Many people have a dramatic personality change when they are beset by Alzheimer's. Is there a Biblical understanding of what has happened to them? It is especially concerning when a sweet believer becomes belligerent, foul mouthed, and seemingly God hating. Has something happened to their spirit?
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This is my personal opinion of course, and if someone knows of scripture that would provide insight into this subject then I would really appreciate hearing it. I have a Great-Grandmother lost to Alzheimer's, and her daughter (My Grandmother) is losing her battle now as well. Both of these women were God-fearing Christian ladies before the disease. I feel like Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain, not the spirit. It is physiological, affecting the body just as Cancer or HIV would do. Whoever your loved one was, and whatever they believed before their brain was infected by this crippling disease, is still who they truly are "in spirit." :)
My Dad "graduated" almost 4 years ago. He was diagnosed a few years prior as having dementia and early stages of Alzheimer's. He sincerely loved the Lord and had a burning compassion for the lost. In the later stages he all but quit talking. Although he wouldn't initiate and rarely responded, If we got him up, wheeled him to the kitchen table and asked if he wanted to give thanks for the meal he rarely refused. He not only asked The Lord to bless the food but eloquently thanked The Lord for his eternal salvation, yet he could not feed himself. IT WAS AMAZING! I remember the night before he passed. He had been totally unresponsive for over 24 hours, lying there with his hands folded and his eyes open. I felt it would not be long and considering Dad and I always had a very open and honest relationship. I read Hebrews chapter 11 to him then prayed aloud. I thanked The Lord for gracing me with such a wonderful Christian father and asked that he grant Dad a peaceful and painless transition. Dad never responded. I kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him and turned to walk away. As I was turning, I said the good-bye he always used when leaving the company of believers. "If I don't see you again down here, I'll see you up there." I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked back at Dad. He had unfolded his hands and fully extended his left hand from the wrist up to acknowledge! To my knowledge that was his last conscious act. He passed at 3:30 the next morning. I can not tell you how precious his last gesture is to me. I KNOW by the authority of God's Word and the power of Christ's resurrection I will see Dad again! He(We) will have a glorified body and a brilliant mind ready to fully experience what the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:9 "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Just remember Psalms 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
I have worked with Alzheimers and dementia clients as a caregiver for 5 years now. I believe that the unusual behaviors stem from the disease process and what it does to brain circuitry. It seems to erase guidelines of traditional, socially accepted behavior and leaves the "victim" unanchored and confused. My experience has lead me to believe that the Alzheimers patient is put here to test OUR ability to demonstrate great grace and to learn not to judge but to wisely leave that job in Gods hands. We are to serve one another in love especially those who are helpless.
Thank you to everyone who has responded with thoughtful and heart-felt comments. Alzheimer's is an insidious disease which robs not only the victim but those that love them. My quest is to discover, according to the Word, just what has happened to our loved ones whose minds have been ravaged by it. We know from scripture that when we believe, the Holy Spirit indwells us and makes our dead human spirit alive (1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 2:20). We know that by the Holy Spirit in us, we are sanctified and our soul begins the transforming process (Rom. 12:2, Col. 3:9b-10). We also know that Jesus promised he would never leave or forsake his own (Heb. 13:5, Deut. 31:8). So how can we rectify these promises with the ungodly behavior some Christians who have become Alzheimer's victims experience? Because we can trust the Lord that his promises are true (Num. 23:19), I have to believe that the afflicted are still intact spiritually. The journey of the follower of Christ is an ever changing one toward maturity in Him (Eph. 4:15-16, Phil. 1:6). I am guessing then that at some point with Alzheimer's the diseased soul/mind no longer permits them to follow in obedience. The Old Man/Flesh which the believer must put off every day (Eph. 4:22-24) becomes prevalent in their personality again. It just illustrates how corrupt we all are, sinners in need of a savior.
My wife has had Hashimotos Encephalitis for last 12 years, a disease that affects the brain in ways that are similar to Alzheimers and my mom(86) who lives with us also has a progressing dementia. My take on these horrible memory diseases is that if you were serving Christ before the disease then I would say this disease will not rob you of your eternal security, even though Alzheimers and other dementia can alter your thoughts and character as it progresses. Its a very sad disease!
Our minds and bodies are subject to death and decay but a believer's spirit is the Spirit of the living God. This can never suffer damage.
I volunteered with a church ministry that minister to a local Living Assisted facility some years back. The program consisted of singing some hymnals, playing bingo and praying with the people. Basically just showing and sharing God’s love. During one of these visits, a lady who was visiting a patient had watched the program and asked if I would come over and visit the patients in Alzheimer unit? I was unaware this unit existed as it was in a separate location of the facility. I agreed and gladly made my way over. I was taken aback and sad to see that most of patients were sitting around with stoic looks and nothing like the folks we had ministered to in the Living Assisted section of the facility. After learning a little more about the condition of these folks from a nurse and what to expect I prayed for direction. Getting permission I called for our piano player and a small group to come over. We proceeded with the program playing some hymnals and encouraging the people to sing along. Between hymnals I would share about Jesus and His love and the salvation message. In fact I remembered we were coming into the Christmas holidays and I shared on the birth of Jesus. As the piano played we saw a couple of them actually started to waltz around, others clapped and I thought “hopefully we are getting through”. As the session continued, I spoke about the cross and the power of the blood. I was so amazed by the response that I knew we were connecting, I was encouraged and I sensed in my heart to give an invitation to receive Christ. We had a couple of ladies that raised their hands and with tears in their eyes I knew the power of God's love and His grace had touched their hearts, more importantly their spirit. The countenance on their faces changed from hopelessness to sheer joy. I share this to encourage anyone who has a loved one with this disease to never give up sharing God's love. Hopefully and prayerfully someone who is reading this may want to start such a minister and get involved with one.
There is nothing wrong with the soul, but information received by the soul is gibberish or send by the soul comes out gibberish to the hearers when it (the brain structure)is damage. Our thoughts are not hold in the brain but in the spirit of man. It is a known fact that the matter in our body is gradually and constantly changing. We are not the identical persons we were seven years ago. New cells are continually being added to our bodies, while other cells are continually being removed as waste products. The old cells are gradually being replaced by new ones. After this process has continued for a period of approximately seven years, all the cells have been replaced, and none of the old cells remain. The body, as to actual cells which compose it, has been changed, thus we have a new body in a very short time. This means we have a new brain-an entirely different brain approximately every seven years. It is a remarkable fact that while we have a new brain in a very short time yet memories remain. People can remember clearly events that occurred many, many years back. Aged people especially are noted for their memory of childhood days. The brain may have been changed many times, yet with an entirely different brain one is able to remember to the smallest detail events and experiences of previous years. We can also acquire new experiences, they are like those of the past, cannot be erased from our memories-they are indestructible. What is the explanation to this phenomenon? There is but one, namely: that there is an indestructible spirit or spiritual nature in man. Certainly there can be no doubt about existence of the human spirit. It is the spirit, the real individuality, distinct from the body that remembers and remains long after the body has been changed many times-it carries the memories and survives all the great bodily changes’ This shows that the seat of knowledge in man, is not in the flesh and bones, nor even in the brain, but in the “spirit” “which is in him.” It shows that the physical brain is not the source of though and will, and memory. While the brain is unconscious in sleep the spirit can have real experience. It is not the body, but the spirit that thinks, wills, plans, remembers, and holds communion with God. When a person dies, the brain, eyes, ears, nerves are still the same members-they are still there-yet the brain cannot think, the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, the nerves produce no feeling. Why? Because it was not the body, but the real spiritual nature within the body, that did the thinking, see8ing, hearing and feeling This is in perfect harmony with 1Co 2:11 “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” When in a state not able to have faith your family and friends can have faith for your sins to be forgiven. Mar 2:4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. Mar 2:5 And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
As Frederick Thomas has pointed out, our thoughts, our "self", exits in our spirit and not our brain. The creeping influence of materialism has caused confusion about the role of the brain in our day. If we look to scripture we see that the self is intact, even when separated from the body. For example, when John is caught away "in the spirit" to Heaven he remains John with all of his thoughts and personality intact. Thoughts and personality don't reside in the brain but in the spirit of man. For lack of a better analogy the brain seems to act as the "interface" between the spirit and the body. Based on what the bible teaches about the spirit I believe that when that interface is damaged, as is the case with Alzheimer's and dementia, the communication between the spirit and the body breaks down. Things no longer work properly. (As an aside, despite the atheistic arguments that the immaterial cannot affect the material, research done by Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist Sir. John Eccles [not a Christian] shows that the spirit can and does directly affect the brain.) The spirit, then, is still whole and properly functioning, but not able to communicate properly with the body. This is the case as well with "mentally" challenged individual, regardless of their handicap. In short, when we see our born again loved ones (or any believer) ravaged by Alzheimer's or some other "mental" disease their spirit is still in right standing with our Lord.
Ecc 12:1 said serve the lord in your youth.......... my grandma has it and we refresh her memory of god by talk to her about him every chance we get that way she will never for get her christian state of mind.
One thing that might shed some light on this topic is if we recall throughout the New Testament, Christ healed several people afflicted by different physical illnesses and those with physical impairment and in these moments he generally stated that their sins be forgiven or that their faith had made them whole. This would identify to us that with a physical impairment we still realize the difference between sin and what is not sin. But in the cause of such impairment of mental states as in Mark 5:9 Christ confronted the issue (being the demon(s). this is not to say that Alzheimer and such illnesses are in comparison to possessions, this rather kind of clarifies that our Savior is very aware that the devil can attack the conscious mental state of a believer). In these cases, Jesus never cast out the demon and then told the believer or person that their sins were forgiven, nor did he come to the person and first say that your sins are forgiven and then cast the demon out. In essence, he did not hold the spiritual man accountable for the mental state that the devil had caused to the physical person. This is what makes our Lord and Savior so understanding and compassionate towards the body of man, because only the heart of Christ can discern between the comprehensive and non comprehensive state of the human mind and sin.
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