The Alzheimer’s Association reported that between 2000 and 2019, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 145%. More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and the disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and in 2023, Alzheimer’s will cost the nation 345 billion dollars. Eleven million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
These numbers highlight what many of us already know, that Alzheimer’s and other dementia issues are a major problem in America today. By 2050, experts predict the cost will reach the trillion-dollar figure. Medical science is making great strides to find answers for this issue, but how to care for people with Alzheimer’s is a significant problem now.
I recently read about a man whose wife was in an Alzheimer’s care unit in the advanced stage of that terrible disease. She didn’t know who she was or who he was or recognize any of her kids or friends. Despite that, this man arrived at the facility every morning to get his wife out of bed, wash her face, comb her hair, dress her, and ensure she ate breakfast. One of the nurses in the facility asked the man, “Why do you come every morning and do this? She doesn’t know who you are or understand what you have done for her. She doesn’t know that you are her husband.” The man responded, “No, she doesn’t know any of that, but I know she is my wife.”
This story is not unusual for a Christian who values marriage as a creation of God. However, I have visited Alzheimer’s care facilities where the person was deposited and rarely, if ever, visited. I know there are times when a caregiver is physically unable to meet the needs of a patient with Alzheimer’s and other dementia at home.
Any disease of nerve cells has tremendous consequences for the victim. God did not create this disease, and medical science is still searching for the cause. Those who reject Christianity or promote a “survival of the fittest” belief system will side with Dr. Peter Singer, the Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, who claims that euthanasia is the only answer.
Jesus said, “By their fruits, you will know them,” and we praise those who are caring for someone wrestling with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. God’s blessings will be upon you. Jesus also said, “Come you who are blessed … I was sick, and you looked after me …whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40).
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: Alzheimer’s Association