Extraordinary Love: Tips for Families Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease
By Stacie Ruth Stoelting
Bright Light Ministry
CBN.com After discovering that even Alzheimer’s could not destroy God’s love, I started to heal. In the healing process, as an emotional teen, I wrote a book and began a ministry (Bright Light Ministry). This taught me a lot about an enormous need: despairing families—like mine—need Christian support.
Since I have been in full-time ministry, I have discovered keys to help solve some of the stigmatized problems of Alzheimer’s. I have found easy ways for average teens, kids, and adults to cope and to help other families cope. The following tips are possible ways to help a family battle a horrible situation. (Tips for caregivers and family members of Alzheimer’s patients are included further below.)
Here are a few tips for Christians who want to care for caregivers, Alzheimer’s patients, and their families:
- Listen. Take the time simply to listen to family members and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients -while not giving any advice. Sometimes, we all need to “vent.” Caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s victims need to talk, too.
- Don’t Judge. Whenever you visit the homes of Alzheimer’s victims, don’t judge the caregiver’s housekeeping or appearance. There just isn’t enough time for the caregiver to “keep up appearances” because of the constant care and attention that an Alzheimer’s patient usually requires. Also, don’t judge the families’ emotional response. Some members, unable to cope, deny that their loved ones have Alzheimer’s.
- Above all: Love. Simply take time to let the family and caregivers know you love them. When appropriate, tell the victim of Alzheimer’s that you love him/her. (Even though he/she may not outwardly respond, his/her spirit is untouched by Alzheimer’s. He/she can still sense your love.)
- Pray: Put a hurting family’s name by your telephone, on your refrigerator door, in your prayer journal, or somewhere where you will see it and consistently pray for family needs. Pray for their physical, spiritual, and emotional health.
- Give them a call. It doesn’t have to be a long call; just a call to let them know that you really do care and are thinking about them.
Below are five tips for caregivers and families currently facing the perils of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s:
- Ask for Help. Ask the Alzheimer’s Association and your church to help you. Call the Alzheimer’s Association, your church, and your family today. (The Alzheimer’s Association Web site is www.alz.org.) Feel free to ask my ministry for prayer support at www.brightlightministry.com.
- Keep your eyes up! Staying focused on the good (i.e. little blessings) could help you. This passage has often helped our family:
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].
—Philippians 4:6-8 (AMP)
- Don’t lose hope. Remember that with Jesus, there is always hope.
- Jesus can be your best Friend. He can be your father if your father (with Alzheimer’s) can’t be. (See Psalm 68:5 and Psalm 146:9.) He can be your spouse when your Alzheimer’s-stricken spouse can’t be. God promised that He will never leave you.
- Ask God to help you on a daily basis. Take a day at a time. Try to make time for prayer. That helped my grandma. Know that this time in your life won’t last forever-even though it seems like it. Talk to Jesus about it. That’s what Grandma did (and still does!). You’ll discover what she discovered: He always understands.
In the end, Grandma Hilda taught me that Alzheimer’s did not defeat Papa. Papa, a born-again Christian, won his battle in the end: he is now healed in Heaven.
True, my Grandma didn’t have fame and fortune. As a teenager, I didn’t admire her for her fame, power, or prestige. Among other things, I truly admired her for her faith. As she lived it, I watched. And, as I watched, I grew in faith.
Who knows? Maybe someone else is watching you. Never forget what God can do through you, whether you are a concerned friend, a child, or a caregiver of an Alzheimer’s victim. Maybe you will teach someone else more about God by how you help people facing Alzheimer’s. Maybe you’ll teach someone what my grandparents’ faith-filled fight with Alzheimer’s taught me: True love never dies. True faith thrives. Alzheimer's does not equal eternal defeat.
Read Part 1: Meet Our Newest Family Member, Alzheimer's Disease
Stacie Ruth Stoelting and Bright Light Ministry share how to have victory over Alzheimer’s disease! At 15, Stoelting wrote Still Holding Hands (2002), depicting her grandparents’ lives, romance, and victory through Christ. The newly updated version of her book released November 2005 and includes tips for caregivers and tips for helping families. At 20, Stoelting sang for President Bush. In dramatic programs for all ages, she speaks, acts, sings, and entertainingly inspires. To discover more or send prayer requests, visit www.brightlightministry.com.
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