Dementia-friendly Carol Services

Hymn Book

Author: James Burden

With Christmas fast approaching, Faith in Later Life was asked “Our church is wanting to put on a dementia-friendly carol service this year. Have you any resources, ideas, advice or counsel for us?

That church was very appreciative of the combined advice from contributors to the website and we are circulating that to help any other churches who are asking the same question.

The general advice is as follows:

Body language

  • Body language is important: lots of welcoming smiles and genuine warmth. People with dementia have heightened emotions and soon pick up on indifference.

The service

  • Make sure the service is not too long or chaotic or too noisy.
  • Ensure that the service is interactive, for example, asking things about their childhood Christmas experiences. If this is done you have to be prepared for no response, and not to be concerned but just to carry on.

Be ready for interruptions

  • Be prepared for interruptions and have plans in place. For example, make sure you have designated befrienders who can give a cup of tea or show the way to the toilet.


  • Sing the Carols that are familiar to older people.
  • If they have difficulty reading the carol sheet but can remember the first verse, be prepared to sing this verse a few times.


  • If there is a talk please make it short and with one main point which they can remember.
  • Any message should be no longer than ten minutes, and please don’t speak quickly.
  • Have visual aids if they are going to give a message. For example It could be a beautifully wrapped box and the message could be ‘The Gift of Christmas’.

Other things to consider

  • Have Christmas cards with Scripture verses on to give to each visitor as they leave.
  • Take the opportunity to support the caregiver who may accompany the person. The caregiver is so often forgotten, and they need to be acknowledged too.
  • Consider serving refreshments.

Further reading and information

For those interested in further detail you can see some more detailed preparation notes and download a sample order of service from the Exeter Diocese via this link: