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Dementia Friendly Churches
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 04:03 Be the first to comment! Elderley
FIVE PARISHESOne of the inescapable realities of us all living longer is the increasing prevalence of dementia in our communities and in our families. There are a multitude of causes, not all of which are connected to aging, but for those living with it and those caring for them, it can be a frightening and often isolating experience – though it needn’t be to the degree to which it often is.

There are some simple ways that we can help to make a difference both for those with dementia and those who care for them:

• Go up to the person, smile, look into their eyes and introduce yourself, using their name while you do it.

• Speak more slowly and allow them time to answer. Framing replies takes time, so don’t be afraid of silence.

• Try to avoid asking questions, instead talk about what’s going on around them, or tell them about your day.

• It’s OK to remind them of where a conversation was going if they get lost searching for a word. A little prompt may be what they need.

• Listen to their story and be sensitive to where they are in their memories. Often while recent events may be lost, deep memories can still be strong so you could have a really good conversation about their earlier years.

• Sense their mood because the loss of memory can make people very anxious. Reassurance and maybe a gentle touch can help bring some peace, as can acknowledging the cause of the anxiety.

• Acknowledge the person’s emotions. The scriptures invite us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This is particularly important, because while dementia affects factual memory, it doesn’t tend to affect emotional memory. If you can leave a person with a good feeling, that will last even if what they feel good about is not remembered.

• Never underestimate the power of presence. Don’t leave people with dementia sitting on their own in church. Being present with them, being prepared to listen to and engage with those with dementia is one of the best gifts you can give them.

• Time – time spent with someone who has dementia – time for a carer to have some space for themselves – time is another very precious gift we can give.

Familiarity with what is going on and what is expected of them is important for people coping with the uncertainties that dementia brings. This is as true about church as it is about anything else, and for this reason we are planning to begin Purple Praise! a regular service for those with dementia and those caring for them. To begin with this will be monthly on the second Tuesday of the month starting 11.00am on 10th May at St Mary’s, Goosnargh, and we will see how it develops. We aim to start with refreshments – tea, coffee, cakes and the like – and then have a short half hour service so that we will be finished by noon.

If you are caring for someone with dementia, or you know someone who is, and you think this would be helpful, we would love to see you. If you would be interested in helping make the service run, or in providing the refreshments, please contact Delphine Burn on 01772 865487.
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