My father was the first to tell me the story of the three senile sisters living in the same house. Seems that on a particular day one was about to take a bath, but as she put one foot in the water she paused, and in a moment of befuddlement she called downstairs to the other two, “I wonder, was I getting into the tub, or was I getting out?” A second sister started up the stairs to be of some assistance but as she came to the landing she paused, and in a moment of befuddlement she called down to the third sister, “I wonder, was I going up the stairs, or was I coming down?” The third sister, listening to all of this, said to herself, “I’m glad I am not as bad as those two.” As she said it she knocked on the coffee table three times for luck. She paused for a moment and in her befuddlement she asked, “I wonder, was that someone at the front door, or the back?”
Funny stuff when you’re twelve years old; when the darker significance of such a scene is hidden from your callow eyes.
Today there is an untiring effort by scientists to understand the causes, care, and cure of dementia. It’s an effort that should have personal interest. The projections are that, if we live long enough, 50% of us will develop it in some form. That means, statistically speaking, by the time we are 85 it will affect either the person writing this sentence or the person reading it.
That also means there will be a multitude of caregivers who will be asked to draw upon all the strength and wisdom they can bring to bear in support of their loved ones. It is no small task. Someone has said that in dementia at least two people lose their lives; sometimes it is more. So what care can we offer the caregivers?
The Apostle Paul gives us an example in what appears to be a scriptural contradiction. In the 2nd verse of chapter 6 of Galatians he says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” But three verses later he says, “For every man shall bear his own burden.” Burdens, it would seem, come in different sizes. The smaller ones we are to take care of ourselves. But life sometimes gives us burdens that cannot be borne on our own and that is when we need Christian friends. It is an incredible blessing to sense the assistance of those who have been moved by heart-felt compassion, or have followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the law of Christ in such a way.
I also found encouragement in another Pauline passage:
Romans 8:15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry , Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God , and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
The mental picture we have of orphanhood usually involves untimely loss of parents. However, even in the normal order of life, we are each destined to a time when , as the Psalmist writes, “my father and my mother forsake me”.(Psalms 27:8). For many that loss of familial connection is overwhelming. Yet we need not be left alone. We have the great privilege of being adopted into the family of God; to be His child and joint-heirs with Christ.
Lastly,there is comfort in seeing things in a bigger perspective. The task of the caregiver is great but there is dignity in caring for those who once cared for us. It is reciprocation, small though it may be in comparison. We can be eyes for those who once watched out for us; we can be support to feeble limbs that once bore us along the way. Mostly, we can be a light for our loved ones as their world here dims. Caregivers, your tasks are many and your labor is sometimes long. But take heart; you bring honor to your loved ones and to yourselves .