GUIDANCE on how to design services for people dealing with dementia is being developed by the Liturgical Commission.
The Prayer Book may form part of the answer, the Church of England’s national liturgy and worship adviser, Dr Matthew Salisbury, told The Daily Telegraph.
He spoke of “people for whom the Book of Common Prayer is a source of coming closer to God that needs to be there for them. You may get nothing out of someone and then chime in and say ‘O Lord, open Thou our lips,’ and they will come straight in with ‘And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.’”
He continued: “It is about identifying those texts which have particular resonance and that might be different for different people in the same way as people have different favourite hymns.”
A dementia-support worker for the diocese of Lichfield, Sarah Thorpe, said that the “multi-sensory nature of a church service” could be “very powerful, whether it be the hymns recalled from childhood, the familiarity of the cross, or words of the Lord’s Prayer”.
She described how St Andrew’s, Aston, had put together a dementia-friendly, shorter, simplified, non-eucharistic service. People were free to move about during the service, familiar hymns were chosen, and the Lord’s Prayer was said in its traditional form. Churches should consider moving from “head-level, word-based worship to whole-hearted, inclusive worship”, she advised. “Above all, notice the atmosphere of your service: don’t get stuck in rigid expectations or requirements, but value an easy and accepting atmosphere, so that unexpected responses or involvement can be incorporated.”
More than 50 churches in the diocese have completed training to become more dementia-friendly. The director of transforming communities for Lichfield diocese, the Revd David Primrose, said that the aim was to help people to “overcome some of the fear of vulnerability, fear of death, that is so prevalent around and contributes to that stigma around dementia”.
Among those being consulted by the Commission is David Richardson, the Dementia Friendly Services Coordinator for the diocese of Carlisle, who said this week that he was “delighted” to be involved in resources that would be of “great use” to dioceses.
Prudence Dailey, chair of the Prayer Book Society, said that it had known for some time of the benefits for those affected by dementia, who had “grown up on it and used the same words week after week”. The Society had heard “lots of stories of people quite far gone with dementia being able to join in the words an actively participate in Prayer Book worship”.
It would be more difficult in future, she said, because the following generations had not grown up with the Prayer Book, and that the many variations of Common Worship meant that it was “not something that everybody knows by heart that they will able to draw on”.
Writing on the C of E media-team blog, the Lead Chaplain at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Canon Peter Wells, described how the response of patients with dementia was less important than “the recognition that here is a meeting of two people made in God’s image”.
”None of us is the perfect image of God,” he wrote. “Whatever happens to us, people deserve to be met. Everyone has a life to be honoured. Everyone has a life to be acknowledged.”
He described the support provided by the Mothers’ Union, including one group that made tactile objects that patients could “feel, stroke, pull, hold, cuddle”, giving “a sense of comfort, control, value in a world which appears to have lost its meaning”. Another group held a weekly tea party in a dementia unit.
Livability’s top-ten tips for dementia-friendly services can be found at www.livability.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Top-ten-tips-for-Dementia-Friendly-Communities.pdf.