Where is God when dementia sneaks into our house? Practical theology and the partners of dementia patients
How can hope, love and faith stay alive when dementia enters a home? In this article I shall look especially at the spouse or partner who shares an abode with a person with dementia. Most of the authors in this field, also John Swinton who is perhaps the best known author whose books are written from a (practical) theological perspective, focus on care in institutions, that means care by professionals. A partner living with a dementia patient has two main roles: as partner and caregiver. Night and day a partner is witness to the ongoing deterioration of her or his beloved partner, without being a professional. This article is founded not only on literature about dementia patients, but also on the experiences of several partners, as well as my own experiences as a partner. The question we all ask is: ‘From where does our strength come?’ I argue that what is said in the literature on the subject of (the pastoral care for) dementia patients does not help the partners, because it lays a heavy burden on them, who are already suffering from feelings of grief and guilt. I do not agree with John Swinton’s idea that God created dementia. Looking for different ways of thinking about God and faith to survive with hope and love, I turn to the exegesis of the creation stories by Ellen van Wolde. These give the opportunity to take the evil of the situation of the deterioration of the personality of a patient with dementia seriously, and at the same time grant the possibility to turn the grief and guilt feelings into strength to fight evil, together with a God whose empathy and love stays with a partner in her or his loneliness and grief.
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