Dementia: Living in the Memories of God

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Overview

Dementia is one of the most feared diseases in Western society today. Some have even gone so far as to suggest euthanasia as a solution to the perceived indignity of memory loss and the disorientation that accompanies it.

In this book John Swinton develops a practical theology of dementia for caregivers, people with dementia, ministers, hospital chaplains, and medical practitioners as he explores two primary ...

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Dementia: Living in the Memories of God

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Overview

Dementia is one of the most feared diseases in Western society today. Some have even gone so far as to suggest euthanasia as a solution to the perceived indignity of memory loss and the disorientation that accompanies it.

In this book John Swinton develops a practical theology of dementia for caregivers, people with dementia, ministers, hospital chaplains, and medical practitioners as he explores two primary questions:

  • Who am I when I've forgotten who I am?
  • What does it mean to love God and be loved by God when I have forgotten who God is?
Offering compassionate and carefully considered theological and pastoral responses to dementia and forgetfulness, Swinton's Dementia: Living in the Memories of God redefines dementia in light of the transformative counter story that is the gospel.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Stanley Hauerwas
-- Duke Divinity School; author of God, Medicine, and Suffering
"John Swinton has clearly become the premier pastoral theologian of our time. In this book he approaches the troubled topic of dementia with his usual thoroughness, engaging the science with an unapologetic theological voice. Dementia: Living in the Memories of God will become a classic."

Stephen G. Post
-- Stony Brook University; author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping
"Swinton offers us the best constructive theology yet written on the important place for the deeply forgetful in our communities and our lives. His ability to elevate the most significant Christian scholarship on this topic to the level of a compelling new synthesis is clear on each thoughtful page. Those who want to reflect deeply on where individuals with dementia fit into our world will benefit from this breath of fresh air. It is a brilliant book that stays true to everything meaningful in Christian ethics, theology, and care."

Stephen Sapp
-- University of Miami; author of When Alzheimer's Disease Strikes!
"Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, Swinton's Dementia is a ringing challenge to current thinking (and speaking and acting) about dementia. Especially significant is the author's insistence that Christians always consider dementia from a theological perspective and move beyond the dominant (and limited) medical model."

David Keck
-- author of Forgetting Whose We Are
"This vigorous yet gentle book is changing the way I practice theology. It deserves a broad audience of both theologians and pastors since it challenges fundamental habits of thought, prayer, and service. Indeed, this book -- this offering -- provides hope. It demonstrates the power of faithful theology to engage very difficult, even frightening topics."

John Goldingay
-- Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Remembering Ann
"For the last decade of her life my first wife, Ann, couldn't speak, not because she couldn't move her lips but because she could no longer work out what to say. She had dementia. . . . I would worry over how she and God could relate if she couldn't think straight, so I love Swinton's statement that people such as Ann 'remain tightly held within the memories of God' and I resonate with this description of the church as 'a living body of remembering friends.' Indeed, as I read this book, I kept saying, 'Yes, Yes, Yes!' "

Elizabeth MacKinlay
-- Charles Sturt University; author of Spiritual Growth and care in the Fourth Age of Life
"This groundbreaking book tells a counter-story of dementia that brings hope and challenges the fears that are so dominant within society and the church."

James Woodward
There can be no greater fear than the possibility of losing our memory. Modernity may have offered us longevity but at some threat to our human wellbeing. Dementia poses many fundamental theological and pastoral challenges.
John Swinton has produced a masterpiece, exploring the many dimensions of Dementia. Here is pastoral theology at its best - careful, sensitive, clear, searching, insight and with an integrated theology that supports good care. I warmly commend it to the widest possible readership.
Albert Jewell
This is a truly monumental book, not in length but in depth and scope, with a liberating and empowering message for theologians, pastoral carers and church communities. It engages honestly and creatively with the big issues raised by dementia: personhood and identity, mind and memory, body and soul, and (movingly) the value to be found in every human life. No one is better qualified to write it than John Swinton. Prepare yourself for a challenging but immensely rewarding read! It is Biblical and practical theology at its very best.
Margaret Goodall
Grounded in deep pastoral concern and theological integrity, Dementia: living in the memories of God, is essential reading for anyone wishing to develop an understanding of dementia from a Christian perspective. John Swinton provides an important and timely re-description of the story of dementia which offers hope based on experience and insight. The reader is encouraged to recognise the darkness of dementia as only part of the story in which the person continues to be held in relationship by God who does not forget. A practical theology for dementia, and the continued importance of visiting, is worked out in the new story he offers.
Joanna Collicut
In this clearly written and accessible volume, Swinton incorporates the best insights of contemporary psychological approaches to human memory and dementia care into a biblically grounded theology. The result is an account that does not shy away from the pain and challenge that faces people affected by dementia, yet at the same time asserts a transformative vision of their situation based on the grace of the God who creates and redeems them.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802867162
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 11/19/2012
  • Pages: 308
  • Sales rank: 314,739
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Swinton is professor of practical theology and pastoral care at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and founding director of the Centre for Spirituality, Health, and Disability at Aberdeen. His other books include Resurrecting the Person, Disability in the Christian Tradition, Living Well and Dying Faithfully, and Raging with Compassion.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Being Loved for Who I Am 1

1 A Practical Theology of Dementia 16

2 Redescribing Dementia: Starting from the Right Place 27

3 The Fragmentation of Persons and the Creation of "Typical" People 49

4 Moving Beyond the Standard Paradigm: From Defectology to Relationships 68

5 The Problem with Personhood: Why It Might Not Be Such a Good Idea for People to Be Persons 110

6 Relational Personhood and the Vanishing Self: Is There a Person in Person-Centered Care? 135

7 Personhood and Humanness: The Importance of Being a Creature 153

8 Living in the Memories of God: Memory and Divine Embrace 186

9 Becoming Friends of Time: Learning to Live in the Present Moment 227

10 Hospitality among Strangers: Christian Communities as Places of Belonging 257

Index 288

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2013

    Highly Recommended - especially for new caretakers

    As we move steadily through life’s years, we encounter more and more individuals who exhibit Dementia. How we personally respond to them will depend ultimately on whether we approach them from a neurological stance of “defectology” where cognition is the ultimate determiner of the value of their being, or from a relational stance of “person-centered care” where “rather than perceiving challenges in the person’s linguistic abilities as a slippage in personhood or humanness, it would be better to see them as a movement from a mode of communication within which the linguistically competent are comfortable to a context where interpretation and understanding need to be recalibrated in line with the changing expression” (p. 191, f. 4). The author expresses much appreciation to Jean Vanier of L’Arche who similarly has expounded a purposeful person-center approach to persons of special need. Dementia for Swinton is “a thoroughly theological condition” (p. 8). Talking about a person as if they were not there and saying they have experienced a loss of self thus excusing abandonment or even euthanasia find no place in Swinton’s thinking. This work is an extremely helpful resource in learning how best to be with persons with such needs in the most truly personal and pastoral of ways. Not light reading, but indispensable for those wanting to care in a most appropriate way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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