A note from Kelly King: One in ten American adults over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—a total of 5.8 million. Needless to say, this disease either affects someone you know or they are caring for someone affected by Alzheimer’s. As Kaye describes her personal experience today, I know that many of you are going through the long goodbye of a loved one. Please know we are praying for you today and pray you are seeking help through a trusted counselor or friend.
Four days ago my husband and I returned from Austin, Texas to our home in Florida. We traveled to Texas for my husband’s mother for the purpose of bringing her to a memory care facility closer to us. Her husband is undergoing chemotherapy and cannot care for her for the next four months. Since we did not want her to be alone through the holidays, we decided to move her here. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s.
She is a beautiful, healthy, active 74-year-old woman. She was a rodeo queen into her 60s. She has always been active in her local church in women’s Bible studies and choir. She loves to sing, and she loves to do the Texas two-step. The dissonance between who I know her to be and what her mind will allow her to remember about herself and her life is terribly painful. It is death, but not death. It is a long, slow goodbye.
Caring for my mother-in-law and encountering this cruel disease reminds me of an important truth also underscored throughout Scripture: what we think (in my mother-in-law’s case, remember) about ourselves determines who we are becoming. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).
The lies we believe about ourselves must be captured and replaced with truth or we will live out of the lie. Living out of the lie produces fruit in us that causes hurt and pain emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. We also need to take captive our dreams and ideas and ask the Lord to breathe life into the ones that are from Him and for His glory, His Kingdom, and our good.
The insidious cruelty and pain of Alzheimer’s is that my mother-in-law doesn’t know what to think about herself. She knows she is not who she was but doesn’t know who she is becoming; so she lives in fear, dread, and despair. As I lean into my caregiver role with her, I sense the Holy Spirit telling me to remind her of who He is in her, to let her thoughts be centered on His goodness, kindness, love, grace, and truth. That is my goal, for her AND for me!
Are you walking a similar story right now? If so, I am so sorry for your pain. Please care for your whole self—body, soul, and spirit first. Please allow someone to help bear your burden, and process your own pain and grief with a trusted friend or counselor. There is tremendous loss in saying a long, slow goodbye.
A final thought: as we were getting my mother-in-law’s room ready for her arrival, I met another family moving their husband/father in down the hall. I stopped to say hello and listened to a bit of their story. My response was a simple, “This is really hard.” Mom and daughter burst into tears. We hugged, and that was all that was needed in the moment.
That experience reminded me of the most important value as we minister to hurting women: always, always, take the time to listen to someone’s story and be willing to stand with them in their pain.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.