There are currently 800,000 people in the UK with dementia, and that number is expected to reach 1 million in just eight years’ time. How are churches responding to this challenge? As part of Livability’s Disability Friendly Churches campaign, here are 10 tips for churches trying to share Christ’s love with people with dementia:
Listen to what people with dementia are saying People with dementia sometimes find it difficult to tell others what they want. Often what they say is vague, rambling and difficult to follow. It is important to focus on the person and listen attentively to what they are saying. It will help them feel valued, respected and promote their sense of wellbeing.
Avoid correcting what people with dementia say People with dementia often say things that are not accurate, but may mean something important to them. Correcting them can reinforce their sense of failure.
Watch what people with dementia say with their body We all express ourselves through our bodies, as well as the words we speak. People with dementia may struggle with language, but still use body language to express themselves.
Be positive about what people with dementia can do It is easy to think of what people with dementia cannot do, rather than what they can do. Often people’s negative assumptions inhibit and discourage people with dementia from doing everyday activities; faced with discouragement from others, they can lose their ability to do everyday activities. We need to keep a positive and optimistic, though realistic, view on what people with dementia can do.
Support people with dementia make choices Our choices help define who we are. People with dementia can struggle with choice, but if we can support them to make decisions, they can make worthwhile choices and retain control in their lives.
Always assume people with dementia understand what you are saying Just because someone has dementia, does not mean they cannot hear what is being said around them. Be careful not to make unhelpful or disparaging comments in front of them.
Show people with dementia love We all know what it is like when someone shows that they care are for us. People with dementia are no different and flourish when they are shown love.
Help people with dementia look good We all feel better about ourselves when we are dressed neatly and are well groomed. Support people with dementia to pick out clothes that make them look good.
Encourage people with dementia to be creative
We are all made in the image of God and share God’s ability to be creative. We all thrive and flourish when we are able to display our creativity, and that’s no different for people with dementia.
Support people with dementia to worship God loves everyone, including people with dementia, so they should have the opportunity to worship. Churches should be imaginative and creative to help people with dementia draw close to God, particularly as they pass through a stressful and difficult part of their life.