A few weeks ago, I exchanged emails with a lovely reader who ministers to elders with dementia. She described how one person living with dementia (PLWD) was tormented by past mistakes, unable to forgive himself. She wondered what she could do to help him accept God’s forgiveness.
What a beautiful question! This is what spiritual eldercare is all about: meeting people’s spiritual needs with truth and comfort in the midst of the confusion that dementia brings.
In response, I offer this simple, two-part prayer of forgiveness specifically for people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. (This is a modification of a longer forgiveness prayer offered by Christian Healing Ministries.)
Download the Prayer of Forgiveness (PDF) here.
A few things to keep in mind
In my experience, praying directly and immediately with PLWD is incredibly powerful. I often ask people in distress if they’d like me to pray for them, and I don’t recall anyone ever saying “no thanks.”
The key is to keep it short and simple, such as a 20- or 30-second blessing for God’s presence. Here are numerous prayer “scripts” you can pray with PLWD, including some “unscripted” ones (see last page).
When praying about regret, sin, and forgiveness in particular:
- You can’t know whether the PLWD’s transgressions are, in fact, true. It’s possible that they saw something on TV about a particular sin or trauma and their compromised mind made it their own. But it doesn’t matter: it’s real to them, so treat it as such.
- Because of privacy issues, don’t discuss the PLWD’s burden with anyone else.
- Be prepared that the PLWD may not remember the prayer of forgiveness and may continue to be troubled by real or perceived regrets. It’s completely fine to use this prayer repeatedly to bring comfort. Take comfort yourself that God has forgiven them completely, even if they have a hard time remembering that truth.
- Take heart, as well, that the Spirit is ministering to the PLWD in ways you may never see. Our job is to show up with Jesus’ love and compassion and let God do the rest. As my email friend rightly said, the PLWD “may not remember conversations, but he will remember how I left him feeling. They always do!” Amen, sister!
Peace be with you,
Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas on Unsplash
4 thoughts on “Prayer of forgiveness to help elders with dementia”
Hi Elisa, Thank you for everything that you do helping PLWD. Kind regards,
Greetings Elisa. This is very constructive guidance, beautiful prayers, and essential scriptures. Printing to keep handy. Thank you so much, Douglas
I’m glad! Blessings to you.