Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving and the church
Resolution passed at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention
WHEREAS, over 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States today. At least 14% of people over the age of 70 are currently experiencing some form of dementia. These numbers are projected to continue to rise over the coming decades.
WHEREAS, there is currently no cure and people with Alzheimer’s live with progressively worsening disability and greater dependence on other people.
WHEREAS, people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias experience emotional suffering, including fear, depression, and loneliness.
WHEREAS, family members take on the vast majority of caregiving responsibility and often experience significant burden, stress, depression and isolation. The caregiving demands are so great that some experience deterioration of their own physical health.
WHEREAS, people with dementia and their families often find it difficult to continue to participate in the life of the church, whether attending services or remaining connected to the church family throughout the week.
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; Zechariah 7:8-10; James 1:27).
WHEREAS, we are called to treat our elders with dignity, and honor our fathers and mothers (Ephesians 6:1-‐3: Deuteronomy 5:16) regardless of their cognitive functioning.
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. All people, including those with dementia have value and are loved by God.
WHEREAS, Article XV of the Baptist Faith & Message highlights the call to provide for “...the aged, the helpless, and the sick” and to “contend of the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
WHEREAS, we serve Christ by remembering and caring for people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Whatever we do for the least of these brothers and sisters in Christ, we do for Christ (Matthew 25:27-40)
RESOLVED, that our church communities seek education related to Alzheimer’s and dementia, learning how to care for and journey with adults in their midst who are experiencing dementia.
RESOLVED, that our churches prayerfully consider expanding ministry programs to include the needs of older adults with dementia and their family caregivers.
RESOLVED, that our churches will treat people with 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 (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), reading scripture together, and praying together, including well-known prayers (e.g., Lord’s Prayer).
RESOLVED, to seek opportunities to care for and support caregiving families through word and prayer, but also through practical assistance, respite and companionship as a community of believers.
RESOLVED, to call upon our seminaries and colleges to offer Alzheimer’s and dementia education in their ministry and counseling training programs.
RESOLVED, that we will train pastors to be aware of and sensitive to the challenges of living with dementia and practical ways to minister to this vulnerable group in our communities.
RESOLVED, that our local churches become sources of support and spiritual care for those living with dementia in our communities.
RESOLVED, that we will carry out the mission of the church by reaching outward to families and individuals affected by dementia in surrounding communities and neighborhoods. We pray that we would be known by our love amongst a people who are often isolated and desperate for community and support.
RESOLVED, that we would trust in and remember the grace of our triune God, relying exclusively on the sacrificial love of Christ, the power and guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the unfailing love of our Abba Father to offer us hope in a disease that is often viewed as hopeless.
RESOLVED, that we would pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters with dementia, to sustain them in their faith until all things are fully restored and made new (Romans 8:18-38; Revelation 21:3-5).