Prayer While Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

This prayer while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be used by anyone who is a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia or who is struggling to cope with how the disease has effected themselves or their family.  Here is help from Debbie Gailliard whose mother suffered from Alzheimer’s:

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 13 years ago and over time prayer has helped me be at peace with this.  Here are some steps through which God, love and prayer can help you gain peace and acceptance.

1.  Ask for God’s help and guidance when you start seeing the first signs.

In 1996, my Mom was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had a lymph node removed and then underwent 5 rounds of chemotherapy.  This was very difficult on her physically and emotionally.  She was 75 and my Dad was 82.

Dad has endured some serious health issues through the years.  He lost a kidney before I was born, enduring 40 days in the hospital.  It was a near death experience.  He had kidney stones in the remaining kidney in 1975, and triple bypass heart surgery in 1979.  His knees were shot and gave him pain, but his mind was great.  He drove my Mom everywhere they needed to go and looked after her.  But somewhere over the course of the next year or so, after she was cleared of cancer, we started to notice that Mom’s memory wasn’t what it used to be.  She began repeating herself.  We might go home once every 3 months and each time we’d notice her memory was getting progressively worse.  Finally, I got her to a neurologist.  They can’t really diagnose Alzheimer’s, they can only rule out everything else.  They test for physical causes and then they find none, slap the name Alzheimer’s to it & begin issuing medications to slow the progression.  There is no cure.

2.  Ask for God’s grace as your loved one begins realizing they momentarily forgot who you are.

As I’d said, my father had dealt with several health issues in his life and it was during one of this stints in the hospital that I was able to witness first-hand the severity of Mom’s illness.  Dad had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance during the night one night & this is obviously very upsetting to my mom.  She rides in the ambulance late at night, stays by my Dad’s side in the emergency room and then goes to his room with him when he’s admitted.  Unable to hear well, it’s hard for her to know what’s happening.

I’m 5 hours away, so by the time I arrive, my Mom still hasn’t left his side.  I was able to get her to leave with me and we go to the grocery store.  I sat her on the bench and completed our shopping.  I rolled the cart up to her and said, “Ok, I’m ready to go.”  She looked at me and smiled and I could see in that instant that she did not recognize me.  It took about 15 seconds and then the realization hit her face and she knew what had just occurred.  She was mortified and I was devastated.  For that brief period of time she didn’t know her own daughter.

3.  Trust God and His good people to be there when you can’t.

From this point forward and during the next several years, I experienced what they refer to as the “sandwich generation”.  I had 3 daughters in Alpharetta, GA, still very dependent on their mom, and a husband that travelled on business.  I had a physically ailing father and a mentally ailing mother living in High Point, NC. We were very fortunate that my parents had family living close by and their church family practically across the street.

My parents’ generation lived in a community their entire lives and banded together to help one another when it was needed.  God was very present in this community.  Family & church family visited, brought food, drove them to doctor appointments, and prayed.  I will be eternally grateful for the support given to my parents during these years.  But as I was reminded, my parents had done this type of “serving” their whole lives.  They had looked after family, taken food, & prayed for those in need.  When they were the ones in need, this ministry was there for them.  Praise God!

4.  Find prayer support.

As for me, I found support through my church as well.  As a member of Bible Study within Alpharetta First Methodist, God held me up & helped me through these difficult years.  This group listened to my prayer requests week after week.  And when my Father passed away, I physically felt those prayers.  Like God’s arms hugging me, I felt the warmth and strength.  I wouldn’t have made it through this time of my life without them.  Again, Praise God!

5.  Pray for good caregivers.

My father eventually passed and it was a horrific time.  Mother’s mind continued to worsen.  We had to request additional medications for her.  We had to hire attorneys and acquire Medical and Financial Power of Attorney.  We hired a service to be in the home with my Mom 24/7.  It was very tough on my Mom to be without my Dad & trying to understand who these strangers were in her home.  Mom eventually fell & broke a hip and we had to have her placed in a nursing home for rehab.  It did not heal & required more surgery.  We had to find a new nursing home.

6.  Thank God when stability comes.

Fortunately, through prayer and tenacity, we have Mom in a wonderful facility.  She is physically well and content.  Her medication allows her to be happy and fairly consistent.  She is well thought of by the caregivers at her nursing home.  She is loved and she continues to love.  Her conversations usually revolve around church.  They do not make sense to us, but in her mind, she is still working & living for God & her church family.

7.  Ask God’s help in forgiving yourself.

In analyzing myself through the years, I carry a lot of shame with me over fitful teenage & young adult years, finding fault with my parents, being rude & disrespectful.  God forgive me.  I went through many years where I thought my parents needed me to correct them or “fix” them.  They needed the benefit of my generation’s “insight”, right?  Wrong!  I needed the benefit of their generation’s insight!

It has taken many years, tears, & prayers, but I now know that not everything can be fixed by us mere mortals.  And it is extremely arrogant to think that we are capable of doing the “fixing”!  It has taken a great deal of spiritual maturing to realize my arrogance.  And, again, it is shameful.  I have years of regret.

8.  Focus on love.  Acceptance will follow.

But, my parents knew one thing:  Love never dies.  Amen.  They loved me unconditionally & they knew that through it all, I did love them & always would.  Where there is love, anything can be endured.

True love leads to acceptance.  If you truly love someone, then you accept them with your whole heart as they are and where they are.  So somewhere along the way, something wonderful happened to me and my relationship with my Mom.  Yes, she became more and more dependent upon me, but instead of looking at her growing dependency as a failing or flaw that I strove to change, I began to accept her.  And when I was finally able to accept her and the situation, then I could be at peace.

9.  Savor the simple blessings of togetherness.

I can truly sit with my Mom in her nursing home and hold her hand, paint her nails, brush her hair or feed her and I’m okay with that.  She knows me and her love for me is so very evident.  She can’t carry on a clear conversation with me, nor can she pick up the phone and call me.  She can’t remember that it’s my birthday, so I don’t receive a card and haven’t in years.  But I know that through the haze of her mental state, she loves me with all her heart.  And, I love her.  And because of that love, I accept her where she is and as she is.  And because I accept this situation, then I am at peace.

10.  Ask God to help you accept your loved one as they are.

Having lived through these tough years and now having the luxury of reflecting upon them, I would share this advice with others who might be in a similar situation.  As you pray, ask God to help you accept your loved one.  I know that we all love but I believe that it is a spiritually mature love that can truly accept someone or a situation.

11.  Meditate on and trust the Scriptures that speak of acceptance and peace.

Because I have come to focus on this new found thought, I decided to search the Bible for references to “acceptance” and “peace” and I have discovered some enlightening passages.  I will share a few.  But let me close in prayer for whoever might read this.

Prayer While Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please be present at this moment in time with the individual(s) that read this passage.  Please wrap your loving, comforting, and insightful arms around this person helping them to feel your love and understanding of what they are going through.  Help them to experience spiritual maturity, love, acceptance, and peace.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Scriptures to cling to while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s 

Please look at these passages:

Hebrews 10:34

Phil 4:6-7

John 14:27

John 13:34-35

Also keep in mind Jesus’ examples of acceptance:  accepting the betrayal of a friend & disciple(Judas), acceptance of Peter’s denial, acceptance of those who were not accepted by others(woman being stoned, tax collectors, lepers)

Other helpful articles

Guided prayer for care givers to pray with those going through a life crisis 

Standing in the gap in prayer

Prayer by proxy when the person you’re praying for isn’t present

Copyright Debbie Gaillard 2011.  All rights reserved.