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Our magazine: ‘plus’

Every three months, the Members of Christians on Ageing receive a free copy of the organisation’s magazine.  It is called plus and is a means of communication between the Executive Committee and members, between members themselves, and a source of information and reflection on issues of age and ageing.

Our members consistently say that one of the reasons for maintaining their membership of Christians on Ageing is plusfor the variety of its articles, its support in Christian living and the sign-posting it gives to further reading or information.

The Editor is always happy to receive suggestions for articles or even a finished article to be considered for publication in a future issue.  Contact the Editor by e-mail: info@ccoa.co.uk

 

Here’s an article on Dementia Friendly Church that appears in the current edition of plus.

Churches are increasingly aiming to be welcoming, inclusive spaces in which all people can be spiritually supported. In doing so, many churches are asking how they can be more ‘dementia-friendly’.

It’s not that anyone would intentionally exclude people with dementia from the life of the church, but sadly a lot of what churches do isn’t always ‘dementia-friendly’. Many are beginning to realise that, unless people with dementia (and their family and friends) are treated positively and have their needs met in their local church, many vulnerable people may be prevented from experiencing ‘life in all its fullness’.

Dementia-friendly churches understand that everyone has unique spiritual needs, and that those with memory problems will require a sensitive approach to their spiritual care. If someone feels isolated because the church has been unsure how to respond best to those needs, that person may experience depression or loneliness, or may leave church altogether.

Loneliness is something that affects many people with memory loss. Responding to this, Parkgate and Neston URC has set up CAMEO (Come And Meet Each Other), aimed at supporting people with Alzheimer’s. Running for four hours every Thursday, CAMEO provides an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy lunch and welcomes carers and family members.

Other churches are finding opportunities to welcome people affected by memory loss through similar inclusive approaches. Mal Breeze, a Community Minister based in Blackburn, was instrumental in establishing a bi-weekly cafe in Blackburn. He explained: “Dementia and Alzheimer’s are a pressing issue not only for society but also for the church. It’s so easy for us to jump to conclusions and forget that there are many reasons for Memory Loss – that’s why we decided to call it a Memory Café and not a Dementia Cafe.”

We need to acknowledge that memory loss affects us all at some stage whether it’s forgetting where we’ve left our keys, what we went into the shop for or the name of someone we’ve known for years. It’s important to remember that it isn’t always a sign that people have Dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

“The reason our Memory Cafe is so successful is because it’s contextual, meeting a local need. It’s ecumenical, it’s non-threatening, not ‘Church’ and we have a great team of enthusiastic and committed volunteers with a common interest.”

It isn’t just through projects like this that churches can make a difference. Small changes can have a positive impact; for example, shortening services or creating a new style of service in which people experiencing memory loss can more easily engage. There are few churches that won’t have an ‘all-age talk’, but how many of these are delivered with dementia in mind? More importantly, churches can find ways of affirming the lives of people with dementia, listening to them and their carers, educating the congregation in positive ways to approach dementia or providing ‘dementia friends’.

Churches don’t become dementia-friendly overnight – it’s an ongoing process.  The objective of dementia-friendly churches will be to enable people affected by dementia to live as God intended.  They will be accepting, caring and will ensure that no-one is ‘invisible’. Dementia-friendly means that experiencing memory loss will never be an impediment for anyone to be part of their church community and enjoy opportunities to be fully involved in all aspects of church life.

Ultimately, as many are discovering, it’s about showing practically that God cares for everyone. Can we afford not to be dementia-friendly?

Original article written by Andrew Page for ‘Lookout’ October 2017, URC Mersey Synod.

 

 Here’s an article that also appeared in plus

 

Safeguarding

We so often associate the need to safeguard and protect children whom we see as instantly vulnerable due to their age and dependent status. In recent years churches of all denominations have admitted past failings and have placed much more emphasis on safeguarding their vulnerable members.  The Methodist Church, for example, carried out a review of past cases of abuse, dating back to 1950. Its report, Cost, Courage and Hope (2014) contains 23 recommendations and there is a working group whose purpose is to oversee the implementation of these. Most importantly running through the report is the imperative to hear the voice of the survivors of abuse, from whom we can learn much and in so doing, ensure that abuse within our church communities is less likely to happen.

This commitment to protecting vulnerable people in our midst extends beyond the years of childhood to include those adults who are equally in need of protection and none more so than older people and those with dementia, many of whom have given years of service to the church in one way or another and in their time comforted and cared for others. It is important for them to know that they too will be safeguarded by their church families should illness and infirmity take hold.

Taking care of older people and those who are vulnerable through other conditions such as dementia is not new to the church and many in our congregations benefit from pastoral visitors, luncheon clubs, housing, chaplaincy and so much more. Newer initiatives include dementia friendly services which are gaining ground across the Churches.

So how do we safeguard those with dementia? We do it by following the basic safeguarding principles of ensuring that those with responsibilities of care are police checked where necessary and that they have completed appropriate levels of training, that leaders are trained and supported and that our churches meet the requirements for health and safety. Just as we do with small children we anticipate their needs, we listen, we watch and we respond. In knowing each person we can better understand the risks and what needs to be done to adequately safeguard them.

It has been said many times that safeguarding is everyone’s business; it concerns us all; and indeed it does. Vulnerable people rely on each one of us to keep them safe. This presents new challenges across the spectrum from training that includes a greater emphasis on vulnerable adults to knowing how to facilitate worship for those with dementia. Dementia has different forms and shows itself in a variety of ways so how can the Church safeguard this group of people whilst not losing sight of their individuality and their spiritual needs?

If for example church services for those with dementia are held separately to the normal Sunday services it is important to ensure that there is an adequate number of stewards and other helpers available to make it an authentic worship experience that is valuable and meets the spiritual needs of those attending. Having a sufficient number of carers and helpers provides safeguards as does a building that is warm and comfortable, easily accessed, clearly laid out without hazards and which can safely secure those inside without preventing appropriate levels of free movement. Add to this the issue of transport and if this is organised by the churches it also must comply with the relevant policies which are aimed at safeguarding passengers.

In recognising all these imperatives for a quality worship experience it is immediately evident that paying lip-service to those with dementia is not an option. To uphold these principles means recognising and responding to the needs of those with dementia so that worship is inclusive and our churches are beacons of hope, acceptance and love where the unique value of each one of us is recognised and safeguarded.

Gill Clayton 

(The author is the Safeguarding Officer of the Liverpool District and the Chester and Stoke on Trent Districts of the Methodist Church)

 

 

 

 

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