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My husband is in the early to moderate stage of dementia and as a very successful pastor, teacher and leader for over 50 years, he is still wanting to do the things he has been doing since retiring from the active pastorate. We started a small training and consulting business in our basement that was going well, plus a bible study group in our home. All of this began winding down when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2012, but resumed somewhat as he recovered. Now he is wanting to keep doing these things, even though he is not capable of it. He doesn't know or understand (or doesn't want to know) what is wrong with him, so he just continues to say that he is fine and needs to get on with his work, etc. But this involves sending out emails to people (we still have one employee that he asks to do this) and asking them to attend our bible study and help him plan training events, etc. I try to go along with it as much as possible, but when it involves other people, I am concerned. I've tried to let key people know what is going on, and I've told our employee to limit the number of people these emails go out to, and sometimes even told her to not send them. But I don't know how to handle this if it continues on for months, or even years! And worse--how do I handle him when none of this comes to fruition? He wants to call local church pastors to ask to use their space for the training events. I don't know whether to just let him, and then do damage control afterwards, or what. Any suggestions?

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I think this situation would be equally challenging for a spouse or an adult child. A person with dementia who doesn't understand/accept his own limitations is very tricky to deal with.

Personally (and from experience) I would wish to get him to accept the truth of his health situation. My husband knew from the very beginning he had Lewy Body Dementia. That caused him great pain, but it was also a relief to know why he was having difficulties and to know others were there for him to help him deal with it. It made it a little easier (but still not easy) to convince him not to attempt activities beyond his present capacity.

Are there any parts of his retirement ministry that he can continue, with modifications? For example, could you still hold Bible study at your home, with someone else leading it? For everything there is a season. Maybe this is your husband's season to mentor a younger person in a leadership or teaching role.

Your husband needs to continue to do as much as he can as long as he can, but it needs to be modified and adjusted to match his new "normal".

Would he be interested in writing his autobiography, perhaps with his employee's help?

He has had an active and meaningful life. It is devastating to just pull the plug on that. I hope you can find other meaningful activities for him.

Contact your local Alzheimer's Association office (even if that is not the kind of dementia he has). They may have suggestions for activities in your area. For example, I didn't know that our area has a choir specifically for persons with dementia and their care partners. Or that there is a "club" that does field trips. Find out what is available to your husband.

While he is in the early stage he might be able to give talks to groups interested in recovery from cancer or about dementia. He would probably have to accept his diagnosis, but it strikes me as a possible ministry for this season of his life.

My mother has dementia. My husband had dementia. The caregiver role is a very painful one, but extremely rewarding, too, when you can help loved ones maintain quality in their lives.

Keep in touch here. There are many of us caring for people with dementia. And many of us who care for a spouse.
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