Tips for Sunday Services to help those living with dementia

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

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No two people experience dementia in the same way. What may be a help for one person may not be for another. However, there are somethings that can be done to help. If something is not working for one person look at different ways to make it easier for them to enjoy church.

Provide a warm welcome

From arrival at the church doors it is so important to have friendly welcoming people who are dementia aware. Have those on welcome teams trained as Dementia Friends and get them to wear their Forget-Me-Not badges on a Sunday. Let them introduce themselves within the context of the welcome team and if appropriate and achievable have someone offer to be will be willing to sit alongside the person living with dementia if they are alone throughout the service.

Try to keep the pre-service noise to a minimum

Noisy pre-service band practices, or chaotic children can be very confusing for someone living with dementia and can cause anxiety and distress. If this is likely to be a part of your normal pre-service, try and find a quiet space where the person living with dementia can sit before the service begins and bring them in when things have settled down. It would be useful if this space remains free throughout the service in case the person living with dementia needs to retreat to somewhere quieter as the service progresses.

People living with dementia are still spiritually alive

Just because someone is living with dementia it does not mean that they are beyond being able to learn more about God and contribute to the life of the church. They can often still pray, read, sing or give some other worthwhile contribution. Try and find ways to keep them engaged in the life of the congregation even if they need a little more help to make this happen.

Keep a clear service structure

If you are planning a service where there is the chance for something unusual to happen (e.g. moving into small groups, writing prayer requests and hanging on a prayer tree, having to go up to the front, or lighting a candle), try and ensure that a Dementia Friend aware member of the congregation is on hand to provide extra support and reassurance to the person living with dementia.

Involve the person living with dementia

Many people living with dementia are still able to read a Bible passage aloud, so they can contribute. Even if the passage must be typed out in a large font or even recorded in advance of the service. Many churches now use screen projection systems so why not take a smart phone and record them saying some prayers in the week and play that back through the service. Likewise, some people might like to help with pouring teas and coffees. This may require a little extra support or a little bit of pre planning but ensure that those with dementia are honoured and remain connected into the church family.

Be aware that there may be interruptions and be welcome them

Some people living with dementia may walk around during the service. This is less likely if there is someone they know sits with them or they are in their favourite spot in the church.

Make socialising after the service as easy as possible

If you serve tea and coffee after the service it can be difficult, overwhelming or confusing for the person living with dementia if there are a lot of people queuing at once. If possible, it is far better if someone can take tea and coffee to the person living with dementia in a slightly quieter corner of the church or hall.


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