‘At least it isn’t raining,’ I say to Paul as we sit in my car at the top of Monmouth’s busy High Street.  Paul has been living with Alzheimer’s/ vascular dementia for four and a half years now, and should have been in his Friday Day Centre, but this morning his carer couldn’t rouse him and get him ready in time.

Friday is the day I take Ruth for a few hours of ‘normal’, which includes our favourite coffee cafe and shopping, and today she needs to get some cash from the bank.  So we somehow manage to bundle her tall husband into my small car, set the child locks, and here I am now in this providentially free bay, ‘burbling’  to distract him because he gets agitated by Ruth’s absence.

Paul was a pastor and evangelist, so I relate things we see outside to themes in Scripture: the bread-shop posters remind us that Jesus is the bread of life, for example, and the pictures of sheep in the butcher’s window the Lamb of God. Mostly he responds with a simple word or two, or slaps his knee as his face lights up.

Although the disease has changed his behaviour and the way he relates to others in his life, the  flashes of lucidity show that the real Paul, the man Ruth has loved for over 62 years, is still the same, deep inside.  His spirit is alive.  Still the same pastor who loves the Lord, and the Scriptures.

Spiritual support is so important for people living with dementia.  Friends and families have told me stories of people coming to faith even in their last days, and those with faith have often told them of the times God has spoken to them.  The person remains, and we honour their God-given personhood.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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