Becoming a dementia-friendly Church

By Maureen Knight

More than 130 people attended a conference on 'Becoming a dementia-friendly Church'. The day began with a beautiful prayer service led by Father Chris Thomas, about everyone being welcome, in which we were all given a white rose and invited to place it in the central focal point as a symbol of our care for people living with dementia.

Father Chris Fallon reported on the four key points of the Archdiocesan action plan and the progress made since the Archdiocese joined the Dementia Action Alliance. You can read all about that on the Dementia Action Alliance website where it is listed under Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool: www.dementiaaction.org.uk/local_alliances/3012_liverpool_dementia_action_alliance

The four main sessions were led by June Andrews, Professor Emeritus at Stirling University, former director of the Dementia Services Development Centre and author of Dementia: The One Stop Guide. In the morning Professor Andrews spoke about understanding dementia and the experience of people with dementia. After lunch Gina Shaw, the poster girl for the Alzheimer's Society Dementia Friends movement, talked about her own experience of living well with dementia. Professor Andrews helped to reflect on the role of parishes and chaplaincies in the pastoral and spiritual care of people with dementia and their carers, and what a dementia-friendly parish might look like.

Here are a few examples of the ideas that people attending the conference took away with them:

• Let people know we want to be a dementia-friendly parish

• Hold Dementia Friends sessions for everyone in the parish, especially those who visit the sick

• Improve the lighting and signage in our churches and community rooms

• Don't stop visiting because someone has dementia – maintaining relationships is vital

• Recruit more Dementia Champions

• Sing one old hymn at every service'

• Train all hospital visitors to make sure patients keep drinking to maintain their hydration

• Start a 'cuppa and natter' group or a community choir, open to everyone, including those living with dementia and their carers

If you would like to know more, to volunteer to arrange a Dementia Friends session in your parish or to train as a Dementia Champion, contact Maureen Knight: tel. 0151 522 1046 or email m.knight@rcaol.co.uk.