In the forward to the book ‘Memory Byways’, which records dementia journeys through poetry, is written; “For a person on the Dementia journey… Time is no longer sequential; the present is the past, the future is yesterday…Personal identity becomes fluid, fantasy and reality merge; but love is remembered.”
A recent Webinar ‘Best Practice and Support for People living with Younger Onset Dementia’ highlighted the individual nature of the dementia journey. There are, however, underlying common principles including ensuring the experiences of a person living with dementia are heard. The idea was put forward of the need for re-enablement rather than re-habilitation.
Within this context what commitment is needed by our church community to ensure we are more inclusive to those living with dementia, their carers and their families? How do we re-enable people to engage in our worshipping community when they are no longer able to readily take part in their previous spiritual and community life? This is especially important when we are unable to meet face-to-face.
Many of us in the congregation are becoming accustomed to Zoom. This has been a lifeline for many but when a person finds it difficult to recall names, cannot differentiate the speaker, or becomes overwhelmed by multiple faces on the screen, including their own, this medium can be quite distressing. Our ministry team is aware of this and is to be commended in the provision of alternative ways to keep in touch through phone calls and the monthly mail out pack.
As we emerge (and one day we will!)) from the COVID-19 lockdown how do we re-enable involvement of our vulnerable members? We still will wear masks; we still will have ‘cuddle’ contact restrictions.
Some of the most difficult social losses with wearing a mask besides the wrestle with hearing aids and glasses, is the loss of a smile and loss of facial recognition cues. For a person with Dementia this can be even a greater issue. We may need to verbally reassure people-‘Hi It’s John behind this mask and I’m smiling at you’.
Considerable discussion and planning have gone into ensuring our new building complex is ‘dementia friendly’ and it is well suited to quiet 1:1 chats over coffee. Instead of group sessions we may need to invite people individually into the new environment. We need to think about best practice in providing for a person who finds crowds too confusing to be involved in any congregational worship or activities. We do not always need to ‘be busy’ we just need to ‘be available and authentic’.
Our new centre offers the potential opportunity to become a place where a person with dementia retains their personhood and can express their spirituality. A place where they are re-enabled to be part of our Christian faith community.