Tomorrow, I get to share in leading worship at a local residential home for people who cannot care for themselves due to age, dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The service will be led by an Anglican Reader, and he has invited me to give a short talk in the service. He advised me to keep it short and simple.
In past times, such an invitation would have terrified me. I had no training in how to approach this, despite the ageing church profile and the general increase in the age profile of the wider population. However, the good news is that there is an increasing amount of Christian resources on the subject. Within my own denomination, Methodist Homes how provides specialist dementia care, plus resources for those who care for people with these distressing conditions.
More widely, they have co-operated with an initiative from Scripture Union called Being With God. This is a series of Bible Study notes for use with those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Essentially, the series goes for the simple and the familiar, triggering some of the longer-term memory that is less likely to have been lost. So far, there are three entries in the series: Word Of Peace, Words Of Hope and Words Of Faith.
Here is Songs Of Praise presenter Pam Rhodes promoting the series:
And here she is again, interviewing the project leader, Tricia Williams:
When I speak tomorrow, I am going to take my cue not only from the request to keep things short and simple, but from the appeal to longer-term memory. I am going to attempt a brief reflection on the words of the penitent thief at Calvary: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I shall talk about our earliest and our best memories, hoping that plugs into some positive thoughts, and then move on to the fact that whatever we might forget, Jesus remembers us. I wonder how it will go.
Does any reader have any experience in this area to share?
I have led worship in care homes for those with dementia before on an infrequent basis – there willl be lots of others with much greater depth of experience. But for what it’s worth…a) well known hymns seem to work best in provoking long term memories so include lots b) sometimes a well known bible reading would provoke people to actually join in with me, but this is one situation where it might be helpful to use the KJV c) include the Lord’s prayer in its traditional form, and perhaps experiment with what other well known liturgical forms might be known – eg the prayer of approach, the grace etc d) Sharing the peace person by person would cause some people to light up “and also with you!” e) visual aids seemed to work well – candles, bibles, puppets – but generally the “talks” were the bit that went least well. But it will depend on who you have in front of you, and you can probably not tell “how well it went” with any more accuracy than on the average Sunday morning. Just be prepared to keep on going no matter what, particularly when people wander. Hopefully you’ll have good staff on hand nearby. God bless you in your ministry
Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel, your thoughts make a lot of sense in terms of what I’ve heard others say. I understand, for example, that the Scripture Union studies I referred to concentrate on well-known Bible passages.
As it happens, I’m not in charge of the service content, the Anglican Reader is experienced at that and he will be devising that, so I wait to see what he comes up with. However, I’ll be glad of all your suggestions when it’s my turn to put the service itself together. As for the talk, unfortunately I’m not a puppeteer. 😦
I was glad to see your post as my dad has recently been diagnosed with Alzhiemers and although he is in the early stages at the moment I know the time will come when he will need more help. Church has been a big part of his life and it is good to know there are resourses out there. I wish you well with your talk tomorrow and hope you can get though to your audience I am sure you will
God Bless Carole
Thanks for your kind words, and I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. I’m sure when the time comes you and Joe will do a fine labour of love for him.