RESOURCES

 

1. What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of symptoms, including memory loss and mental decline due to damaged nerve cells in the brain. Dementia affects individuals differently in their thinking, behaviour, feelings, memory, and movement. Simply put, the normal functions of the brain are disrupted.

There are many causes of dementia, eg, a stroke may damage nerve cells. We should gently refer a person who show signs of dementia to a specialist doctor in geriatrics to confirm the diagnosis of dementia, so that we can best walk with the person in this difficult journey.

2. Is dementia common?
Yes, it is, especially among the elderly. One in ten Singaporeans aged 60 and over has dementia. For those over 85, it is one in three.

However, it is not as common as the other chronic health conditions among seniors, such as high blood pressure; high blood cholesterol; cataract; joint pain, arthritis, rheumatism or nerve pain; and diabetes.

3. Does dementia cause individuals to lose their God-given dignity?

No

Every person is created by God “in His image” (Genesis 1:27). God sees in every one a resemblance to Himself. However, we must never presume humanity to be identical to God. Only Jesus bears “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3).

God’s love is unconditional, not dependent upon our intellect, abilities, accomplishments, possessions, not even our spirituality. After all, God so loves humanity that He gave His only Son Jesus for the salvation of all who believe in Him (John 3:16).

So we must remember that the loss of memory and other thinking skills do not diminish the high regard God has for humanity. Instead, just as Jesus has loved us, so must we love our neighbour (John 13:34), even our friends and loved ones with dementia.

4. How can the church help families cope with dementia?

Coping with dementia is challenging for both persons with dementia and their caregivers. Deterioration of mental function, loss of social roles and personal autonomy are especially devastating for many seniors who have had successful careers or have close family ties. They describe their experience as alienating, apathetic, boring, depressing, dominating, embarrassing, frightening, frustrating, hopeless, irritating, lonely, meaningless.

A Christian psychologist asserts that “A community formed by the gospel has the potential to transform Alzheimer’s care.” A government study of seniors in Singapore validates this conclusion:

It is evident that participation in religious activities is an important factor in the lives of older Singaporeans such that even those who are sick, as defined by their chronic conditions, who tended not to participate in other social activities, continued with their religious participation. … As such it is worthwhile (to) harness the potential of these religious platforms to enhance the social connectedness of older Singaporeans.

The goal of Shalom Dementia Care Fellowship is to be a place of support in our church for persons with dementia and their caregivers.

God cares for His people by building up His church to grow in spiritual maturity and nurture wholeness in every relationship through Christ (Ephesians 4.11- 13). The focus of our Fellowship is on people in their current circumstance, to promote healing and wholeness, to enable him to live a full and fruitful life.

So the thrust of our interaction is not just to promote cognitive connection but also foster spiritual transformation, by re-kindling hope and awakening growth. It is our prayer that those cared for will live a life filled with “personal meanings and larger purposes beyond themselves that motivate them to reach out to respond to the needs of others,” and become part of a mutual caregiving community (Rom 1.12).

5. Why has the church embarked on this pastoral care ministry?

We believe the church can prepare every family to face the challenges of dementia by nurturing in them a deep spiritual connection with Jesus.

Through the teaching and preaching of the doctrine of suffering, lived out in the life of the church, the church prepares families with dementia to grow in spiritual maturity, and continue to see God at work even in their darkest moments. Like the early apostles, they can see that God uses suffering for His purpose (Acts 14:22) – counting suffering as a privilege for God’s glory.

The culture of caring and serving in the ministries of the church provides a platform to teach and nurture the values that gives resilience to those with dementia and those who are caring for them.

The church is a place for all to worship and spiritually encounter God. Here even those with dementia have a place for worship.

A significant number (34%) of Singaporean seniors over 60 years suffer from loneliness.Many of them have dementia while others are their caregivers. Jesus commands His disciples to reach out to the “least, lost and last”. Through the Fellowship, we aspire to reach out to families with dementia so that no one will not be left out of the church’s community life.