Dementia: a specter that haunts many, either as a fear for the future or as lived reality with a loved one. It has been called the "theological disease" because it affects so much of how we define our humanity: language, long-term memory, and ability to plan the future. The church has a role in bringing hope and shepherding the spiritual journeys of people with dementia and their families. Beginning with current theological models of personhood, concepts about the self and spirituality are explored through the latest research in medicine and neuroscience as well as from work on spirituality and aging. The final chapter focuses on narratives of successful programs in churches and retirement communities designed to minister to people with dementia alongside their families and caregivers.
Dorothy Linthicum, an instructor at Virginia Theological Seminary, has studied and taught courses and workshops about older adult spirituality and ministry at the seminary, conferences, and diocesan events. A contributor of chapters about older adults for The Seasons of Adult Formation and a special issue of Lifelong Faith Journal, she has become a known expert on the spirituality of older adults. Her other writings about aging have been featured in Episcopal Teacher, and on the Key Resources and Building Faith websites. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Janice Hicks, is a chaplain and recently ordained deacon from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. She received a PhD in chemistry from Columbia University and worked as a professor of chemistry at Georgetown University and then at the National Science Foundation. Her career change starting with an MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary was due in part to the caregiving she gave to her mother who lived with dementia for over twenty years. She writes at www.spiritualityanddementia.org
Preface Introduction Chapter 1 The Healthy Brain Chapter 2 The Brain Affected by Dementia Chapter 3 Theology of the Human Person Chapter 4 Theology of Dementia Chapter 5 Aging and Spirituality Chapter 6 Embracing People Who Have Dementia Chapter 7 Serving with People Who Have Dementia
Conclusion Finding God in the Midst of Dementia
"A profound and powerful re-framing, re-educating, and re-minding that the disease called dementia does not literally un-mind people or make them anything other than human beings with whom God remains in relationship. It is the supposedly healthy who do the un-minding, when we assume those with dementia have nothing to share or teach. This book is a labor of love and a deeply important pastoral and theological gift to all God's people. Don't read it and weep––read it and learn to see the loving possibilities of dementia." ––The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Assisting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
"Hicks and Linthicum go to the heart of the theological question of paradox that is dementia. Drawing on modern scholarship, lived experience, and contemporary best practice, they challenge the church to reflect afresh on the nature of personhood. They rightly conclude, 'by understanding and embracing the redemptive qualities of dementia, we can begin to see God's redeeming power in our own lives.'" ––The Rev. Dr. David Primrose, Director of Transforming Communities, Diocese of Lichfield, The Church of England
"Redeeming Dementia is personal, practical, and profound. Linthicum and Hicks masterfully share wisdom from dementia care experts and theologians to provide deeper understanding of God's all-encompassing love. Their practical ideas demonstrate how to better support and nurture relationships with people experiencing dementia and their care partners. Personal stories of journeying with their own parents personalize and validate the book's insights. An excellent read!" ––Kathy Berry, chaplain at Westminster Canterbury Richmond and author of When Words Fail