A PRACTICAL guide for churches seeking to support people who have dementia suggests holding 30- minute services, with hymns sung to familiar tunes, and readings from well-known versions of the Bible.
Churches are also advised to "minimize distractions", and make buildings well lit to avoid shadows, which can cause confusion.
Developing Dementia-friendly Church, produced by Livability and the Alzheimer’s Society, says that well-prepared churches can offer a lifeline for people with dementia, helping them to stay connected to spiritual and community life.
Currently, 850,000 people have dementia in the UK, forecast to increase to two million by 2051.
The guide says: "For some people, a connection with a local church can make all the difference. By showing understanding, offering support and making small changes, you could enable someone with dementia to continue attending services or taking part in church life in a way that is meaningful to them."
Other suggestions include making sure that everyone in the congregation can make eye-contact with the service leader, even during prayers, as closed eyes can be disorientating for some people.
Those administering communion should consider that some people cannot swallow easily or use a cup,. A spoon could be offered instead.
And people who have dementia should not be contradicted, even if what they say is inaccurate, as that can cause distress and confusion.
Livability runs a programme that provides training to help churches develop awareness of the impact of dementia, and equips congregations to respond practically.
The dementia co-ordinator for Churches Together in Cumbria, David Richardson, said that the guide was "an antidote to despair and a spur to action".
The Director of Transforming Communities in the diocese of Lichfield, the Revd Dr David Primrose, said: "We want churches to be at the heart of dementia-friendly communities, where the voices of those living with dementia, and those who care for them, are clearly heard. This publication adds much practical guidance on developing dementia-friendly churches, drawn from national expertise and local experience."