Building dementia-friendly parish communities after Covid-19

How can parishes learn to welcome and affirm people living with dementia and their families and carers? Pia Matthews and Theresa Power look at ways to make parishes dementia-friendly.

Undoubtedly, one of the lasting images of 2020 was of tearful families separated from their loved ones living in care homes, able only to press a hand against the glass between them. The look of confusion, bewilderment and abandonment on the faces of people used to real touch, real hugs, real contact, was palpable. Some of these people had dementia; all of these people had to try and make sense of a new reality. For perhaps the very first time, the person with dementia came to the attention of the press not as a statistic or simply a tragic figure, but as someone’s mother, father, wife, husband. Someone loved and missed. Someone with a life that can be lived well. The clear message was that people with dementia have fulfilling relationships; they have real human needs, and when these needs are met, they can live full, flourishing and happy lives. Covid-19 has tried to rob people of this. These were not one-off anecdotes but the experiences of many families. It seems that it has taken a pandemic to throw the spotlight on what has possibly been inaccurately described as a ‘silent pandemic’: the lived reality of dementia that does not simply target the elderly; the tough decisions that families have to make simply to keep their loved ones safe; the lack of joined-up thinking that isolates health from social care and community support.

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