The United Methodist Church releases Alzheimer's/dementia resource


NASHVILLE, Tennessee – How can churches help people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and their caregivers? Answering that question is the topic of a new, free resource now available from The United Methodist Church. 

The five-part study, titled “Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten” includes downloadable videos and a leader’s guide. Retired Bishop Ken Carder wrote the resource based on his experiences caring for his wife, Linda, who was diagnosed in 2009 with frontal temporal dementia.

“(The resource) was created to start conversations and to generate action around caring for people who have Alzheimer’s and the people who care for them,” said Carder, who currently serves as chaplain at Bethany Memory Care Center at the Heritage of Lowman, a retirement center near Columbia, S.C., where he and Linda live.

The aim, Carder said, is that the new offering can help older adult ministry leaders and pastors, family and caregivers of those living with dementia, as well as persons in early stages of dementia.

Topics covered in the study, designed to be used in a small group setting, include impact and challenges of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; practical and specific ways local congregations can be involved in caring for those with dementia and their caregivers; and ways individuals can communicate, interact and worship with people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The release of “Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten” coincides with Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds, with one in three seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia (more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined). When it comes to caregivers, more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s/dementia, with those caregivers saying they have substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties at double the rate of those who care for people without dementia.

Despite the bleak statistics, Carder says there is hope.

“There is hope in the form of the church’s response to these diseases,” Carder said. “The church has the unique opportunity – even responsibility – to minister to the needs of people who are suffering from neurological cognitive disorders, as well as the families and medical professionals who care for them.”

“It’s a double-edge sword,” Carder said. “People with dementia lose their way of participating in the church while our religion is so thinking-oriented, we eliminate the people who no longer think in the way we do.

“This growing epidemic provides an opportunity for the church to evaluate its theology; it’s a way of understanding and experiencing God. Linda is pushing my theology beyond the comfort zone and expanding my vision of the church’s nature and mission.”

This issue is significant for United Methodists. In 2015, the median age of the U.S. population was 37.6. For United Methodists, it was 57.

“As a church, we are almost 20 years older than the general population,” Carder said. “That means we could have a disproportionate number of United Methodists receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias sooner than the general society.

“Many of these United Methodists have adult children who are caring for their own young children. If the church can help these young adults deal with caregiving issues related to their aging parents, we will in essence be saying ‘Yes, you belong here because we love your parents too.’”

The Golden Cross Foundation for the Adult/Older Adult Ministries of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church produced “Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten.” To download the leader’s guide, click here. To download the videos, visit this page. Donations to help underwrite the resource can be made at

About the Golden Cross Foundation

The Golden Cross Foundation of The Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church was created to serve as an extension ministry of the conference. The non-profit’s goal is to provide funding assistance for new and ongoing ministries and services with older adults in the Tennessee Conference; and to provide expertise and strategic planning to the Tennessee Conference for the expansion of innovative and effective ministries with older adults.

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