What can churches contribute to dementia care?
120 people altogether attended our recent workshops on ‘Responding to Dementia’. Some were caregivers looking for support and advice. A large number wanted to do more to support and encourage. They particularly wanted to strengthen their churches’ contribution in this area.
Is that contribution just ‘complementary’ to what other voluntary and statutory organisations already offer? The workshops highlighted 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 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. We saw church members demonstrating the truths of the Gospel in their attitudes and their care.
These are a whole different and vital dimension of dementia care.
Could they do more? Of course: that is part of what we were trying to discover. It was fascinating to hear about initiatives across the country, from north to south. We hope to learn about many more in the near future, and to find ways in which they can connect even more effectively.
Following the workshop we are planning a smaller group in which we can look at topics in greater depth, with time for interaction. For example
- practical suggestions for communicating
- person-centred care
- what churches can do
- what lies behind the four ‘A’s’?
- possible directions for treatment
- ‘Dementia Friends’ training
More later when we get started…