Do You Remember Me? An Encouragement for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
I’m a huge fan of Disney movies. I often say in my house that Disney can do no wrong in their development of movie ideas and themes. Most are incredible and they know how to pull at the heart strings of almost everyone. I dare you to watch the first ten minutes of Pixar’s movie Up and not cry—impossible.
Recently though, there was a movie that captured a reality that most know little about, have experienced, or know how to approach biblically. Disney’s Coco produced a song called “Remember Me.”The song was sung by the main character to his aging grandmother who was forgetting who he was. The lyrics of the song are warm and delightful but remind us of a reality where memory fades. For some, they experience this firsthand as they care for someone who is slowly forgetting who they are and harder yet—who you are.
In the emotional song, I was reminded of my past experience with my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. I was fifteen when she moved into our home during the early stages of the disease. Alzheimer’s simply is a disease that causes the brain to slowly deteriorate, gradually causing the person to forget basic motor functions and ultimately, who they are and others. My grandmother lived with us for three years until she passed. Those three years were some of the most challenging, yet life-giving years of my life. For those who are experiencing this today, it is difficult. So much of your time is given to caring for and worrying about the health and safety of your loved one. If you know someone who is caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you can find yourself in a tough position to know how to speak truth and care for them in their trial.
I found myself in both positions: I was experiencing the loss of my grandmother, feeling the pain that came with the lack of memories we shared together, and I witnessed my mother suffer as she slowly lost her mom both physically and mentally. Below are four promises of God that I have learned from my experience.
1. As your role changes in life, Jesus doesn’t
One of the hardest things that comes with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is the change in roles. My grandmother no longer functioned as my grandmother. She used to spoil me every time she got the chance. My favorite memory is her giving my brother and me ice cream sandwiches for breakfast. But the first promise of God I want you to cling to is that even though your role will change, Jesus’ role will never change. Jesus is still King. Jesus is still the great High Priest who invites you to come to him as you go through trials (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus doesn’t change as you walk through this journey in life. Your stability comes from knowing Jesus is stable.
2. As your loved one forgets who you are, Jesus doesn’t
Again, one of the hardest things that comes with Alzheimer’s is the slow, progressive deterioration of memory. I remember the first time my grandmother didn’t know who I was. One night she said, “Goodnight, Foster” and the next morning, I was greeted with “Who are you?” Friend, as painful as this season is, know that though your loved one may forget you, Jesus never forgets. Psalm 56:8 tells us that “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” This passage helped me greatly because every hurt, every painful step on the road of Alzheimer’s, I knew that Jesus doesn’t forget. He knows and he cares. Today you can rest in the truth that God will remember you and everything about you when you see him face to face.
3. As others judge you in public, Jesus doesn’t
One of the hardest memories I have with my grandmother was when she had a meltdown in the store. She was screaming and having a fit because she didn’t get what she wanted. You would expect this from a child, but not a 77-year-old woman. I remember the stares, confusion, embarrassment, and judgment that came from others as they watched my mother try to calm down my grandma in the store. Though others may judge you, know that Jesus will never judge you for this. A promise of God that helped in this season came from Matthew 6:1-3. This passage communicates that when you respond righteously when others don’t see, God will reward you. When you serve quietly, though others don’t see, or even understand, God sees—God understands.
4. Be patient like your heavenly Father
Patience is a term that is thrown around often. We ask for patience, but what is it? Through this experience and diving into God’s Word, I would define patience simply as long-suffering. You suffer with no end in sight, but you do it with a heart trusting in the promises of God. Romans 8 has a special place in my heart. Some of the best promises of God are found there. In regard to patience, we are given the keys to how to truly practice patience and do it well. The focus of our patience has to be the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. The text tells us: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25).As you develop the skills to be patient with your loved one with Alzheimer’s, keep your hope in the source that will never deteriorate. Keep your hope in the one who will never forget who you are. Keep your hope in the one who cares for your beyond your abilities. Keep your hope in Jesus.
Friend, Alzheimer’s is hard. I wish that I could say that your situation will get better. I wish I could say it will be easy. The truth is that it won’t be. Only by knowing the promises of God and his care for you, will you get through this season of your life. Know that God is not punishing you. Rather, he is entrusting you with the opportunity to care for someone in a way that others don’t. It is when we experience the fires of trials that we can truly join Jesus in his suffering. Keep going! Encourage those who are in this season to remember the promises of God. If you are in this season, know that Jesus will/does remember you.