Being a friend

Photo by Julie

Last week there was a walk for Alzheimer’s research in Naperville, where I live.  It must have been comforting to those who are struggling with a loved one facing this challenge or to an individual confronted with this diagnosis to know there are others out there who care.

Angela Lunde, Mayo Clinic’s health education outreach coordinator, recently wrote a blog entitled, “Friends don’t forget friends dealing with Alzheimer’s”.
In her blog, she quoted a man named Floyd, who was a caregiver for his
wife who struggled with the disease.  Floyd wrote, “To friends or relatives to someone with Alzheimer’s disease, please remain a friend.  Do not allow your fears to make you stop being a part of our lives.

“Do not obsess about what to say or talk about.  Talk about the things you’ve always
talked about.

“If you simply cannot see us or pick up the phone, send notes or cards.  Let us
know you are thinking of us as we journey through Alzheimer’s disease.

“Realize our hurt when we are ignored by longtime friends and relatives.

“Above all, do not let Alzheimer’s disease be how you define a person (or us as a couple)….”

Friendship and fellowship can be very comforting and even healing.  The Isreali
organization, Melabev, has been studying the effects

of fellowship and prayer
on Alzheimer’s patients.  Susan Sachs, the director of public relations and development at Melabev, stated, “If prayer is done in a center or religious facility, it is communal and there is a social aspect.  It gives hope and perspective, for many people it helps retain their dignity.”

Instead of institutionalizing patients, Melabev provides a full day of activities.  Sachs
reported that the centers provide patients with laminated cards with the most
popular prayers printed in large print.  The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health in Washington,

D.C., found that women could stave off dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent by praying.  The study also found that “prayer, whether public or private, can also lower stress levels – one of the risks of Alzheimer’s.”

Prayer can help all of us be better friends.  It gives us the strength to reach out to
others who need our help.  It brings us the courage and joy to do things together, to laugh, communicate and build self-esteem.  When our prayers help us feel God’s love, its easier to express that love to others.

Prayer can do even more.   To paraphrase Floyd’s hope, “to not let the disease
define the person” –  prayer helps us to see the person behind the disease, instead
of focusing on the illness.  Ps.119:18 states, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”  We can all pray to see beyond the illness someone is facing, and instead be the friend that brings out the qualities of humor, esteem, and life.

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