three in four over 80 and nine in ten over 70 don’t have dementia. It is not inevitable. But it is very common.

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