Anna Chaplaincy changing ideas on dementia
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
An article published in the Church Times on 11 June looked at how churches can help lessen the isolation experienced by people with dementia. National Church Lead for Anna Chaplaincy Julia Burton-Jones, and Churches Together in Cumbria Anna Chaplaincy lead Katherine Froggatt, were interviewed for the article. Photographs of an Anna Chaplaincy-led dementia café at Christ Church Chislehurst were included – How to blunt the claws of dementia (churchtimes.co.uk).
Professor of Sociology of Ageing at UCL, Paul Higgs, spoke about his research on how one of the main denominations viewed dementia, saying that ‘the families of people with dementia were subject to a kind of “othering”. The hierarchy says that the church has to deal with dementia, but in practice the ministers weren’t interested, because they couldn’t see how it would grow their congregations.’ Julia shared ideas for churches in including people with dementia and Katherine said, ‘In a sense becoming dementia-friendly is about becoming everybody-friendly, because it’s saying: There’s space here for you, whoever you are.’
Examples of activities for people with dementia in Rochester and Lichfield dioceses mentioned in the article include dementia cafes, singing groups and carers’ groups, as well as inclusive services. Julia said, ‘We need to feel comfortable with people with dementia. So much anxiety and uncertainty is born out of ignorance, which communicates itself to people with dementia and their carers as soon as they go into church. People aren’t sure what to do; so, rather than do the wrong thing, they avoid the person with dementia.
‘Written words, spoken words can be elusive. Sometimes you might design a service with people with dementia in mind; but, as much as anything, it’s about how you relate to them and accommodate their needs, and overcome their anxieties about saying or doing the right thing, and do our best to make them feel that we want them there.’