Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cumulative Effect

Dementia can rob the ability to remember which loved one dealt which hurt over the years, so that the expressions of anger and resentment the primary caregiver must endure from the patient are the cumulative result of the sorrows of a lifetime. This, along with the patient's loss of ability to filter emotions and monitor his/her words, can be devastating for the caregiver, and it is nearly impossible not to receive hurt.

It is difficult to avoid holding the patient accountable, even when we understand the dynamics behind the hurtful behaviors. I think we as Christians are especially hard on one another; we feel that Christian dementia patients ought to have forgiven all those people who caused them pain in the past. And indeed, if any of us were capable of beginning an Alzheimer journey with a perfectly clean bill of spiritual health, I imagine we could be sweet, encouraging, and loving patients who never caused our caregivers a day of sorrow.

In other words, perfect people would make perfect Alzheimer's patients. But of course we aren't perfect, none of us; all have sinned (see Romans 3:23).

Even with perfect cognitive health, all of us have one or more people in our lives who take the brunt of our emotional stress because we feel they deserve it. We hold our spouses, parents, and sometimes our own children accountable for the state of our emotional health, and they let us down. And so we feel resentment, and that resentment becomes a vehicle for our hurtful words and actions. In health we are more subtle than an angry and hurtful dementia patient; we aim our blows more carefully.  But the sin of failure to love as we've been loved and forgive as we've been forgiven is present within us all.

As healthy individuals, we need to look to a future when our ability to monitor our sinful responses will be lessened. This provides some motivation to, on a daily, incident-by-incident basis, forgive those who have trespassed against us, but the greatest impetus comes when we look at our Savior's face. Reflected in His gaze, we see ourselves as the sin-tainted creatures we are, and humility fuels our gratitude to Him for loving us enough to die for us. As we look steadily at Him, we understand that we can love others as He has loved us; sacrificially, with compassion, taking blows we do not deserve for His sake, forgiving as he forgave us.

It isn't surprising that people are sinful, and it isn't just the mentally compromised who need compassion and forgiveness. We shouldn't be shocked when our fellow human beings are hurtful or make excuses for the sinfulness that resides in each one of us. We are only protected from the tyranny of resentment through forgiving and being forgiven. 

As caregivers we need the ability to respond with compassion to those who have lost the ability to monitor their emotions and words even when they cause us pain, but we also need protection from the harm caused by hurtful words and actions. Praise be to the God whose love covers our sins, enables us to forgive, and heals our hearts. 

Caregiver's prayer: Father, please protect my heart and grant me the ability to respond to my loved ones with Your compassion and love. Please keep me from reacting to hurtful behaviors in sinful ways and forgive me when I fail; Lord please heal my broken heart. Help me to love and forgive as You have loved and forgiven me, in Jesus' name I pray, amen.


Put up with one another. 
Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, 
 because you should act in kind.  
But above all these, put on love!  
Colossians 3:13  The Voice


  1. I'm so thankful that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us and enables us to love this way. Thank you, Linda!

  2. Beautiful, Linda! I so needed to hear this right now!

    1. Thank you so much, Melanie, for taking your time to comment. Praying blessings for you.

  3. Thank you so much this is so true! My Mother passed away on June 6, 2015 at a nursing home from complications of Alzheimer's! I was her caregiver for many year's before we put her in the nursing home & I felt the resentment & tried not to let it consume me but it did! I had 2 nervous breakdowns & it was NOT my Mom's fault...I blame the dieseae! My Mom was the MOST LOVING Human ever & she had a smile & laugh that touched everyone's heart! I miss her so much & would give ANYTHING to see her smile & hear her laugh again! I blame myself for not keeping her at home with me! Alzheimer's is something nobody should EVER have to go through the person that has it or the person's family! One thing my Mom believed & remembered up until her death was that she wanted to be with the Lord & she is there now & at peace! I love you Mom! Until we meet again & we will! God Bless!

    1. Peggy, I am so sorry for your loss. I want to say what people always say...don't be too hard on yourself! False guilt is a terrible burden to bear. Get before the Lord and let Him convict your heart of any true sin, confess it, and then believe that He's removed it as far as the east is from the west. I pray for you the peace your mom would want you to have, and praise God for your confidence that you will see your mom again.