For many various reasons, attending church or a worship facility can present challenges to people living with disabilities, and for their carers. Having the support of a church family is important to many of us, whether we live with disabilities or not.
Persons living with Alzheimer's or related dementia, and their caregivers, can also be presented with obstacles that make attending church or worship difficult. Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, and an estimated 15.5 million unpaid, family or friend, caregivers.
If you're a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease, helping your loved one continue to observe his or her faith can be beneficial and rewarding for both of you.
While I see many improvements in congregations practicing more inclusion and disability awareness in their ministries (My church offers a special needs ministry for youth, which my daughter (who has autism) benefits from where an older youth/young adult becomes her peer partner.), many churches are either lacking in knowledge or volunteers to implement an effective and safe environment that a person with Alzheimer's may need.
What once may have been a regular routine and ritual of attending church and recharging the soul for the person living with Alzheimer's, may now be too difficult and stressful to accomplish, in light of adequate disability ministry teams. This may even negatively impact the person's family or caregivers (which is often one and the same), to where the caregiver no longer attends church as well.
I know, this is common because as a carer to my grandmother, Granga, who had dementia, I can honestly say I never found the ability to attend our family church, let alone take my grandmother to church. That means for over a year, I lost out on my church family. Maybe I could have been more proactive about finding respite so I could attend, but it still left my grandmother out on faithful experiences.
Thankfully, I was still able to pray with her. We prayed over meals, before bed, and sometimes just because. I can guarantee, I did many silent prayers, under my breath, for strength and renewal to get through the day.
Besides the obstacle with attending church services, reading the Bible also proved to be difficult. My grandmother was still able to read, but not in the long sentence structures, and complicated words that the Bible does contain. I was able to read to her, but still the length of devotions were kept short due to short term memory issues common with Alzheimer's and related dementia.
Nowadays, I am faced with similar obstacles with helping my daughter, who lives with autism, grow in her faith. Like I said previously, we have a great church that supports her. However, like any parent, you want for growth.
I know that in my daughter's case, and like persons with dementia, routine and structure work best. I wanted to offer her a routine to learning how to connect with God that was easy and comfortable to her.
Well, the Lord's prayer came to mind. How many of us, have learned the Lord's prayer in our youth and can still recite it today?
The problem comes again, with the words. Some of the words are complicated. What I've learned in either caring for my daughter, or my grandmother, and their disabilities, is that words added with pictures make all the difference in the world in effective communication, retention, and calmness.
People with dementia alike, need continuing access to their faith. However sermons and other congregation style ministries are difficult to help persons with dementia remember their spiritual background, or to engage in current worship. Multi-sensory methods can help. One such sensory tool, is visual cues or visual picture aids.
Visual picture aids are commonly known as Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) or Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) Both are commonly used as a communication aid for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it has been used with a wide variety of learners, from preschoolers to adults, including persons living with Alzheimer's or dementia. This is the basis behind the product I created called Caregiver Cards.
Use this AAC visual picture aid of the Lord's Prayer (located below) to help offer renewed faith to persons living with memory, learning, or communicative disabilities.
If you, a loved one, friend, family member have difficulty with communication (either hearing or speaking), then may this visual Lord's Prayer offer you the start of many more spiritual supports. :)
I pray that this helps to foster opportunities for spiritual growth for person with disabilities.
Trust that Heavenly Father loves you and your loved one. He will hear and answer your prayers. The sacrifices you make for your loved one can be a blessing that brings you closer to your Father in Heaven.
We, at Caregiver Cards, would love to hear back from you regarding how faith has made you stronger, or offer suggestions on what the church community can do to better meet your needs.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Lord Jesus who is in heaven,
Holy is Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who have sinned against us.
13 Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from wrong.
For Yours is the kingdom, power and the glory forever. Amen.
Last modified on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 23:26