The initiative is part of the Reframing Dementia Project, which aims to change the way people think about dementia and is supported by Dementia Services Development Trust. Working across Ireland, and with people of all faiths, the project is led by two of the workshop’s key speakers, Professor June Andrews FRCN, OBE, an international specialist in improving dementia care and Mark Butler, an expert on organisational change and director of the Dementia Festival of Ideas.
Explaining the purpose of the day, Lindsay Conway OBE, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Social Witness said, “Working closely with other churches and faith-based organisations, we want to discuss how dementia impacts on church life and how best to equip and give practical support to clergy, pastoral care workers, carers and professionals to work more effectively in a faith setting with people living with dementia.
“Today’s workshop is part of a process that will ultimately lead to the publication of a special resource that will better equip those pastoring, supporting and working with older people with dementia, as it is important to remember that if faith and religious observance is an integral part of a person, it must be an integral part of their care, even if they have dementia.
The workshop will explore some of the major issues for congregations including:
- What do churches need to be ready to respond to dementia?
- What can churches do to support carers, and what do we need to make that response?
- How can churches support people who live or work in care homes, or whose family is in a care home?
- How to support people to maintain worship at this time.
Professor Andrews said, “Our early work has been inspired by the safeguarding work in the Church of Scotland and has been supported by new ideas from the Catholic Church where Pope Francis has said that, ‘We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality, helping the elderly know they are a living part of their communities…’
“Experience has demonstrated that every parish has people with dementia, families who are struggling with it, and people who would like to help but are not sure what they can do that will be practical and make a difference. This project will help people especially where they are poor, sick and alone. It will also give support to families who are struggling with this problem.
“It will work by undertaking activities that support leaders in the parish, including priests, ministers and parishioners, to understand the practical implications of old age, frailty and dementia, while providing guidance, and where needed training, on what kind of support makes a difference, focusing on what you can do within existing resources.”
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland currently provides residential care and supported housing to some 280 older people across 12 locations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and many of its staff have taken advanced courses in caring for people with dementia.
Lindsay Conway concluded by saying, “We are committed to providing the best possible care for all our residents, those attending our church services and organisations, including those with dementia. As a faith-based provider of services and residential care for older people, today’s workshop and the resources that will ultimately come from it as part of the Reframing Dementia Project, will greatly help us to support those we care for.”
Lindsay Conway, Secretary to the Council for Social Witness with speakers, Professor June Andrews, Moderator Dr. Frank Sellar, who gave a reflection to open the workshop, Professor Martin Bradley, former Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland and Mark Butler.
In connection with the Reframing Dementia Project, Professor Andrews and Mark Butler are holding another free event ‘Imagine a New Old Age’ at the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics on Saturday 25th March, 6pm-8pm, at The Mac in Belfast. For more details see the event website here.