Yesterday afternoon some of us went out to a care home to lead a service there. It felt good to get out in the community and do something like that; church in action as opposed to within the same four walls. I’m keen to be involved. The service was appreciated and it was good to see some of the residents humming and smiling. Many of them suffer from dementia type illnesses, and you can see the confusion frequently pass across their faces.
One lady I spoke to afterwards was very distressed. ‘What am I doing here?’ she asked me. ‘How did I get here? Why aren’t I at home? I don’t know anyone in this room.’ Trying to be soothing and distracting her with cheerful remarks only worked for so long; in the end I was rendered mute by the fear and panic on her face. ‘Can you tell me where I’m going?’ she asked me pointedly and repeatedly. In the end I led her to one of the carers, as they would know where she would normally be as far as the home was concerned, although I felt inadequate to answer a question that had no appropriate response. She needed a response, even if it was just leading her across the room. I was struck mostly by the fear created by her illness – more than mere confusion, panic widened her eyes, and I ached for the terror she was feeling.
Lord, remember those who can’t remember themselves,
who do not understand why they are where they are
who cannot be comforted as the answer lies
in something entirely forgotten.
Help us be comforters; help us show your peace,
despite not knowing the answers,
may we soothe their fear with your perfect love.