Here are our top 10 tips for making your church dementia friendly.
1. Make sure everywhere is well lit.
As we age all our eyesight’s will deteriorate and darken. Sometimes this is more prevalent in those living with dementia. Ensure that where possible natural light can get into the spaces where those with dementia \re likely to be in your church building – good lighting helps those with dementia see clearly and make sense of where they are.
2. Make sure your floors are safe.
Your basic risk assessment should pick up any serious dangers or hazards. Just walk around before any services or groups to check that you remove anything that could be a trip hazard. Remove any rugs or mats, and watch out for other trip hazards like cables. Avoid if possible flooring that’s shiny or that’s a similar colour to the walls, as it may confuse you those living with dementia as their sight perception can be impeded
3. Keep the church tidy and clutter free
Untidiness around the church or halls may cause the person living with dementia to feel confused and distracted. Get rid of any excess clutter and make sure everything is tidy. Turn off any noise distractions when they are not relevant as the noise could also be confusing or distracting.
4. Give clear directions.
ALWAYS give clear directions as to where people need to go. Especially after the service if you are inviting people to have tea or coffee. This is because memory problems may cause the person living with dementia to forget where things are and where they need to go. This is especially relevant if tea and coffee is served in a church hall next door. Put pictorial signs up giving direction for everything but especially toilets.
5. Keep the toilets simple and signage abundant.
Put a dementia friendly picture and sign on the door labelling the toilet. Consider removing the toilet lid if it makes it easier to identify. It’s also helpful for the toilet seat to be in a contrasting colour to the walls and floors, as with toilet rolls and towels/paper towels if used. Always ensure the room is kept clear and tidy and that there are not any hazards (e.g. cleaning chemicals) or distractions in the room that may cause harm.
6. Keep the building accessible and safe
Ensure grab rails are available where they may be needed to help people move around safely and to prevent them from falling. Ensure that hot water from the taps is not too hot that it will scold. Consider installing some form of thermostatic heat control device to the taps if not installed in accessible toilets.
7. When choosing new furniture.
Dementia may affect how well the person with dementia sees the difference between colours. Use bright and contrasting colours to help them see furniture better. Avoid stripes and strong patterns as they can be confusing. Think about the contrast of the colours with the wall and floor colouring.
8. If you run a Lunch Club or provide Tea and Coffee.
Use plates, cups and tablecloths with colours that contrast with food.
Maybe get the person living with dementia sat down and comfortable and have a Dementia Friend church volunteer get them tea and coffee and sit with them during coffee or lunch club.
9. Make all activities Dementia Friendly
We have found that people living with dementia, especially those in the early stages, do not want to be in groups with only people with dementia. Keeping up with the things the person living with dementia enjoys is great for their quality of life and if they are a regular member of your church that includes the groups they attend. Develop a team of Dementia Friend trained volunteers who are part of all groups where people living with dementia could come. This will ensure that there is always someone in a group to support the person living with dementia and their carer.
10. Develop a Dementia Friendly Service.
This is a service specifically designed for those people living with dementia. It is shorter, familiar and involves singing traditional hymns or very familiar older worship songs. The service doesn’t have to be on a Sunday but should be no less a service than a Sunday service.
Why not contact the us at the Dementia Friendly Church project through our website - How we can help page, for more information and to see how we can support you in becoming more dementia friendly?