Pastoral ministers need training about dementia says German bishop on illness growing worldwide

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The further education of pastoral ministers should include dealing with dementia says Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, deputy president of the German bishops' conference, speaking about a condition that is growing rapidly worldwide.

Growing number of people suffering from dementia need support along with their relatives, Bishop Bode said on April 28 in a podcast of the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Dresden-Meissen.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported he said every pastoral minister should have a basic knowledge of how to deal with dementia as like many other illnesses the disease can draw stigma and discrimination.

The World Health Organization says Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing.

Dementia is a generic term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.

It is not a disease, but is often caused by diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

It is one of the most frequently mentioned fears that people cite about old age.

KNA reported that on April 30, Bishop Bode was scheduled to participate in the start of the church's "Week for Life" campaign in the eastern city of Leipzig. The joint campaign this year focuses on people with dementia.

Bishop Bode said pastoral ministers had to ask themselves whether they were sufficiently aware of people with dementia and their relatives.

In addition, integrating people with dementia into the general life of the church is a new challenge.

The bishop said that in the pastoral care of relatives it also was important to make clear that the "form of relationship is different, but that does not mean that there is no relationship anymore."

He said it was important to encourage relatives to be patient and to convey that "this is still the person that you love, even if they have changed."

The bishop noted that dealing with dementia sufferers is particularly challenging because a healthy person gradually "becomes quite different."

It is "a kind of litmus test whether we also stand by the fact that life to the end is wanted by God and retains its dignity."

The WHO says that although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.

Currently more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70 percent of cases.


An example of when the prejudicial use of dementia is used to undermine people came in the United States when Francis Collins was appointed director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 2009, Christianity Today reported.

Collins announced that he was to retire at the end of 2021 after serving more than 10 years in his job including through a difficult period during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is an evangelical Christian who previously worked as the head of the Human Genome Project, Collins' 2009 appointment still drew scorn. Christianity Today cited a 2010 profile in the New Yorker magazine linking him to dementia due to his beliefs.

Collins read in the Times that many of his colleagues in the scientific community believed that he suffered from "dementia."

Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, questioned the appointment on the ground that Collins was "an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs."

P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, complained, "I don't want American science to be represented by a clown."

Nevertheless, Collins served under three presidential administrations.

During the pandemic, Collins spoke numerous times in his efforts to dispel misconceptions about the virus and vaccine.

Prior to his term at the NIH, Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also wrote the best-selling book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, which won a CT Book Award.

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