Dementia and Faith

Thousands of people in the UK and around the world are living with dementia. Many are people of faith who are part of a local religious community or parish. Perhaps you, or someone you know is on this journey. 

Dementia can be a challenging and confusing experience for people affected by it, particularly those with a strong faith. As the disease progresses, it can cause a person to experience changes in memory thinking and behaviour that can make it difficult to maintain a connection with God and with participating in religious activities.

When it feels like the person we knew is gradually being ‘lost’, what does that mean in terms of faith, spiritual awareness and response? And how can fellow Christians and priests/ministers be part of nurturing this faith in ways that communicate effectively with those living with dementia?

Jennifer Bute was a highly qualified senior doctor in a large clinical practice, whose patients included those with dementia. Then she began to notice symptoms in herself. She was finally given a diagnosis of Young Onset Dementia in 2009. She believes firmly that:

‘..the person ‘inside’ remains and can be reached,
even when masked by the condition,
and spirituality rises as cognition becomes limited.’

In this video she states categorically ‘my faith is central’, and describes in very helpful terms what dementia is for her.

What Dementia is to me; by Jennifer Bute

Spiritual Resources

Caritas Leeds Resource Sheets

Caritas Leeds: Workshop on Dementia

This virtual workshop took place to mark Dementia Action week under the title of ‘Dementia: Awareness and Action.

Welcome Me as I am

This Catholic website was set up by Ben Bano and contains a wealth of useful resources relating to mental health and spirituality.

Precious Memories Series by Jennifer Bute

Premier have commissioned and recorded a series of short videos presented by Jenifer Bute specially designed for use with people with dementia.

Precious Memories consists of short videos, each including well-known hymns, a Bible reading and a devotional by Jennifer which will enrich the spiritual life of all who view it. It can also trigger conversations and recollections.

Click below to see one of the videos called ‘Abide with Me’:

Further Resources

Jennifer Bute’s website has an excellent page of all her own resources (Videos and Information sheets) plus a list of useful books.

Stories for the Soul is ‘person-centred spiritual care for those living with dementia’. They have many creative resources such as 5 minute ‘Church at home’ videos and other resources available on their site HERE and HERE.

Dementia Friendly Churches / Parishes

Would you like to make your church more ‘Dementia Friendly’?
Here are some resources that could help:

Dementia Friendly Church (by Prama Foundation) have many useful resources on this topic including a comprehensive free GUIDE HERE, and many other articles and tips HERE.

This ‘Becoming a Dementia Friendly Church Resource Pack’ has a really useful Review check list you can work through to check what needs to change – in terms of Buildings, Pastoral Care, Services/Mass and Community.

Christian Organisations including Dementia as a focus

Faith in Older People (based in Scotland but working nationally) have a project focussed on Dementia Care and produce some useful resources – see THIS PAGE.

Faith in Elderly People (Leeds) have produced several booklets on Dementia, churches and spirituality, including one on how to make a memory box. They are available very cheaply on THIS PAGE.

Faith in Later Life maintain a good Resource Hub with many resources on Dementia and Faith HERE.

Christians on Ageing have a Dementia Network which send out a newsletter twice a year/ If you would like to keep informed, you can join for free HERE.

Research on Faith and Dementia

What happens to faith when Christians get dementia?

In this article, Tricia Williams reflects on this question in the light of findings from her research.

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