God, who remembers?

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God, who remembers? - the impact of chaplaincy

While walking in the dementia ward, I see a lady I’ll call “Maisie” standing in a doorway looking like she might be feeling lost and sad. I ask Maisie if she would like to sit in a nearby chair. Maisie replies that she would like to sit down, “but that chair is all alone!” I ask if I can walk with her to the chair and then get another chair to sit next to her and Maisie agrees to this plan.

We sit down. Maisie is anxious and says, “I don’t know where I am or why I am here!” I explain that she is in hospital, and that I don’t have information on why. I say the nurses know and when one comes by, we can ask them if she would like to.

Maisie says, “I feel much better with you sitting next to me”. I introduce myself as a chaplain and ask Maisie if she is connected with a church. Maisie says “Yes, but I can’t remember which one.”  I sense questions are difficult for Maisie. I notice some pictures on the counter in front of us and draw Maisie’s attention to these saying, “What a lovely waterfall!” Maisie agrees and I say, “Creation is beautiful” and Maisie’s face lights up with a smile for the first time since I have met her. Again, Maisie says “I feel much better with you next to me.”

Then Maisie tells me how special Jesus is to her. When she was a girl, someone told her about Jesus, she isn’t sure who it was now, but she tells me why she liked Jesus so much as a girl – his kindness, strength, goodness, generosity and closeness to her are all qualities of Jesus that Maisie names. Maisie holds her hand to her heart as she says, “I just loved Jesus from that time, and he was always with me”. I ask Maisie if she feels Jesus with her today and Maisie replies “That’s why we met today. So that you could remind me. It’s important for us to be together.”

A recent Biomedical Central public Health article reports that dementia is the second most feared condition among Australian Health Service consumers, and understandably so.[1] It is a horrible condition. Yet, even in dementia God will not forsake us. I was amazed that Maisie was able articulate the impact of chaplaincy for her so clearly. Maisie experienced Matthew 18:20.

For where two or three gather as my followers, I am there among them.

In this instance, chaplaincy helped Maisie relocate what is most important to her.

[1] Watson, R., Sanson-Fisher, R., Bryant, J. et al. Dementia is the second most feared condition among Australian health service consumers: results of a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health 23, 876 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-15772-y

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