September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. Millions of people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that often leave them feeling confused, afraid and alone. These conditions don’t just affect individuals, but entire families who live with the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of caregiving.
Our church communities are not immune to Alzheimer’s disease and its effects, though we may not always recognize Alzheimer’s in our midst—either because people fear the stigma of sharing their struggle with others or they have stopped participating in the life of the church due to their cognitive decline and loss of independence.
I pray that this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month prompts us to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving and consider how our church communities can offer grace, hope and love to families affected by this disease.
The resolution below was submitted to and unanimously approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2016. Please take a moment to read this resolution and pray about how you can reach out and minister to those who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and the families who carry the heavy responsibility of caregiving.
On Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia, Caregiving, And The Church
WHEREAS, More than five million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, and at least 14 percent of people over the age of seventy are currently experiencing some form of dementia, and these numbers are projected to continue to rise over the coming decades; and
WHEREAS, There is currently no cure and people with Alzheimer’s live with progressively worsening disability and greater dependence on other people; and
WHEREAS, Family members take on the vast majority of caregiving responsibilities and often experience significant burden, stress, depression, and isolation, with the caregiving demands so great that some experience deterioration of their own health and often find it difficult to continue to participate in the life of the church; and
WHEREAS, God calls us to care for the most vulnerable among us, including those who are unable to remember or speak for themselves (Isaiah 58:1–14; Zechariah 7:8–10; James 1:27); and
WHEREAS, All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) and this status as image bearers does not depend upon cognitive or intellectual ability, because all people, including those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, have value and are loved by God; and
WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message highlights the call “to provide … for the aged, the helpless, and the sick” and to “contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death”; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, June 14–15, 2016, call upon our churches to seek education related to Alzheimer’s and dementia, learning how to care for and journey with adults in their communities who are experiencing such conditions; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we ask our churches prayerfully to consider expanding ministry programs to include the needs of older adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their family caregivers; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we urge our churches to treat people with Alzheimer’s and dementia with dignity and continue to invite them into the life of the church, rehearsing the good news of the Gospel together, singing familiar songs and hymns, reading Scripture together, and praying together, including well-known prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call upon our churches to seek opportunities to care for and support caregiving families through word and prayer, and also through practical assistance, respite, and companionship as a community of believers; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call upon our seminaries and colleges to offer Alzheimer’s and dementia education in their ministry and counseling training programs; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptist pastors to seek training in order to become aware of the challenges of living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and practical ways to minister to this vulnerable group in our communities; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we appeal to Southern Baptists to carry out the mission of the church by reaching outward to families and individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia in their surrounding communities and neighborhoods, praying that we would be known by our love amongst a people who are often isolated and desperate for community and support.