Lutherans in the Twin Cities

What does memory loss have to do with the church?

Tom Allen is a spiritual director at Christos Center and a co-presenter at “Spirituality and Memory Loss,” a three-part support series. His wife Julie (right) has been diagnosed with early-onset memory loss. Tom calls this photo “the meeting of the minds.” Photo provided by Tom Allen

An overwhelming number of people will likely begin to experience memory loss in the next five to ten years. As boomers start to near the age of 65, the much-needed medical and spiritual support for those faced with dementia, as well as support for their families, is expected to overwhelm social order, as well as the church, in the near future.

“In my mind, the church is not even remotely prepared to deal with this,” said Steve Arnold, a spiritual director and founder of Pivot Point Ministries.

Care for an aging population brings with it a host of health issues. Prominent among these challenges is memory loss. While memory loss normally begins at 65 years or older, Arnold notes that there has been a recent increase of early-onset memory loss, affecting people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

“We aren’t preparing ourselves to deal with what’s before us,” Arnold said. “I’ve spent the last 26 years preparing people for the ministries of the church. We’re still preparing youth ministers, but in the next 10 years we will have more hip replacements than high school graduates.”

With this reality looming, those in the field of caring for dementia patients, are beginning to look at what this reality means for these patients and their families, both from a medical and spiritual perspective.

Who cares for the caregivers?

In response to the upcoming challenge, the Christos Center will host “Spirituality and Memory Loss,” a three-part series designed to support those in early- to middle-stage dementia, as well as families, caregivers, spiritual directors, clergy, and all who are interested in spiritual care for those impacted by memory loss. Due to generous support by the program’s sponsors, there is no cost for the event. A freewill offering will be taken.

The series, which will include sessions on February 6, 13, and 20, at Chandler Place, 3701 Chandler Drive, St. Anthony Village, Minnesota, will include presentations by field experts, followed by a panel discussion and table discussion groups that will provide participants a chance to share their stories and provide support for each other. Attendees can choose to attend any number of sessions that they choose.

February 6
“I have WHAT?”

This session will focus on an overview of dementia and explore the role of the caregiver. A presentation will come from a member of the Alzheimer’s Association and help people understand the basics about memory loss.

February 13
“Has God Taken a Vacation?”

This session will help attendees struggling to understand where God is in the process of dealing with dementia. It will help answer common questions around the role of spirituality and dementia.

February 20
“Spiritual Care: Walking the Journey of Dementia”

This session will relate the stages of faith formation to the stages of dementia. It will work to answer the possible ways people can develop and maintain spiritual care as the disease progresses.

“You can’t pay attention to this disease and illness without paying attention to your spiritual side,” said Tom Allen, a co-presenter and spiritual director at Christos Center. Allen’s wife Julie was diagnosed with early-onset memory loss. As the Allens have begun this journey, they have seen the importance of spiritual support in working through the illness.

Said Allen, “That’s my hope, that more people will hear and see the importance of spirituality and see there is more depth and strength that can be gained from that.”

Spirituality and Memory Loss is sponsored by the Christos Center for Spiritual Formation, with the support of the following co-sponsors: Alzheimer’s Association, Pivot Point Ministries, Chandler Place Assisted Living, St. Anthony Health Center, and Pearl Garden.

To register for the event, contact Janet Palmer by email at janet@christoscenter.org or by phone: 651/653-8207. More information is available on the Christos Center website: www.christoscenter.org.

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