Spirituality and Dementia

Culturally, it is easier to understand someone in Africa or Nigeria believing a person with dementia has been taken over by evil spirits. What is not acceptable, particularly in a developed country, was to discover recently that some  Christian Leaders are blaming people with dementia for having the disease, telling them they must be sinners.

Unfortunately, DAI has had many members who have had this experience recently, from countries including the USA, UK and Australia. And whilst not all of our members have any kind of Christian or other Faith or Spiritual beliefs, it is definitely not kind, or true, to tell someone they have dementia because they are sinners.

Thankfully, we also know many Churches are actively working towards welcoming people with dementia, and many are even working towards becoming dementia friendly, which is wonderful, but those who blame us for having dementia becasue ‘we are sinners’ need a lot more than education or awareness…

As a way to support our members, DAI decided to the best solution was to host an online non-denominational Inclusive Christmas Worship Service next week.

It is being held for our DAI members (or indeed, anyone with dementia), and their family and friends. Members will have today received details on how to join via email. We hope this will be the first of many, and are thrilled Jim Spiker from Adelaide has agreed no only to get up early to lead it, but was willing to learn about Zoom!

Jim has been involved in Chaplaincy ministry since 1976. He has worked in schools, industry and workplaces, and for the last 17 years, as an Aged Care Chaplain in South Australia. His theological training was with Churches of Christ and he was involved in part-time parish work alongside his chaplaincy work on several occasions. Jim enjoys reading across a broad range of subjects from Terry Pratchett to Neuroscience and a fair smattering of theology and philosophy. He is keen on environmental work and is an active bird-bander in a local conservation park. Jim and his wife Anne love keeping up with their children and grandchildren and often rely on Facebook to read what they are all doing. The current excitement is getting ready for a dachshund puppy to arrive as his 70th birthday present.

One of my friends, also a DAI member and a long time campaigner Ken Casper from Durham in the UK, has written about spirituality on his blog called How feelings change in dementia. It is an interesting read, and I’ve had many discussions with others either gaining faith, or losing their faith after being diagnosed with dementia. It would be a reallyinteresting topic to study further, if I wasn’t already so busy!

We look forward to seeing our members and their partners, families and friends online other next week or the one after (or both!) at our end of year (non denominational worship service, and our non religious) festive season celebrations. If you are a person with dementia, but not a member of DAI, you and your family ad friends are still welcome to join us by emailing us at [email protected]

Best wishes for a joyous festive season, one and all.

Kate Swaffer
Chair, CEO & Co-founder
Dementia Alliance International