The AARP Bulletin of August, 2015 features an article on “Overcoming the Loneliness of Dementia Caregiving.” This fascinating article focuses on the emotional needs of those who care for a loved one with dementia. The author advocates that caregivers make connections, develop confidants, and express feelings.

As I work with caregivers of those with dementia, I strongly affirm what this author presents. I facilitate a spiritual support group for caregivers that meets once each month and I have been asked to begin another one, which I intend to do. In these groups, friendships form, conversations become intense, and feelings are honestly expressed. As I tell the group, this is a safe place to emotionally puke so, what is said in the group, stays in the group.

What can the local congregation do to offer support to caregivers? This is an important question with numerous possibilities.

Congregations, or clusters of congregations, can provide conversation groups for those who are caring for loved ones. From my perspective, one cannot understand the loneliness of the caregiver until one has spent time caring for someone with dementia. To have connections with others who “get it” is an invaluable gift. Having a facilitator that understands dementia is always very helpful.

Congregations could invest in equipping good listeners to be effective listeners to those giving care to someone with dementia. The listener must be someone who can listen without judgment, because caregivers can sometimes say things that make them sound angry and frustrated (which they often are) and they need a place to express their feelings. Sometimes caregivers express anger with God, and the angry caregiver needs a safe place to express those feelings. Gods love is big enough to hold that anger.

I facilitate a spiritual group for those who are caring for someone with dementia. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Benedictine Center of St. Pauls Monastery,

2675 Benet Rd, St. Paul, Minn. 55109 (Phone: 651.777.7251). The group meets from 7-9 p.m. and is designed for caregivers, rather than those with dementia. All are welcome.

I have agreed to facilitate a second group that will meet in Minneapolis. The group will probably start in September of 2016. If you would like to be informed of the groups start date and location, please feel free to contact me at <arnold.sf@gmail.com> 

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