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Alzheimer's & Spirituality – God Remains With Us


By Greg Porell
Scituate – Do you know what happens to God when a person is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease? Nothing. He stays right there with them.

collette wood

Colette Bachand-Wood

That’s the good news for people of faith in Colette Bachand-Wood’s new book, Do This, Remembering Me which will help clergy members, caregivers, loved ones and health care professionals better understand the “spiritual care of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Bachand-Wood, the Rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Whitman, calls upon many years of experience working with seniors to encourage and reassure readers that God is still alive in a person with memory impairment and can be called upon to communicate and comfort. Much of the assurance from this connection is felt by the loved one providing care during the difficult progression of their loved one’s dementia.
Do This, Remembering Me demonstrates that “the imprint of God cannot be erased by time or disease,” citing many examples from the author’s work with patients. Written as a resource for fellow clergy to understand the disease’s impact, it is also a great resource for the layperson. The book presents readers with an opportunity to explore their own beliefs and learn ways to provide spiritual care to others battling with Alzheimer’s and dementia’s loss.
Bachand-Wood has the background and experiences that lend to her insight and understanding, having served as a military chaplain, a chaplain for local hospice services and in senior living residences.
Through the course of her spiritual care, Bachand-Wood wrote down scenes, comments and observations, one no more poignant than her discussion of the role reversal child and parent go through when dementia takes over. The author shares a story about the day she found she was no longer the child being dropped off at school and hanging on desperately to her parent, but was now faced with driving away from the nursing home on the day her father moved in.
The book contains insights on the disease, the symptoms and what a reader might expect from a loved one afflicted with dementia. She cautions readers that it’s impossible to know what to completely expect from the disease’s progression, as it impacts each person in a slightly different way.
Do This, Remembering Me looks at the tools and supports to help loved ones better communicate and care for the person and offers these insights to other clergy members, enabling them to better understand what is happening and to be in a position to offer positive assistance.
Examples of prayer and other spiritual practices as a way to calm and redirect when a person becomes agitated are provided. She discusses the need for care providers to treat the person’s spirit and being, not just the medical consequences of the disease, noting “a frightened or scared spirit cannot heal or be well.”
Suggestions on how to recreate a family’s spiritual life in this new phase of living are provided and include inviting clergy to visit your loved one to something as simple as having weekly bulletins or announcements mailed to the house to help them remain connected. The use of cues and symbols to recall spirituality is outlined and the power of music is profiled. The author notes that playing religious music may help a person feel they are “no longer alone, as they reconnect with God and with memories.”
Bachand-Wood admits that “pastoral care is not an exact science.” She openly discusses failures, while sharing approaches that have worked. Bachand-Wood’s book is supported by examples from well-respected professionals, including Teepa Snow of Positive Approach who notes “sometimes as caregivers we try to bring loved ones with memory impairment to where we want them to be, and would do better by assessing what they need before jumping in.”
Book CoverReaders of faith who may wonder what happens if they get the disease will find comfort in the book. Bachand-Wood lets readers know it is ok to tell God you are angry about the disease taking years away from being together with a loved one. Only through honest sharing of emotions with God is God able to find a way to heal and comfort, writes Bachand-Wood.
The book is great for caregivers, loved ones, and family members to learn a new approach to helping the person with Alzheimer’s. It is a good resource for clergy to feel more empowered to take their ministry to those in need, and provides the tools and ways to proceed once they are there.
Perhaps one of the best insights is a reminder that “what works today, may not work tomorrow, but might work again next week.”
You may contact Bachand-Wood at (617) 922 – 9664 or via email at colettewood@comcast.net. To order this book, visit Amazon.com, call Cokesbury at (800) 672 – 1789 or online at Cokesbury.com. You may also visit www.churchpublishing.org for more information.