It is rare to find a practicing geriatrician and professor who also has the heart of a pastor, but John Dunlop, MD, blends clinical knowledge and scripture in his book Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. His insights on dementia and caregiving are hard won because he walked this terrible path with his mother-in-law and knows the power of the Gospel.
He gets to the question we Christians fear to ask. Where is God in this? Why does he allow dementia to destroy my loved one’s mind? Dunlop refers to scriptures that assure us God has a purpose in all things, and his purposes are perfect. While neither the Old nor the New Testament refers to dementia, it is a disease like all diseases that grew from man’s original sin. Dunlop reminds us that dementia, and caregivers’ responses to it, can be God honoring.
In all I’ve read on the subject, the idea of dementia being a God honoring opportunity was never mentioned. Being loving, gentle, resting in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and seeking strength from God make up our caregiving armor, but turning this horrid thing into something that honors God? Dunlop’s quotes from scripture, although familiar, shine a unique light on aspects of caregiving I’ve never considered.
After presenting the clinical manifestations of dementia and ways to deal with behaviors, his exploration of what it must feel like to have dementia was eye-opening (and sad). Walking in another’s shoes makes us more empathetic and kinder.
When Dunlop writes about meeting the needs of a person with dementia, he covers it all—physical, emotional, social, spiritual—from one who has seen it, done it, been there.
In Chapter 27, “Grow Through the Experience of Dementia,” Dunlop writes: “I am reminded of a saying attributed to Billy Graham. ‘Mountain tops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.’ Growth in our character and relationships, both with ours and with God, often occurs in the valley of dementia.”
His last chapter looks at end-of-life decisions from his view as a physician and a Christian.
As a caregiver, I could pray, “Heavenly Father, I don’t want to drink this cup and I don’t want my loved one to either.” But like Jesus prayed in the Gethsemane, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
This book is a keeper, something to turn to repeatedly as caregivers face challenges and warring emotions. I’m grateful to my friend Adrienne, who shared this gem with me, and by extension, all of you.
Don’t know what to do? Have a question about any aspect of caregiving?
I invite you to ask any question about caring for others in the comment section, or click on the contact tab on the home page to send an email. I will do my best to research and share what I find so everyone benefits. Truly, if you have a question, thousands have the same one.