The concept of Dementia-friendly communities was introduced in 2012, which aimed to increase awareness of the needs of people living with Dementia across sectors, organisations, and the public; to build a better understanding of how to support people and their families. Christian faith organisations play an important part in the development and success of Dementia-friendly communities. Churches often have premises and sites which can serve the community, human resources that can support services and provide support to people in the community, and leadership and network opportunities to develop local improvements across communities.
Dementia-friendly communities need Christian faith organisations to encourage and uphold positive regard and value of people with Dementia, through raised awareness, better understanding, challenging negative attitudes, and improving the use of language. Churches can create inclusive and welcoming spaces to enable intergenerational, cross-community working and interactions; to encourage people with dementia to stay active, involved, and participate in groups and events. Church services can be planned to meet the needs of people with Dementia through the use of familiar songs, prayers, and liturgy; with shorter talks and a more formal style of worship.
Developing Dementia-friendly communities is not about having separate facilities or services for people living with Dementia – it is about a community willing to adapt itself to better meet the needs of people living with Dementia; to stay active, involved, and included in their community. Services such as transport, retail, banking, utilities, and health services are all trying to make themselves accessible, approachable, and helpful towards those with Dementia. There is a move away from community groups and services specifically for people with Dementia – rather a move towards all community groups and services being accessible and inclusive for people living with Dementia.
Dementia-friendly churches should be part of Dementia-friendly communities. This is more than simply holding a Dementia service, it requires a commitment at all levels of the church to consider the needs of people living with Dementia; a willingness to change. It requires a vision from the leadership and commitment from all members to change how the church manages its buildings, grounds, worship, pastoral care, ministry, and mission.
In recent years, more churches have begun to work towards becoming Dementia-friendly and being more inclusive of people living with Dementia and their families. However, even with the right environment and buildings, people with Dementia may go unnoticed, excluded, or forgotten if there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the condition.
- How many people with Dementia use our church services, buildings, outreach activities?
- In what ways do we currently support people living with Dementia and their families?
- How approachable, accessible and inclusive is our church fellowship to people living with dementia?
There is a range of advice and guidance from different Christian organisations regarding developing a Dementia-Friendly church:
Livability has published a practical guide “Developing a Dementia-friendly church”. This provides information about Dementia, and practical guidance on the attitude, relationships, styles of worship, and church environment to positively support people with Dementia. It stresses the need to engage with people with Dementia and their carers and encourages partnership and networking with others in the community.
The Church of England has developed a church self-review toolkit, ”Becoming a Dementia-friendly church”, for churches to assess and plan how to make their church services, pastoral support, buildings, and community networks more Dementia-friendly.
Pilgrims’ Friend Society have published downloadable booklets and information packs on supporting the pastoral needs of people with Dementia. They also provide training for church groups on spiritual support, as well as practical tips for people with Dementia and their families.
The Prama Foundation have developed a church resource pack to help churches and church leaders to understand what dementia is and how to effectively minister to those who are living with Dementia and those who look after them, ensuring that groups and services are accessible to those living with Dementia and that church buildings are accessible.
Professor Keith Brown from ‘Guidance for Christian Faith Organisations in the Support and Value of Older People’ – become a church champion to receive a free hard copy of the full guidance booklet.