By Candice Lucey, Crosswalk.com
Because we’re all human, our aging bodies break down over time, and the mind loses its flexibility, too. For some, deterioration is significant and is given a diagnosis: dementia.
When dealing with dementia, simple tasks which remain easy for contemporaries are no longer so easy to accomplish. The upside is that the very ordinary—such as the ability to bake bread—can suddenly feel life-giving.
As parents age, children often become their caregivers. And these adult children may experience many emotional and practical challenges of their own.
Here are six prayers for adult children of parents suffering from dementia:
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1. A Prayer to Be at Peace through Transition
Father, help me to accept this “new normal” in our lives. Help me to believe, also, that just because this hard change is taking place, that doesn’t mean YOU change. I need to hold onto the promise that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
A friend told me that dealing with this transition in their lives is one of her top challenges. Her mother had instructed, guided, and advised her. Now, all of a sudden, they had to change roles. She remembers her mother teaching her basic skills. Recently, this friend re-taught her mother how to bake bread. The hard part to make peace with is that this skill will soon be forgotten.
In fact, as another friend says of her father (whose dementia is even more advanced) they start over every day, re-learning the present while the distant past comes more to life than ever.
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2. A Prayer for Strength to Offer Dementia Care
Lord God Almighty, I’m tired. Looking after my mother involves many responsibilities. I don’t mind, I’m grateful to do for her what she did for me, but sometimes I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Give me an extra measure of energy to get everything done without collapsing under the strain. Amen.
There is a lot to do when a parent needs support with everything from cooking meals to driving; banking to arranging medical care. There is a temptation among Christians to believe they must never grow weary because of what their Savior endured for their sakes. But our bodies are mortal; they require rest. So do our minds.
Even Christ, in spite of His endurance to tackle a grueling schedule of traveling and speaking, made time to rest. In Mark 6:31, He took His disciples to a quiet place away from the crowds. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
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3. A Prayer to Reassure My Parent During Dementia
God, my mother feels stupid and useless, believing she is a burden to me. And although this is hard work, please steadily remind her of all she did for me. Whisper to her that she is not a burden. Please reassure her that she is valuable, and that I am honored to be part of this journey with her.
Colossians 2:9-10 tells us “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” How miraculous to think that, although a parent is falling apart, she has been brought to a fullness which is not altered by her deteriorating mind.
Once a parent’s mind begins to deteriorate, she might struggle to believe that this broken self is still beautiful, wanted by God, and made whole by His Son’s sacrifice. We retain our purpose and meaning in life right to the very end, knowing that death is only the beginning of a glorious eternity!
May this truth encourage both parent and child.
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4. A Prayer to Find Joy in the Midst of Dementia Care
Lord in Heaven, I struggle with joy sometimes. I want my father to dance and laugh and have fun, not feel afraid. I’m scared about the future too, so please give me a Spirit of joy and show me how to share joy with my dad. Calm my father’s fear. Lift this heavy blanket of depression and ease the journey to you. Amen.
One symptom of dementia is depression, and depression affects health. Studies have long linked good physical health with laughter; and decline with perpetual sadness or ill humor: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Psalm 16:11 is one of many scriptures about joy—the subject clearly matters to the Lord. The Psalmist wrote “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
God wants us to rejoice over His Son, even during “trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)
Dementia is a trial for everyone closely concerned, offering no hope for improvement until heaven, but it is possible to experience joy and suffering side by side. Part of that suffering is the fear experienced by the parent and his or her loved ones. Even while they forget how to tie their shoes and how to use a telephone, parents realize that they are supposed to remember.
Adult children lay awake at night, remembering a heartbreaking expression of fear on mom or dad’s face: the pain which accompanies fleeting clarity. Yet, when the Psalmist wrote of the Lord “Your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:19), Israel was being oppressed and persecuted by his enemies.
What a relief that the Lord of Heaven listens patiently and lovingly to our groaning, and expects us to turn to Him in the midst of dire need. He has defeated our enemies, including the enemy of our rebellious bodies and minds.
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5. A Prayer for Self-Control While Providing Dementia Care
Forgive me, God...sometimes I want to lose my cool. Actually, I do lose it once in a while. Looking after mom and dad is like parenting toddlers all over again. They constantly forget simple instructions; they don’t remember my name sometimes, or where they are, and they try to escape from the care home. They get so grumpy! I’m doing my best to take them out for day trips and bring them treats they like...don’t they know how hard I’m trying? Father, forgive me; this is not their fault. You were merciful to me; equip me to offer them the same mercy in place of anger and frustration. Remind me daily of the mercy you demonstrated on the cross and which you continue to show me day by day. Amen.
Another friend says that at every one of her regular visits her father says “it’s been so long, where were you?” She is pained that he believed she had let him down, even though her visits are weekly. Her father forgets details that she or a nurse or her mother just told him, not just once but over and over.
Symptoms of dementia include wandering off, becoming confused, anger; even violence. This friend’s father hit a resident at the facility where he now lives, and police were involved. He wants to come and go as he pleases; but he can only go out with certain caregivers and this makes him bad-tempered.
My friend is a nurse, and she understands what is happening to her father from a medical standpoint. But God’s calming presence reminds her that the Father never grows frustrated with us. God repeats the same instructions to us daily because we forget.
God regularly has to guide us where we must go, and rescue us when we veer off the path. He endures our misplaced fury and thanklessness. It is God’s steadfast love that equips these courageous, godly friends in my life to behave with the same patience and consistency in the face of their own and their parents’ suffering.
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6. A Prayer for Friends Caring for Parents with Dementia
Father, the task of caring for parents with dementia is thankless, yet my friends appreciate the honor of loving mom and dad to the end. The path can be grueling, sad, difficult—even ugly. But they keep their eyes on Christ and adopt a Kingdom perspective. Their love is such an inspiration. And they give it anonymously, not for accolades.
For all the comfort they willingly provide, please give them an extra measure of comfort today. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
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Candice Lucey loves Jesus. She writes about Him from her home in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada.