How Forging Links with Faith Groups Can Help People with Dementia

helping people with dementia

A new report from Faith Action has highlighted the importance of building dementia-friendly faith groups to support people living with dementia. The report, Building dementia-friendly communities: how faith groups are helping people living with dementia, their families and their carers, also includes a range of case studies from across the UK, based on work undertaken by groups from a number of different faiths.

Faith Action, a nationwide network of faith-based organisations involved in social action claims that, ‘Given the scale of dementia within communities, many people who are part of faith communities will be affected by dementia either directly or indirectly. At the same time, faith communities have something important to offer. Not only can they help support… people living with dementia and their carers; they can also help to prevent dementia from developing in the first place.’

With many older people living with dementia in care homes having previously been a member of a faith group and often having been socially active within this community, this report offers care providers useful examples of how to maintain beneficial links between service users and faith communities. Read on to learn more about this new report and the measures you can take to improve the wellbeing of your service users by building relationships with your local faith groups.

The Faith Action report highlights the type of spiritual and emotional support offered by faith communities to people living with dementia, particularly:

  1. Providing a rhythm of life and a way to connect people with their faith and with others from their community, based on their deep-rooted memories, such as music and prayers.
  2. Offering a sense of belonging, identity and safety.
  3. Providing pastoral support for people as they face issues connected with their dementia.
  4. The ability to uplift people through connection with others and spiritual practices such as prayer.

The type of support available may vary according to the beliefs and cultural expectations within each distinct community but, in each case, maintaining a meaningful relationship with the person’s faith community has the potential to significantly improve their quality of life.

4 Steps to Build Relationships with Faith Communities

  1. Build your network: Within every community, there is a network of faith groups which are often only too pleased to offer support to their members. By making contact with local faith leaders such as priests, rabbis or imams and building a database of useful contacts, you will have a ready-made list of faith and community leaders that you can call on for support when needed.
  2. Offer training: While many faith group members are willing to offer their time and support, they often lack specific knowledge about dementia. Some communities may also have different beliefs or experiences of dementia which affect their approach. Offering access to your in-house training or even running a Dementia Friends session could be a helpful way of improving knowledge and providing a more consistent approach to the people with dementia in your care.
  3. Improve staff awareness: In more diverse communities, it can often be a challenge for staff to have a sound understanding of the beliefs and rituals of the wide range of faiths they encounter. By including training for all staff on the key areas of the main faiths they are likely to encounter, you will improve their understanding and help to avoid any problems brought about by a lack of knowledge or insight.
  4. Read the report: The full report, giving details of all seven case studies can be downloadedhere.

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