THE CHURCH COMMUNITY
There is sometimes a sense of abandonment that dementia patients experience, especially if they do not have understanding and support from their church family. Here are some suggestions for ministering to dementia patients and their caregivers in your congregation.
-Educate staff on the common forms of dementia. See the “” under Practical Resources on this website.
-Educate staff on the stages of dementia. See “” under Practical Resources on this website.
-Provide educational opportunities for the congregation on dementia to help remove its stigma.
-Form an International Christian Dementia support group in your church. Download instructions, a , and from this website.
-Formulate a prayer team to pray for members with dementia and their caregivers.
-Lead a Bible study specifically for dementia patients and/or their caregivers.
-Organize a team of volunteers who will give caregivers a respite break.
-Organize a team to provide meals, housecleaning, and run errands in times of crisis.
-Music leaders should include some of the classic hymns in worship services in order to better minister to those with dementia, as many do not relate to the modern songs. See the article on “Music And Dementia” on this website.
-Should be simple, faith-filled, and hope-generating.
-Should–in the words of the Apostle Paul– be delivered “…not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (1 Corinthians 1:7) and “…not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
-Can include messages on healing, including God’s healing power in the present and the ultimate healing in eternity. See the article on “What About Healing” on this website under “Christian Resources.
-Should be should be addressed to issues pertaining to suffering, difficult circumstances, and trials of faith.
-Offer affirmation of the dementia patients’ gifts and abilities, while noting their limitations. For example if they are a vocalist, they might be able to sing in a choir even though they can no longer do solos. They might be able to be a teacher’s aide, even though they can no longer teach a class.
-Focus on adaptations the church can make to its campus to better accommodate dementia patients. For example:
-Easy access to facilities.
-Simplified direction signs.
-Clutter free (which can be distracting to one with dementia).
-No strobe lights during worship. These can trigger seizures in some dementia patients and in others medical conditions like epilepsy, etc.
-Include people with dementia in the order of worship services as their abilities permit.
An example might be letting them read the call to worship.
-When talking to a dementia patient, always gain their attention first. Then ask only one question or make one request at a time. Multiple questions and requests are difficult for them to process.
-Visit dementia patients in their homes or long-term care facilities. Always read a scripture and pray for them. If possible, provide them with internet connection to services and/or audio recordings of services. See the article on “Visiting Someone With Dementia” on this website.
-Send greeting cards on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.
-Offer to provide transportation to and from a service or an event if the dementia patient is no longer driving.
-Establish a “special friend” program, matching a church member to a dementia patient as a special friend who will welcome them to services, sit with them, provide any help needed, and occasionally take them to lunch after service.
A simple power-point presentation for churches regarding dementia is available at:
Click on “Resources”.
Select:”Glorious Opportunity Church Power-point.”
See also: Graceful Alzheimer’s Care: Churches’ Call To Action. By Cate McCarty
Amazon, 2015. A fourteen-week study guide for church and lay leaders exploring the churchs role in providing Christ-like care to individuals with Alzheimers disease and other chronic diseases.