Becoming “dementia friendly” is always a work in progress, not a badge to be achieved. The resources and ideas on this page are to help you take some steps in that direction. How large the steps are depends on your own circumstances. In the end, what matters is that in our church communities and with our church buildings, we think how we can become more supportive and accessible to people living with dementia, and their families and companions.
There are some great resources out there. We recommend that you start with the Dementia Friends programme.
Can you, or some others in your church, join more than 2 million other people and become Dementia Friends? This is short and simple training, delivered either by a short training session, or through an online video. See this web page for information, and this page to find a training session near you.
Working with the other parishes in your deanery can you identify one or two people who will train as Dementia Champions? Then you can have local people delivering this Friends training in your own parishes and local communities? See the information about Dementia Champions here.
Will you either dedicate a Sunday morning slot (perhaps in place of the sermon) or part of a PCC meeting, to thinking about how your church can take some steps towards becoming more dementia friendly? The rest of this page contains a number of resources that might help you think things through.
Sharing good Church practice
In this section we hope to share some of the good things happening in parishes across our diocese. We start with the Evesham Tea Service which also helps you see how one parish set about putting on a dementia friendly service. The Tea Service is a simple weekly act of worship and fellowship, especially, but not exclusively, for people living with dementia and their families.
We have a sample presentation, with ideas and resources for you to adapt for local use. You can download and adapt this. Doug Chaplin is always willing to come to a deanery synod to present, but you can roll your own from the resources here, especially if you have one or two people trained as Dementia Champions.
If you have time in your presentation, we suggest you include the Tea Service video (download here) at the end of the presentation as a short story showing how one church thought the process through, while keeping things simple.
A Guide for your Church
The charity Livability have worked with the Alzheimers’ Society to produce a very helpful guide for churches on becoming more dementia friendly. You can get a copy of the guide from this page.
If you want help to think things through in more detail Joanna Collicutt has produced an excellent book on the spiritual care of people with dementia. It is available from Amazon here, or directly from the Bible Reading Fellowship.
A Simple Checklist
There are a range of practical suggestions different organisations and groups have produced. We’ve culled just ten good ideas from this widely available wisdom, and offer these as something to get thinking started in the church, the PCC or the community. Don’t try and do everything at once but pick one or two ideas to help you get started.
- Encourage your stewards, welcomers and sidespeople to do the Dementia Friends training.
- Have people who are willing to sit with those living with dementia while their partners, accompaniers or friends do other things. (read, lead prayers, make coffee, chat with a minister etc.)
- As a congregation, train yourselves to accept different behaviours in church. Encourage those living with dementia to stay in worship, but have a quiet safe space where they can retreat as well.
- Have some short acts of worship and fellowship (no more than 30 minutes) where those who struggle with concentration can participate and feel engaged.
- Use some familiar old tunes, songs and words as part of your activity and worship. Music is especially important in the memory, and an old well-loved hymn can really help someone join in.
- Include people living with dementia regularly in your church’s prayers, and don’t forget to pray for and with their carers as well. Where it’s possible and appropriate, include those with dementia, and others with disabilities on the rota of people who help lead prayer.
- Look at your church signage. How clear is it and how visible? Are the signs to the toilet clearly marked and easy to follow? Where possible, include visual imagery to act as a clue for people struggling with words.
- Are there areas where you can improve sound (including any induction loop), lighting, trip hazards, heating? (Why not provide some wrap-around blankets or ponchos for those who feel the cold?) Carrying out an accessibility audit will help a wide range of people participate.
- When engaging in conversation with a person living with dementia, get their attention before you start talking to them.
- Build a memory board or box. Have photos and souvenirs of the church’s story, its people and past. You can remember the past with others, and the photos, old magazines, and so on can serve as triggers for memory. As you remember things, you may help others share that memory, and sometimes find their own.
If you’ve come across a good prayer you want to share with others, send it in, and we’ll see if we can include it here. We aim to build up a number of prayers so that we can make a downloadable leaflet.
Here is a theme prayer you can use.
A prayer for those living with dementia and their carers
you know us better than we know ourselves,
and draw us to peace and wholeness in your love.
We remember before you
those who are unable to remember their own lives.
Guard and treasure their lost memories for them,
and hold their past in your safe hands,
that when the death of the body comes,
you may bring them to the full life of the resurrection,
restore and heal the memories of their lives,
and give them back to themselves,
that we with them may rejoice in your love,
and find the fullness of life in your presence,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
© 2017 Doug Chaplin – may be used, printed and prayed within the diocese of Worcester without further permission.
And finally …
It’s not about programmes and plans, it’s about people. Just be patient, welcoming and kind, and you’ll be getting the most important things right.