I wonder if you know anyone living with dementia – perhaps someone from your family, perhaps someone from your church or your local community, perhaps you yourself. Over 700,000 people across the country are living with dementia, many supported by family carers. Many people affected by dementia are part our local churches – and the pandemic has had a heightend impact on many of them.
People affected by dementia live through unchosen challenges. Within our Diocese of Lichfield dementia-friendly churches network, we are focusing this autumn on three pictures that help us to see the bigger picture, noticing God’s presence as dementia progresses. Perhaps these three pictures can help us all, in journeying together through the changes and challenges of the pandemic and of life.
If I look through a kaleidoscope and see a lovely pattern, I may want to show you. But if my hand jogs as I pass it across to you, it’s gone – the pattern’s changed. Rather than focusing on the old pattern that’s gone, can we together see the light shining through in a different pattern?
With dementia, we could spend all our time focusing only on the old pattern that used to be good but has gone; or we can acknowledge that the pattern’s changing and look for the light within the new pattern that is emerging. How have patterns changed for you and others recently? Can you use the picture of the kaleidoscope to help you to notice the light shining through, in a new pattern?
In Hebrews 13:1-3 the writer says “Imagine what’s it’s like to be a prisoner. Imagine what’s it’s like to be mistreated.” It’s all about entering wholeheartedly into another person’s world.
In dementia, it’s important to go with the feelings rather than the facts, not to contradict or challenge, but to cross over the bridge. When we cross the bridge, we enter another person’s world, meeting them where they are. God always meets us where we are – but never leaves us there! Can you use the picture of the bridge to meet someone else where they are, journeying to be alongside them, seeing things from their point of view?
Have you ever wondered about why wild geese fly in a “V” formation? Scientists have discovered that the geese work together, taking it in turns to take the lead. Flying in formation, they can fly 70% further than any one bird could one bird could fly alone.
We’ve found it’s the same with dementia. When we can work together, we work as a team and we are able to help people live well with dementia for longer.
Through the pandemic, we’re rediscovering the need to work as a community – both locally and globally. None of us can go it alone. Can the picture of the geese flying in formation encourage us to work across our churches and communities, journeying together in new ways?
To know more about the Diocese of Lichfield dementia-friendly churches network, contact Sarah Thorpe, Dementia-Friendly Church Enabler, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0798 224 8949
Images, top to bottom:
Changing Patterns - (Picture - Creative Commons v1ctory_1s_m1ne)
Crossing The Bridge - (Picture – Creative Commons Chris)
Working Together - (Picture – Creative Commons James Wilamour)