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By Debbie le Quesne

Call to faith groups to take up dementia inclusion challenge

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It’s pretty clear to me that those endeavouring to meet the challenges of dementia care in the New Year will need all the help they can muster.

The statistics on predicted diagnosis are scary and so is the Government inertia to fund adequately this needy specialised sector.

Currently there are 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and by 2025 there will be over one million.

For those living with dementia and their carers, this memory-loss condition can be extremely demanding, physically, emotionally and spiritually – a real test of love and faith.

I was heartened to read over the festive break of a new initiative by Livability and the Alzheimer’s Society aimed at establishing dementia-friendly churches.

Building Dementia-Friendly Church is a new guidelines for faith communities.

Developing a Dementia-Friendly Church is a practical and much-needed guide and is suitable for faith groups across any denomination. It represents an ongoing commitment by both organisations to make our communities more inclusive to those living with this problem, their carers and families.

With understanding and knowledge, properly equipped churches and other faith communities can offer a welcoming, inclusive and safe place.

And safe places are an essential cornerstone of dementia caring.

The guide describes what dementia is, its impact and explores the ways in which churches can offer support. It is suitable not only for faith communities which are considering becoming dementia friendly, but for those gatherings, where, by default, they have people with dementia attending.

For those about to embarked upon this route of faith-at-work expression, it makes essential reading.

Published to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week (May 15 – May 21), this comprehensive resource has drawn from consultations with focus groups, church leaders and congregations.

Following the guidance helps offer a lifeline to those living with dementia and enabling them to stay connected to their spiritual and community life.

Interesting, isn’t it, that dementia is not a disease; rather a term given to a group of symptoms from certain diseases which affect the brain. Alzheimer’s, however, is the most common cause of dementia.

My own life journey has seen the devastation dementia can bring, having nursed both parents.

A diagnosis of dementia is often devastating to the person concerned. Some other serious diseases offer hope of treatment success, however small, The symptoms of dementia are progressive and on an unknown time scale – it could be months or many years before the symptoms become advanced. The patient/carer journey needs to be a positive one and I strongly believe faith communities have a role to play.

Living in the present, doing the fun things now, which were planned for later in life, is a strategy which helps some cope with this condition. What a great idea for churches to recognise in a practical way that dementia patients are more than the ‘disease’. Heartening stuff for the New Year!

  • Livability is a major provider of disability services, partnering with churches and other local agencies in the delivery of care throughout the UK. It delivers training on shaping Dementia Friendly churches. More recently, they have raised understanding for mental health issues within the church through their partnerships with Mind and Soul and Greenbelt – the national arts and faith festival.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia support and research charity for anyone affected by any form of dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They provide information and practical and emotional support to help people live well with dementia, and invest in world-class research with the ultimate goal of defeating it. Alzheimer’s Society also campaigns to improve public understanding of dementia and the devastating impact it can have, and make sure it’s taken seriously and acted on by our governments.

 

 

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