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Move to give recognition to dementia-friendly churches
OXFORDSHIRE churches which make themselves welcoming to dementia sufferers could be recognised in a new award scheme.
Just as churches which offer events, services and support for young people and children can be accredited as youth and child-friendly or family-friendly churches, the idea is that Anglican churches in the Diocese of Oxford meeting certain criteria could receive dementia-friendly church awards.
The idea is the brainchild of the Rev Dr Joanna Collicutt, who is the Spiritual Concern for Older People adviser for the diocese.
It is in part inspired by Prime Minister David Cameron's dementia-friendly communities initiative launched a couple of years ago.
Dr Collicutt said: “I had been speaking to some people on the ground who are doing really interesting things in this area.
“As we already give awards to family and youth friendly churches, I thought we could do something in the spirit of that.”
The Rev Pat Buttha, assistant curate at St Michael’s Church in Cumnor, has been running a memories cafe at the church for the past year – offering elderly people a chance to reminisce.
Some of the people taking part are understood to have memory issues.
Ms Buttha has been involved in early discussions about the scheme.
She said: “We have lots of work in society with young people but people are less comfortable about dealing with dementia and the realities of people getting older. I think it’s very important.”
While the details of the award scheme are still being developed, criteria could include everything from the physical environment to training of staff and congregation members.
For example, the church would need to have good access and signposting, accessible toilets and help with transport needs.
Service times would need to be convenient and service sheets user-friendly, with familiar words and music, accompanied by community activities, such as signing or coffee mornings.
Churches would also be expected to have links with local care homes, involvement with local community initiatives on dementia, and some staff would need to have completed training in dementia awareness and adult safeguarding.
Movements are being made to look at the issue nationally, but this scheme would be unique to the county.
Dr Collicutt said: “Most people with dementia don’t tend to go to the main Sunday services but might prefer a midweek meeting, which is much quieter and tends to have an old-fashioned service, which is perhaps easier to remember.
“Often a person with dementia is cared for by a spouse, so it’s also about looking at how the church can support carers.”
She said while the majority of older people did not suffer from dementia, there was a strong feeling that churches should be made welcoming to those who did.
She said she hoped the scheme could be up and running within the next year, and churches could then apply for accreditation.
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