Responding to Dementia

WANDERING IN THE WILDERNESS: Responding to Dementia in Our Religious Communities

By Rabbi Regina L. Sandler-Phillips, MSW, MPH

First Prize, Auburn Theological Seminary Sermon Competition and Symposium (2006)

One Saturday morning, 87-year-old Morris (not his real name) was accompanied by his home health aide to a nearby synagogue, where he was expected to stay for the duration of the Sabbath service. Unbeknownst to his aide and unnoticed by the other worshipers, Morris soon left the synagogue, boarded a bus with his walker, and traveled several miles to a synagogue in another part of town.

When he arrived, Morris was disoriented and a bit agitated. There was a large Bat Mitzvah celebration in progress, with many people he did not recognize, and he was unable to find a place to sit in the back of the sanctuary. Fortunately, many members of this synagogue knew Morris. His son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were active members of this congregation and, although Morris had not been seen for several months due to his various health conditions, he was still considered part of the community. (...) Read more