I confess it has taken me a bit of a while to sit down and write this post. Like most of the world everything has been turned upside down and inside out and the church is no exception.
Church buildings closed, social isolation the new norm for a people made for community.
So let's take a minute to think about those who are living with dementia at this time.
Firstly, depending on the stage of dementia that they are at, it is likely that they really won't understand what is going on. It is likely that they sit in the most vulnerable category of people due to their likely age (although there will be some people who aren't). And, they will have families who really don't know what to do as they want to isolate to protect their loved one, but can't. Like all older people they also will possibly be having problems with getting food and supplies with the current panic buying epidemic which seems to be so prevalent.
It is so important that the church does not lose sight of these people through this time.
I have seen that many churches have made the leap to on-line services, using Zoom meetings or social media to keep in touch with their congregations, sharing what normally would be private Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer with their church. This is amazing and I rejoice as I see a church stretching beyond its doors and walls.
However, great as this is, it only benefits those who are technically advanced. What about those who are not. How can we still be church for those who are truly isolated, not understanding what is going on, no matter how many times they are told, because they have a disease that means they will forget.
I know church leaders already know this is the time to get organised. Here are a few ideas to assist.
Look at your pastoral care structures and ensure that no one is dropping off your radar. Draw up a list of those who are most vulnerable in your congregation and note what help you think they may need. Remember to look not just at practical support and contact but also their spiritual needs.
If possible link people who are local to the person living with dementia and their family so they can pick up shopping and supplies.
Phone and pray with them at least weekly and please build contact with their family. This doesn't have to be by the church leader but could be by home group leaders, dedicated pastoral care team or even set up a crisis team.
Record a service on an older medium that could be sent to those who are older and more vulnerable. Remember many older people will still have a tape player in their home or a DVD player that you could record and send a service out on.
This is a real opportunity for the church to shine as a light in this time of crisis and show in practical ways the love of Jesus for some of those who are the most vulnerable and at risk in our society.