Dementia from the Inside: A Doctor’s Personal Journey of Hope
By Dr. Jennifer Bute with Louise Morse
Dementia from the Inside is a must-read for anyone who provides pastoral care, for family and friends of people with dementia, for those living with dementia and for anyone who needs inspiration.
Jennifer Bute, a former medical doctor in Southampton, U.K., cared for her father, a former Baptist pastor who had dementia. Bute
later had to retire from medicine after her own diagnosis with dementia. Dementia from the Inside is her account of the realities of dementia and the hope for those living with it and their caregivers.
The first two chapters are not so much about dementia as they are about God’s faithfulness to Bute, preparing her for dementia through various hardships earlier in her life. During her years with dementia, she has discovered her rich relationship with God to be even richer than it was before.
Bute was part of the pastoral leadership of her church and was able to teach them the importance of continuing pastoral visits to people with dementia. Her teaching was recorded and is available at Glorious Opportunity, along with other resources.
She tells two stories of angels who helped her in situations that would be high stress for those without dementia and traumatic for those who have it. The stories reinforce one of her central messages, which is God’s good care and faithfulness.
Resources abound in the second half of the book. Chapter five is a gold mine with three key principles for understanding people with dementia, seven common triggers for meltdowns, and several pages of practical ways pastors, family, friends and others can accommodate those with dementia. This chapter ought to be read and implemented by every church staff and leadership team or committee.
Chapter six follows with counsel for how to enable those with dementia to open up and flourish rather than shut down and close off. Chapter eight lists five ways to get those with dementia talking—ways more effective and caring than asking, “What did you do today?” or “Do you remember … ?”
Bute shares what it is like living with dementia. She has had to adopt extra measures and reminders to keep her safe and moving through her day. Rather than feeling pity for her, the reader has a sense of awe, joy and gratitude for how full life is even when it seems diminished.
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Indeed, rather than pity, Bute calls for empathy, which not only helps those with dementia, but also helps the larger community.
Even if one has no personal interest in dementia, reading Dementia from the Inside will pay dividends in developing empathy, a quality all of us need to possess.