Author(s): Dianne Crowther
Dementia presents a significant social issue in a hyper-cognitive culture where stigma, relational neglect, and isolation still accompany forgetfulness. This raises serious theological, ecclesiological, and pastoral questions calling for a Christian response. To fight against a malignant social positioning of anyone as an "an empty shell" is crucial; nonetheless, there is another pressing reality, the reality of ongoing loss. Often the focus is on one or the other side: affirming personhood or acknowledging loss and grief. Spiritual caregiving and Christian pastoral caregiving are uniquely placed to offer both sustaining relationship and grief support to both caregivers and persons with dementia. This pastoral approach emerges from cultural scholarship, rigorous on-the-ground research, and theological reflection on God's purposes in responding to persons in and beyond the Christian community. Christian communities are called to be places of agape love, compassion, and hospitality. We, individually and corporately, are called to care: to love, honor, value, comfort, and sustain one another--and "one another" includes those who travel the road of forgetting and those who travel with them. This fresh pastoral approach offers theologically and culturally informed, practical ways of sustaining persons in the midst of their losses, throughout the dementia journey.