Thought provoking, informative, moving, funny, inspiring were all words that came to mind as we reflected on the training on Dementia led by Rev Pat Malham.
Pat is a Methodist minister in the Ripon and Lower Dales circuit but has previously been a psychiatric registrar and a GP. She talked about the different forms of dementia and the many varied ways in which it manifests itself – everyone who was there will have learned something new.
Pat talked about the importance of focusing on the person and what they are able to do and working to maintain that and encouraging as much independence as possible. As a minister, Pat went on to help us think about the church’s role and if we believe that God loves all people and the gospel is for all people, it includes people with dementia. We were urged to adopt a positive attitude and to encourage supportive relationships. We were told that people with dementia may not remember what we said to them but they may, and often do, remember how we made them feel.
Pat gave some very practical suggestions of things we can do to make an accessible environment as well as to encourage creativity and participation. As the church, we can do these things in fellowship, in worship and in walking alongside them on their continuing journey of life. Pat included in her presentation art work, sculptures, poetry and prose created by people living with dementia.