Dementia in Faith Communities

By Margaret Hinton, Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, Diocese of Wrexham

The Dementia In Faith Communities group was set up as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s work towards the Big Society, to work as an ecumenical and interfaith advisory group. The main purpose of the group was to share good practice in supporting those living with dementia among the faith groups represented there, and to be a reference group to Livability (the country’s largest Christian disability charity) and to Alzheimers UK.  There were representatives on the group from Christian denominations – Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Quaker and free churches, and from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish communities. I have been a Catholic voice on this group since 2017, keeping CSAN abreast of progress.

The group were pleased to assist Livability and Alzheimers UK in the organisation of the first national conference on Faith, Culture and Dementia which took place in the Friends’ Meeting House in London on 11 April 2018.

The packed conference was opened by Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimers UK, who summed up the essence of the day to come: ‘Faith is an anchor to who we are; so much of our personhood is held in our faith. This continues to be the case after a diagnosis of dementia.’  Other contributors included Shelagh Robinson, a Quaker who is living with dementia, who spoke about the experience of living with dementia as a person of faith in a Quaker community; Rabbi Menachim Junik, of Jewish Care, and Balvinder Kaur of Sikh Council UK. Their experiences painted very different pictures about how those living with dementia were supported (or in some cases not supported) by their own faith communities.  The remainder of the day was taken up with lively table discussions on Finding solutions to the challenges people with dementia face, enabling them to continue to interact with their faith and cultural communities; Becoming a dementia-friendly place of worship and supporting the wider community, and Dementia friendly services, sermons or prayers.

There was much to take away from the day and a much more good practice and prayers shared than I can write about in a short blog, so I urge you to read more about the conference here.