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  Respectful Communities > Graceful Journey > Dementia

Our society is aging.  We are facing an unprecedented demographic shift in our country. By 2030, almost one in five Americans will be 65 or older.  By 2050, nearly 20 million people will be 85 or older. Given that 95% of people die of disease, many of those persons will need some level of care, with 80% of all care performed by family members. It is imperative that our society becomes not only knowledgeable about dementia, but dementia-friendly.

Communities of faith are crucial segments of society that need to be thinking about how to best prepare for what is in front of all of us. While some congregations focus on “the future of the church” and devote a large portion of their resources to ministries with children and youth, with an aging society comes an aging church, and many congregations are not prepared to face the reality of dementia. This is critical to the mission and identity of the church, which is called to compassion, service, and faithful discipleship, and must grow and age together in grace.

A crucial agent in the movement to deal with this issue is ACT on Alzheimer’s®. The Minnesota Council of Churches is one of 34 communities that used ACT on Alzheimer’s guided community engagement process, along with three congregations: First Presbyterian Church, Mankato; Mayflower Community Church, Minneapolis; and Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, Bloomington. As a group, the creation of this web resource page is an action plan we agreed upon. The congregations also agreed to raise awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia among their members by utilizing a number of activities, including a Pew survey.

Basic Facts | Educational Resources | Organizations | Caregiving Resources & More

Basic Facts

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and progressively worsen over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Eighty percent of dementia cases are Alzheimer’s. Alzhemer's is fatal.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the risk increases in majority of the people over 65 years of age. Early onset occurs in five percent of individuals (under 65).

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities

Download and print copies of warning signs of Alzheimer’s (PDF)


* Books

* Books for Children

* Film Series with Discussion Questions
Adapted from a template from the Jewish Community/Adath Jeshurun Congregation.

FILM: Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter


COMPLAINTS OF A DUTIFUL DAUGHTER brings to the screen Deborah Hoffmann's poignant, sometimes funny account of coping with her mother's Alzheimer's disease. Nominated for a 1994 Academy Award.

Discussion Questions

  • What change did you see in Deborah's reaction to her mother's dementia over the course of the film?
  • How would this relationship have been different if Deborah's evolution had not taken place?
  • In what ways did the film display constructive communication tactics in Deborah’s communication with her mother?
  • Did you notice any positive changes in the relationship between Deborah and her mother that may not have happened without the dementia?
  • How was humor a positive force between Deborah and her mother?
FILM: The Savages (R)


THE SAVAGES portrays an all-too-common dilemma: after drifting apart emotionally and geographically over the years, two siblings must band together to care for an elderly parent. (FOX Searchlight Pictures)

Discussion Questions

  • Now that we have seen two portrayals of family member(s) coming to grips with a “loved one” suffering from dementia, what strikes you as most telling in this movie?
  • In what sense does the storyline of The Savages ring true?
    • What about its depiction of the father, Lenny?
    • What about siblings Wendy and Jon's differing responses to their father?
    • What about its presentation of the siblings' relationship to each other?
  • In what ways does Lenny’s decline and illness shape, alter, highlight, and/or exacerbate his relationship to his children, theirs to him, and theirs to each other?
  • In what sense does the loss of a family member to dementia (or, for that matter, to most any form of death) threaten the relationship spawned by that family member?
  • How does one navigate sibling (and, more generally, family) connections so dementia does not end up taking, not only the life of the afflicted individual, but also the “life” of the family?
  • The film implies Lenny’s eventual death is, in some ways, “liberating,” enabling Jon and Wendy to reach each other on a different plane. For many family members who have struggled with dementia, death can bring “release,” even a sense of “deliverance.” Yet how do we reconcile that feeling against the “need” to grieve, lament, and say Kaddish (to be a mourner)?

FILM: Iris (R)


A documentary about creativity and how a soaring free spirit continues to inspire, IRIS tells the true story of Iris Apfel, a quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. (Magnolia Pictures)

Discussion Questions

  • Are there any immediate impressions you would like to share?
  • Caregivers may feel a range of emotions that can be difficult to separate: Frustration, anger, sadness, guilt, and more. What did you see in the movie?
  • What about in your own experience? Did the burst of anger between the couple in bed and in the kitchen ring true to you? How do we deal with this?
  • John attempts to do everything for himself and for Iris, with less and less success. Did that ring true? At what point do you think adult protective services and/or a social worker would have been useful? What are the consequences of refusing to accept the counsel and resources offered?
  • This couple has a complex and enduring love for one another. How might the complexity and depth of that love make it more difficult to navigate the situation, and how might it make it easier?
  • For an author whose life revolves around the craft of language, the losses that come with dementia are devastating. Is it any less devastating for others with dementia?
  • What happened when John put Iris into the care facility, and what can we learn from that? Would it have made a difference for either of them if he had done this earlier?
  • John and Iris were supported by lifelong friendships, yet, in a sense, they had created their own cocoon, consciously or unconsciously limiting outside help. Should friends and family try to break through the cocoon? How much do you push your way, and how much do you respect what they want—especially in a situation where there are no children? How do friends deal with their own discomfort?
  • In your experience, what endures of the personality of people you have known and loved when they have dementia and the caregivers of those with dementia? How do you reconcile the person who was with the person who has dementia? How do you renconcile the person who was with the person dealing with the day-to-day frustrations of relating to and caring for the person with dementia? How do we see this in the film?

* Music & Memory

  • Request a free How-to Guide on how to help the Alzheimer's patient access memories by listening to music

* Resources

* Videos for Adult Education

* Workshops

This one-hour workshop is an initiative of the Alzheimer’s Association to inform and change people’s perception about dementia. Provided is basic information about 1) living with dementia and 2) ways individuals can be more supportive and take action to become a dementia friend in their everyday life.

Dementia Friends Champions are trained volunteers who conduct Dementia Friends information sessions and encourage others to make a positive difference for people living with dementia. This video helps people learn more about dementia and the small things they can do to make a difference.

Ideas for helping your church become more dementia friendly.


Ministry to seniors and caregiver services

Presbyterian Homes & Services for the Aging
Adult advocate programs

Senior LinkAge Line®
Community service programs for older adults and their families to plan for their future

Volunteers of America, Minnesota and Wisconsin
Caregiver services for African American families

Caregiving Resources & More

An estimated 250,000 Minnesotans care for family members with Alzheimer’s. In addition, caregivers provide approximately 275 million hours of unpaid care, valued at $3.4 million yearly. Due to the nature of Alzheimer’s, caregiving is both pivotal and critical to showing compassion to loved ones, even when they no longer recognize who we are.

The church is a fundamental part of the community, and compassion is a testimony that Christ is a transformational reality in our lives. By engaging in acts of compassion during this difficult time of life, churches seal the authenticity of being relevant to the lives of their congregants.

* Articles

* Caregiving Resources/Tools Guide

* Compassion Engagement

  • Consider sponsoring a Gathering (partner with Lyngblomsten Community Services, who work with congregations in several communities to offer gatherings)
  • Encourage member to member respite support
  • Engage youth and young adults in respite services
  • Host or attend workshop or forum for clergy participate to learn about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Provide activities for those with Alzheimer’s disease – example – Arts, Music
  • Provide space or host a caregiver support group

* Miscellaneous

* Support Groups

* Videos


Are you or your congregation interested in being part of this project? Fill out our interest form.

How to become a dementia friendly congregation

You may also contact us at or 612-230-3344.

Faith Ambassadors

How to become a Faith Ambassador

Materials for current Faith Ambassadors


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