Each year more than 10 million people worldwide are newly diagnosed with dementia. And that means more and more adult children are faced with decisions about their parents’ care.
“It is very hard to watch a competent loved one lose his or her ability to bathe and dress, to make a grocery list or fix meals,” says author and seminary graduate Cynthia Fischer. Fischer wrote about caring for her mother in the 2021 Gospel Coalition article “Even Dementia Is Not Dark to God.”
When a stroke deepened her mother’s dementia, Fischer wished she’d known more of her mother’s preferences. That’s why Fischer recommends proactive conversations, as hard as those might be, to learn a parent’s priorities.
“I think some parents will not want to talk about this,” she says. “But over time, gently, revisit that question. And it will not help to get in a fight about it, which is so easy for us to do.”
It’s the kind of conversation that could help with the decisions ahead.
“I wanted my Mom to consider what she would want, rather than me telling her what she would need, which is really, really hard to do.”
Knowing a parent’s wishes is only one part of a difficult job. If you are caring for a parent with dementia right now, Fischer hopes that your church is preparing people to offer support and physical help.
“Scripture reminds us to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially the widows, and I’d include the widowers, and to honor our parents.”
And while asking for help can be difficult, it’s essential for a care-giver’s well being.
“We’re not so good at asking for help. But at least if you start out and say, ‘This is what’s going on,’ some people will come forward and help,” she says.
And some of that help from friends and church family can be as simple as stopping by for a visit, something we might think won’t have any impact.
“I think for those few minutes, or an hour, when you’re with them, they are experiencing your touch, your voice, your presence, and it absolutely makes a difference.”
Listen to the podcast to hear more of Cynthia Fischer’s wisdom for adult children of parents with dementia.
Read the article that inspired this conversation here.
Read Cynthia Fischer’s blog on Childhood Ministry here.