Fortress Press

Dementia and the Church: Memory, Care, and Inclusion

Dementia and the Church

Memory, Care, and Inclusion

Mary McDaniel Cail (Author)


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Mary McDaniel Cail calls upon extensive personal and professional experience to offer insight, context, and concrete guidance for congregations and leaders seeking to better serve the growing percentage of the population that is experiencing life with dementia. Churches have vital roles to play, Cail explains, in showing those living with the difficulties of dementia the "soul-quieting God" who promises we are engraved, never to be forgotten, on the palms of God's hands. By recognizing and supporting the full humanity of all people, congregations and leaders can help both patients and caregivers live more fulfilling lives.

Cail pairs poignant stories with practical advice for developing holistic "memory ministry." Dementia and the Church includes lesson plans, advice on programming, and a rich trove of resources in addition to pragmatic information about dementia. A gifted storyteller, Cail crafts her prose with care and intention. Readers will develop "informed compassion," learning how to accept, pray with, relieve, and comfort all who cope with these increasingly common challenges - including themselves.

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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506482392
  • eBook ISBN 9781506482408
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 226
  • Publication Date September 19, 2023


Dementia and the Church: Memory, Care, and Inclusion is a treasure chest of insight, inspiration, and guidance for churches that seek to practice "informed compassion" for people affected by dementia. With sensitivity birthed from painful personal experience and knowledge gleaned from extensive research, Dr. Cail has provided a much-needed resource for faith communities and their leaders.

Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Professor Emeritus, Duke Divinity School, and author of Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia through a Spiritual Lens

Having been involved with ministry to dementia patients as a deacon and chaplain for over thirty years, I am so glad to have this book available. I teach pastoral care ministers and chaplains to the sick, and I wish this book had been available when I started many years ago. Dr. Mary McDaniel Cail's book is a touching and yet very practical approach to understanding dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It provides insight for those who are involved and are ministers to these wonderful and precious people. Having had my own family members go through these times in their lives, I have learned to value those who know how to minister to people in this time of their lives.

Deacon Jack Conrad, director of spiritual care, CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico

This is a deeply helpful and much-needed book, filled with powerful stories, important information, abundant resources, pastoral wisdom, and practical steps that all of us can take. It offers both an unflinchingly realistic account of what it is like to live with dementia and a hopeful way forward for pastors, individual church members, and congregations as we seek to do better at walking alongside people with dementia and those who care for them. I will be recommending it widely in my dementia ministry with churches and using it as a textbook in my seminary course on ministering to those living with dementia.

Rev. Dr. Suzanne McDonald, professor of systematic and historical theology, Western Theological Seminary

Dementia is a complicated journey. It is one that we often fear as we anticipate it and wonder who will care for us and love us as we move into it. The church is a space of love within which Christians live out the beautiful truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. In order to make the belief believable, we need a community who can live out that love and help us to live into it as we move on in our dementia journey. In this thoughtful, moving, and deeply practical book, Mary McDaniel Cail offers us maps, ways of thinking, and practical guides for the journey that can help us as individuals and communities to enable love, lament, and joy as we walk with one another along difficult roads. This is an important book that offers new and exciting possibilities for creating communities where everyone truly belongs.

Rev. Dr. John Swinton, professor in practical theology and pastoral care, King's College, University of Aberdeen; Fellow, British Academy and Royal Society of Edinburgh; author of Dementia: Living in the Memories of God

Church congregations are aging. The aging process brings with it unique opportunities and some very specific challenges for churches. The opportunities are endless and include wisdom, a lived history, amazing stories, and an endless desire to help. One of the challenges of aging for both the congregation and the pastors and deacons who serve in congregations is the illness of dementia. Mary McDaniel Cail has not only given us a glimpse and a firsthand account of dementia in all its forms, but she has also presented us with a blueprint and model for what she refers to as "compassionate care." This book gently guides the reader through the caring process for caregivers and for those who receive the care. This book is very practical in that it offers the definition of dementia, as well as the realities of those living with dementia and of those who care for someone with dementia. She guides the reader through the process of creating a caring ministry, including educating the congregation and preparing leaders and volunteers to carry out this important work. She provides vocabulary, programs, and activities that work. She even includes a comprehensive bibliography for additional study.

As someone who was a caregiver for a parent and a spouse, I highly recommend this book to all congregations, pastors, deacons, and anyone else caring for someone with dementia. This book is well on its way to becoming a seminal piece of literature for caring ministries.

Deacon Dr. Cecelia Travick-Jackson, retired associate professor, California Lutheran University; Assistant to the Bishop for Senior Adult Ministry, Southwest California Synod (ELCA); and deacon for senior ministry, Mount Cross Lutheran Church, Camarillo, California

There's no subtle way to put it: Dementia and the Church should be assigned reading for seminarians, clergypersons, pastoral care professionals, and counselors the world over. In it, Dr. Mary McDaniel Cail sheds desperately needed light on the crucible of cognitive decline and how best to care pastorally for those who live with it--which my decades in Christian ministry have shown me is many more people than we realize. This beautifully written, impressively well-researched, and deeply compassionate book is a gift to the church and all those who seek to embody the grace of God to sufferers.

David Zahl, Director of Mockingbird Ministries and author of Low Anthropology