Professor June Andrews an expert in the field of dementia who helped found the Dementia Centre at the University of Stirling unveiled a new resource for churches when she spoke to the 2017 General Assembly.
“A guide to supporting people with dementia in the local church” offers practical advice on everything from the moment you suspect a church friend may have dementia, through a confirmed diagnosis and caring for the person and those caring for them during their illness.
As well as addressing the financial burden on families, the guide also covers one of the key roles church members can take: Protecting the religious rights and worship opportunities of people with dementia.
“The thing about dementia is it can be made better,” Professor Andrews said.
“Even though there is no cure the journey can be made easier.
“So my challenge to you as churches with aging populations, with aging friends, with so many of you directly affected by dementia, it is really important you know the simple practical things that you can do: when you’re wondering whether they are affected; at the point when they are diagnosed; when the person is trying to live as well as possible; when they go to a care home or hospital and then at the point of death.”
Professor Andrews said that although public awareness of the illness is at an all-time high, information about the practical things that help people live better lives is hard to find.
“People always feel they want to do something but they find it very difficult,” she told Commissioners to the General Assembly.
Research has shown that by the time a person is 90 they have a 50% chance of having dementia, but the course of the illness is very different for different people.
Some people have just a short period where they need constant care, while others lose their ability to live independently quite quickly.
Professor Andrews said staying well for as long as possible depends on factors such as staying out of hospital and avoiding preventable problems such as falls. “The key thing is to try to stay as well as possible for as long as possible.”