Reaching out to support people with dementia in East Anglia
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Anna Chaplain Gaye Hailstone on 'Ministry across the Norwich Diocese for older people and those on the dementia pathway'.
'To be able to make simple connections between God’s love and the elderly who can no longer make the journey to church and those on the dementia pathway, who often feel forgotten by both God and the church, is both humbling and rewarding.'
An Anna Chaplain’s role is to specifically minister alongside older people. It is about nurturing spirituality in its broadest sense. It is non-judgemental, person-centred spiritual care for people of all faiths and none. Back in 2021, Norwich Diocese made the decision to support and encourage the presence of Anna Chaplains across the diocese. Even with all the communication problems Covid put in our pathway, the number of Anna Chaplains in the diocese of Norwich, and those awaiting commissioning in February 2023, is steadily growing.
Anna Chaplaincy ministry across the diocese is varied according to the need of each parish.
For example, in the parish of Brundall, regular worship and Holy Communion are shared with the five residential care homes in the area. Family of the residents often contact the Anna Chaplaincy team to ask if they will visit or take Holy Communion to a loved one. There is also a weekly 'Forget Me Not Café' which is well attended by regular customers and a monthly church service which has been specifically designed for those on the dementia pathway.
In a Norwich city parish, the Anna Chaplain’s first task was to get to know the older people from our two congregations. This is through meeting people in our café, visiting them at home and sometimes taking Holy Communion to them, particularly with those who are no longer able to come to church. Listening is a major aspect of this ministry as life and faith stories are shared. Prayer ministry with individuals is evolving. It is important and reassuring to have the support of my line manager, supervisor and prayer group.
In Lowestoft in Suffolk (also part of the diocese), Anna Chaplaincy work means one-to-one meetings with residents in a care home and in a residential complex for older people on a weekly basis, seeing between 10 and 16 people across the two. Such a wide range of topics are covered: cherished memories shared; concerns about faith with increasing disabilities; the loneliness of those who have outlived friends and family; the joy experienced by the simplest of activities put on by staff and wardens. Challenging it can be – yet with many glimpses of God’s presence working through the visits. Increasingly, they are finding the staff themselves welcome support and the opportunity to share and be put on the support prayer list when appropriate.
This ministry is happening in other areas across the diocese and this is just a snapshot of the work that some of the Anna Chaplaincy teams are involved with.