After our recent workshops on ‘Responding to Dementia’ (around 150 attending) a smaller group has continued to meet monthly, to share experiences and to strengthen their churches’ contribution in this area. Churches have at least two distinctive contributions:
* Churches offer relationships with continuity. Professionals come and go, and organisations are not always accessible, but church members continue. They can offer time – to listen, to share, to be with people.
When Shoko and I were living with Alzheimer's we needed to build a support team. But it was hard, confusing work to navigate the social care system. We realised that we already had a network of friends in the church. We experienced the ‘power of loving community’, at a time when physical and emotional resources were stretched and faith was challenged.
* Even more important, churches can be communities of spiritual power. They can share faith, hope, forgiveness and prayer. Shoko no longer read her Bible. Her spoken prayer was limited, with occasional surprising exceptions. But we continued to sing, at home and in church. That was the familiar place that welcomed us, to join the worship and be greeted by smiling friends. Our vicar arranged a regular meeting with me where I could share my feelings and pray with him. We saw church members demonstrating the truths of the Gospel in their attitudes and their care.
Our group has been learning some of what churches are already doing. They include:
* Raising awareness: helping church members to understand dementia and how they can respond.
* Offering friendship: this is basic and we need to be proactive.
* Support groups: these can be local, providing a place for people to share or pray. Some also include simple worship. Other groups operate on Zoom, which can have advantages. For some carers it is a vital hour in their week, ‘time for me…’ Some churches run drop in sessions, or lunches, or memory cafes, where anybody can come to relax and meet people.
* Working with the wider local community: some churches are working very effectively with other local community groups.
* Visiting care homes: this could be for one-to-one visits, for informal groups or for times of worship.
We hope to learn more about these and other initiatives and to find ways in which they can connect even more effectively.
Our society needs a vision of care that transforms lives, enabling all to go on living as they would like, based on relationships of love and hope. Churches can offer that
If you are interested to know more about the group or some of the good resources that are available, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org