Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Dementia-friendly church in Trinity

I came across this interesting story from the Parish of Trinity Parish Magazine. Trinity Church is to become "dementia friendly".

Dementia Friendly Churches are churches that include and welcome people with dementia. They offer people with dementia respect and dignity, and promote knowledge and awareness about dementia within the local community.

Dementia is a disease which impairs people’s ability to remember, think and make choices. It currently affects 800,000 people in the UK, and that number is expected to double in the next 30 years.

Five key areas are affected by dementia.

  1. Judgment: For example, forgetting to turn off the stove or making irrational decisions. 
  2. Time and Spatial Relationships: Getting lost or being unable to recognize where they are.
  3. Unusual Behavior: Being agitated or fearful.
  4. Physical Challenges: Having difficulty with balance and hand-eye coordination.
  5. Decline in Sensory Perception: A decline in vision or hearing or depth perception; sensitivity to temperature.
It is good to see a church becoming a haven for carers of those with dementia. 

My aunt had Alzheimer’s disease, and it was very hard for her husband. Watching someone you know gradually lose abilities, be unable to read, fearful of the world, behaving strangely, and losing social skills and memory, and lastly control of bodily functions, is very difficult. That shadow is not how I remember her: clever, intelligent, witty, and friendly. There is help available, but more is needed, and the church has always had as part of its mission compassion for everyone, in whatever circumstances they find themselves. This is a welcome initiative.

Dementia-friendly church in Trinity
from Trinity Parish Magazine

Trinity Parish Church is looking to become ‘dementia-friendly’. This may come as something of a surprise to many - surely no organisation or community group would set out to be deliberately unfriendly. But then it’s not as simple as that. To be a place of hospitality and community, and in the case of a Church a place of worship and fellowship, which is welcoming and inclusive for those affected by dementia is not a ‘tick box’ exercise; because while there are some simple practical things that we can do, it is primarily about relationship and understanding the effects of this progressive disease. Therefore being dementia-friendly is always work in progress and an evolving process.

So what are we working on at the Parish Church that goes beyond offering a physically accessible building and a warm inclusive welcome? In order to be dementia-friendly we look to:

1. Accept and value people regardless of cognitive abilities

2. Ensure that the person who has dementia, and those who support them are cared for through all stages of the illness
3. Make sure that the person who has dementia, and their friends or family members, are both spiritually and pastorally supported and nurtured in order for them to enjoy being part of a worshipping community in every sense
4. Be open to what people with dementia have to offer, look for strengths and abilities, then support and encourage the use of these gifts so that they may participate in the community that is the Church

Putting these principles into action may well challenge preconceptions and attitudes, but it is a valuable journey for all of us.

Jersey Alzheimer’s Association have been really helpful in leading a training and information morning for us in February, attended by more than 30 people, and we are trying to incorporate the insights gained, and encouraging other Island churches to also explore being dementia-friendly.

For more information about dementia and support available for both sufferers and carers call Jersey Alzheimer’s Association on 01534 443075 or visit jerseyalzheimers.com. www.trinitychurchjersey.com.

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