Faith resources as dementia advances

Published: 4th September 2020

As we live with the current Coronavirus restrictions, it’s all the more important than ever to be able to point people to resources which help anyone living with dementia to continue to connect with their faith. An occupational therapist recently asked me a really good question that got me thinking:

“Are you aware of any easy-access faith resources for people who are living with mid-later stages of dementia? I am finding many people are struggling over recent months without access to faith resources, services and support, particularly those living in care homes who have lost so much meaningful routine and structure. Can you recommend any resources that families/ care staff can access or purchase?”

Here’s the list we came up with between us. I wonder if you’ve already tried any of these. And I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything else to add, that you’ve used and found helpful.

Also, the process of gathering together and sharing helpful resources is really significant. It’s a wonderful opportunity to involve family and friends – and even the local church! – in bringing together a resource like a Memory Box or a scrapbook of prayers. I’ve been talking just recently to a care home manager who’s aware how important it is to be involving families in getting together resources for residents. Particularly with Coronavirus restrictions, families and close friends may be really glad to be able to do something helpful – making a box or scrapbook like this can itself be a really positive experience, as well as becoming a positive resource for the person living with dementia. 

The national 'Daily Hope' line on 0800 804 8044 

has been launched fairly recently. It’s a great resource and it offers a free helpline, available 24 hours a day, offering music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line. It’s a wonderful resource for care home residents and for anyone who’s comfortable with using a phone.  Also, this 'Options Card' may be helpful to share, giving details about the Daily Hope phone line.

Strength for the Journey 

is another super resource – this Pictures to Share book is my natural 'go to' faith resource. Pictures to Share publishes books for people living with dementia – but the books themselves don’t mention dementia at all: they just contain accessible pictures and helpful words to delight and connect. 'Strength for the Journey' is available from the publishers for £10, with £2 P&P.

Memory Box leaflet

Our Diocese of Lichfield Memory Box leaflet is another 'go to' recommendation. Although the leaflet does suggest that churches might choose to make Memory Boxes before Easter, they can of course be used all year round – and you may want to ask your local church to bless them before they are given. As to specific contents for a general faith memory box, a holding cross is the first thing that I would include. Think about engaging the senses as you gather items for a Memory Box.  These are the sort of things that we’ve included in the Memory Bags we have made in collaboration with Shropshire Libraries:

  • A holding cross and/or rosary.
  • A wooden nativity set.
  • A hymn book / prayer book / King James Version Bible.
  • An Easter card – or a set of cards/postcards telling the Easter story or a parable.
  • Possibly knitted figures connecting with weddings and/or baptisms – or other items connected with the marriage service e.g. an order of service, horseshoe
  • A CD of well-known hymns.

These bags also have a copy of the 'Strength for the Journey' book.  There’s more about this in the video that marks Ellesmere Deanery becoming dementia-friendly.

Scrapbook of prayers

I’ve had personal experience of being really glad to create a homemade scrapbook of prayers for an aunt of mine who lived with dementia. You can get a scrap book in a craft/stationery shop – go for one that’s spiral bound if you can, as it sits open more easily. I’ve seen them online for as little as £3. I cut out some of the ancient prayers from the Community of St Chad booklet – do come back to me for copies of this booklet, which cost £2 each, if you’d like to use it! Or why not use the Lord’s Prayer and the four other prayers (under the heading 'Various Prayers') on this website from St James’ Church, Picadilly in London? Or you could use some of the prayers from the Wem 'Saturday Special': this booklet of prayers is being used to keep connections until the dementia-friendly service can be resumed at Wem Methodist Church. Just stick the prayers into a booklet or scrapbook with picture postcards to enjoy. The photo shows one of the pages from the prayer scrapbook I made.  

Blog on resources for care homes

I did a blog fairly recently on resources for residential care homes that churches across the Diocese have been offering – you can see more in our article on Care homes, churches and coronavirus.

Music generally

This is such a rich resource and there’s lots to choose from – see, for example, the Kevin Mayhew collections: If I was going to go with one, I’d probably chose 'The Nations Favourite Hymns as Voted by Viewers of Songs of Praise': Even when words are lost, music can connect deeply – and the right songs and hymns are a treasure trove.

Picture Book of Bible verses

I’ve just discovered a set of picture books 'for seniors with dementia'.  You can turn the pages of the books on the Amazon website and they look good – a lovely photo and a Bible verse, with the books costing around £8 each (or £12+ for the 'Expanded edition')

Sister Wendy Beckett’s Bible Stories 

isn’t produced specifically for people with dementia, but I think it could be a good accessible way for people with dementia to share some of the core resources of our Bible stories, with illustrations.  The book costs about £8.

More than Words

by Hannah Dunnett Price, price £12.99, is another book that isn’t 'dementia-specific', but the mix of images and text give a lot to engage heart and soul, for someone living with dementia.  I wonder if you’ve come across Hannah Dunnett’s wonderful artwork, interweaving Bible verses and images, from sailing boats bobbing on a river to lighthouses standing tall, to majestic trees and soaring mountains.  This book includes twenty-four pictures and, opposite the picture, there’s a bit of writing, telling the story behind it, drawing out key verses and their meaning.  The writing finishes with some questions to reflect on.

Petals of Prayer – Prayers, reflections and resources for people with dementia and their carers

by Siobhan O’Keefe provides 'moving prayers and reflections [which] offer insight and understanding.' The book costs £9.99

 And there’s now a DVD costing £16.99, “with beautiful music and soothing images accompanying Siobhan's reassuring spoken voice.” There’s a version with three CDs too, also £16.99

Creating ‘Church’ at Home: For Older People Living with Dementia

by Patrick Coghlan for £10.99, is described as, “focused on older people living with dementia, who may struggle to cope with a full-length service or Bible study.” It can be used as a personal resource or organised by a carer, friend, neighbour or family member.

Prayers for those with Dementia Chosen and illustrated

by Chris Coe, costing £5.99, is described as “A beautifully printed hardback giftbook featuring suitable prayers and uplifting full colour illustrations.”

God In Fragments 

costs £14.99 and aims to equip those engaged in or preparing for ministry to people with dementia. It explores (in the first part) the theological and spiritual challenges of dementia, suggesting practical ways to help those living with dementia participate in worship and (in the second part) offers a wide range of services, prayers, readings and activities suitable for those with dementia, for use in formal or informal church contexts, church cafes, care homes and hospitals.

Grace for the Unexpected Journey

is a US-produced '60-day devotional for carers of people living with dementia'. This book has been extremely helpful to a carer whom I know – it definitely touched the spot. The section for each day has a Bible verse and reflection; it’s short and it includes experiences of caring that people can identify with, as well as questions for reflection. It costs about £10.

Page last updated: Friday 4th September 2020 9:10 AM
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