How I Minister to People With Memory Loss
A significant part of my ministry has been to people who suffer with memory loss. Often, these people live alone. Sometimes, they may live with a spouse or a family member. The main thing I try to do is to engage them in conversation. This can be a challenge because sometimes they may not know how I am. The first thing I do is to introduce myself. Often that is enough to begin a dialoge. One thing I try not to do is to ask the person if they know who I am. They may be a little dis-settled and asking them what should be an obvious question may be embarrassing.
Another technique I employ is to ask them to describe who are the persons in photos that are in plain view. Sometimes that simple question is enough to snap them into a conversational mode.
A third level of conversation starts with the few things I may already know about them. If they are members of the church, I sometimes will ask them to tell me when they joined the church and what activites they involved themselves over the years. I may ask them about their spouse, if they had one. Children and work are also great conversation starters.
Pastorally, I do not have much time to spend with any one sick person, but I try to do my best. My suggestion to family members living with a loved one who is at some stage of memory loss are the following:
- Love your family member / friend.
- Do something physical with them, like taking them somewhere that might trigger positive thoughts and memories that are pleasurable
- Invite them to join you for a walk
- If they are strong enough, invite them to go bowling or bike riding.
- Invite them to go grocery shopping or perhaps a movie.
- Use your imagination to engage them in something other than sitting alone
- Play music and movies that they might like
- Ask them to sing songs you think they might know
- Lead them in singing simple songs that you know.
- Invite them to play simple games with you
- Pray with them in a simple manner
- Use your imagination
- Refrain from asking them if they know who you are.
These are suggestions of ways to minister to a family member or friend who is showing signs of memory loss. Above all, if we are patient and kind in how we minister to people who are experiencing memory loss, they most likely will feel better and appreciate what you are doing. Sometimes, our best is not enough to snap a person’s memory back. When the memory loss is severe, they may not even know who we are. To me, this is one of the greatest challenges – to love a person who does not remember you, may be mean to you, and may be dangerous to themselves. In all cases, I encourage you to love without failing and never cease to try to make your loved ones comfortable and at ease. Blessings,
Questions for Reflection:
- What are your thoughts about ministering to those who experience memory loss?
- What is most difficult about interacting with people who have memory loss?
- What is most meaningful about ministering to a person who suffers from memory loss?
4. Other thoughts on this subject?
Prayer: God, push me in love, that I might reach out in love to those who are struggling to remember . Grant me the right words, the right actions, the right spirit to give back to those with dementia and Altzimers Disease. Grant me your patience. Grant me kindness. Grant me the capacity to love without condition. Lord, I need your encouragement. Lord, I need your direction. Lord, I need your peace. Lord, I need your love. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Written by Pastor Nick Hood3
Photo by Pastor Nick Hood3
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