Questions about Dementia Friendly Churches

What suggestions can you make for including items in normal, week by week worship that would help make connections with dementia sufferers?

It can help to use repetition so that things are the same across the services and to use familiar, traditional hymns from their childhood, the original “Our Father” version of the Lord’s prayer and to use familiar and well-remembered Bible passages. Here are some suggestions on the MHA website for Worship Engagement in Later Life:


Does anyone have any guidelines for transporting people with dementia?

When running activities for people with dementia, it can be helpful to think about how your service users will access your activities, especially if they don’t have a family carer who can drive them. If you are going to offer transport, you should remember that the person with dementia will probably need frequent reminders to get ready, perhaps phoning them the week before, the day before and the morning of the event to ensure they are ready to go when you arrive to pick them up.

The Alzheimer’s Society has a useful page about dementia-friendly transport: www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-friendly-communities/organisations/transport

There are huge numbers of people in our churches who are carers. In many cases they are best placed to share the good news that we are all held in the memory of God with those they love. How can we support carers and those living with dementia together in this?

The Church needs to try to fulfil the difficult task of offering support to both the person with dementia and also the carer. The person with dementia may frequently experience being talked over and belittled, so it is important that you speak directly to the person with dementia. Yet the carer may well be struggling with the relentless nature of their caring duties so it is important that someone speaks to them too. The Church should try to assist the carer to find ways of getting breaks, whether this means putting them in touch with professional services or someone from church staying with the person with dementia to give the carer a break.

What about where the adult with dementia becomes abusive, volatile or aggressive towards their carer/people in the home?

Aggression is usually expressed by people with dementia because they are feeling frightened and/or have incorrectly processed information. It can help to get down to the person’s eye level, to move slowly and deliberately and to speak very gently and calmly. You should try to go at the pace of the person living with dementia. Expressly telling the carer that she can find safety and company with you may be helpful. You could be honest and explain to her that you are motivated by concern for her wellbeing, not a desire to interfere. If you can speak to the carer without the person with dementia being there, you could ask them whether they have support from any professional respite services as there are services such as day centres, respite visits from befrienders or carer support workers or overnight respite stays in care homes available to support carers if the person with dementia will accept these.

Can someone define the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia? They sometimes seem interchangeable terms, but are they medically different? Should we treat them differently?

Dementia is an umbrella term encompassing over 200 distinct diseases, all of which affect memory, comprehension and reasoning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and Vascular Dementia is the second most common. The word ‘dementia’ has many types, just as the word ‘vehicle’ has many sorts - cars, vans, buses etc.

Each type of dementia has particular characteristics, both in terms of the changes in the brain, but also in typical symptoms. Eg. Dementia with Lewy bodies may be marked by hallucinations or great variations in alertness, amongst other things, whereas the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is short term memory loss. But everyone is different and those with dementia should always be treated as individuals depending on their wishes, symptoms, severity, circumstances and relationships. Dementia is a term that covers many diseases all of which affect memory, comprehension and reasoning.