A CALL TO ACT: The Action Plan

Loving Families Through Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias


A note about resources suggested within our Action Plan to help faith and community leaders serve families facing dementia: Many of these resources are provided free on this web site. We also reference other helpful resources that are available for purchase only from outside vendors. For clarification purposes, those resources will be preceded in this Action Plan by a dollar sign ($). Our Ministry receives no benefits from such sales.

Leaders: Where do you begin?

Educate Yourself

Raise your own dementia awareness

Reverend Hal Cole

How do we minister to the spirit of those who live with dementia?

Reverend Hal Cole is a former Hospice Chaplain, currently serving as Support Group Facilitator, Grief Specialist, and Director of Spiritual Care at a long term care community. Hal spends his life ministering to those who live with dementia and to their families. He will help us see and hear and love more deeply.

Reverend Linn Possell

How do we better love people living with dementia?

Reverend Linn Possell loved her mother through Frontotemporal Dementia. For 15 years she has passionately and compassionately shared her extensive dementia knowledge and experience to help those who live with dementia and their families. She is a trainer, coach, consultant and speaker for Positive Approach to Care.

Educate your congregation or community

Raise dementia awareness. Share dementia knowledge.

Action Plan

Choose a plan of action that best fits your church or community

1. Encourage

  • Pray
  • When you pray move your feet. (African Proverb)...Phone, Text, Email, Send cards, Deliver meals. Let these families know you are thinking of them and praying for them. Each of these ideas might be a stand alone ministry for an individual or a group.

2. Visit : Being present matters

Caregivers tell us that as dementia progresses, life long friends, family, and even ministers no longer visit. People who have been faithful members of the church are left in crushing loneliness and isolation. How can that be?

  • It could be that due to the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the family has not told their minister, church friends, or even other family members that dementia is now a part of their lives.
  • Sadly, it could be fear of the unknown that keeps us away. Friends, family, and many ministers are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing...afraid of upsetting the person who lives with dementia...afraid of an embarrassing scene. The good news is that we can learn how to visit...how to connect and have meaningful relationships...we can learn how to love...better.

Resources

3. Support


Support the person living with dementia. Their message to you is “See me, not my dementia.” Recognize what they can do, and let go of what they can no longer do.

Robert’s letter to the Church - Multi-Faith and Community Leaders’ Workshop-2018

  • Include those who live with dementia in as many activities of the church or community as possible for as long as possible. Sunday School Class, Choir, Bible Study, Senior Center activities, etc. Become his/her “buddy” during activities, making it possible for participation to take place even further into the progression of dementia.
  • Take him/her out to lunch, or to play golf, etc. Take the time to find out what he/she likes to do, and do it.
  • Include him/her in volunteer activities. We all want to belong, to be valued...to have purpose. People who live with dementia can contribute...and teach us along the way. It is true that skills are being lost, but it is our job to learn to recognize and encourage the use of the skills that remain.

Support the family caregivers
  • Offer to run errands for the caregiver; take him/her to lunch...find out what they like to do and do it with them.
  • Listen
  • Deliver Meals
  • Offer a reprieve for the family caregiver by volunteering to visit with his/her loved one, providing the caregiver with a much needed break from the all consuming responsibilities.
  • Provide communion to the person who lives with dementia and to the caregiver when they can no longer come to church. Your minister may guide you. Resource: $ When Words Fail by Kathy Fogg Berry, page 72.
  • Undergird caregivers who belong to your church’s Support Group, whether they are members of your church or not, by providing meals, visits and cards, especially during crises. Often those members have no home church for the funeral service of their loved one. Offer your church for the service and provide a light reception.

Resources

4. Become a dementia friendly church

Break the stigma associated with dementia by raising dementia awareness and knowledge throughout your church and community:


Resources

5. Become a Dementia Friendly Community, Town, City, or State

The GA Division of Aging Services recently received a license to provide Dementia Friends information sessions in Georgia. Dementia Friends Champions are trained to provide these sessions. The sessions last 1 hour. Dementia Friends is part of a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. The Georgia Gerontology Society is assisting with training champions and getting the word out.

Resources

6. Begin a Support Group

Caregivers have taught me that a key to surviving the caregiving journey is realizing there are others who are living their lives. There is power in being with those who understand. Support Groups offer this power. They offer help, hope and a particular healing that comes only from sharing and contributing to the healing of others.

Resources

7. Host a Conference, Seminar, or Workshop

Host the event yourself, or join forces with other churches to make ministering to these families a combined...even ecumenical...effort. You may also take this opportunity to co-host events with community leaders and organizations.

Resources

8. Begin a Music/Art Ministry

Volunteers have an opportunity to bring music, art, poetry, or song to persons living with dementia. Familiar music, poetry and prayer often can be enjoyed throughout the entire journey.

You might begin a choir for those who live with dementia or encourage their participation in the existing choir. The choir below features singers with dementia. For people with memory loss, choirs offer powerful stimulation and enhanced social connections.

This choir features singers with dementia - The Washington Post

Members might choose a personal ministry by sharing their musical talent with a person living with dementia...singing with that person or playing a musical instrument.

Resources

Even those who can no longer communicate verbally, may join in as you sing familiar songs, clap along to the rhythm or recite familiar, poetry or prayers...as seen in the video of music therapist, Naomi Feil and Gladys Wilson.

Resources

Volunteers might offer art lessons to persons living with dementia. It was a volunteer who introduced Lester Potts to a paint brush and paper. Lester, who lived with dementia and could no longer communicate with words began to tell us his story through his art.

Additional Resources

9. Begin a Stole Ministry

A stole or tallit can be liturgical art. This ministry encourages your pastor, chaplain, priest, or rabbi to use liturgical art in promoting dementia friendly faith communities. In her book, Stolen Memories: An Alzheimer’s Stole Ministry & Tallit Initiative, Lynda Everman offers step by step instructions and describes the use of hand-sewn, individualized stoles and stole-style tallitot in advocacy for Alzheimer's and related dementias … but in the words of (Ret.) Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, author of Ministry with the Forgotten, Stolen Memories “is more than a creative book; it is an invitation to join a movement to bring hope and healing to people stigmatized and marginalized by society.”

Rev. Ann Mann, Associate Pastor with Dr. David Campbell, Senior Pastor, Due West UMC

Rev. Derek Jacks and Rev. Sherrad Hayes, Cumberland Presbyterian

Rev. Dr. Donovan Drake, Presbyterian (USA)

Rev. Dr. Richard L. Morgan (to whom the book is dedicated), Presbyterian (USA)

Rev. Bobby Fields, Jr., Baptist

Rev. Katie Gilbert, Cooperative Baptist

Rev. Kathy Fogg Berry, Interdenominational Christian

Rev. Tracey Lind (living with frontotemporal degeneration), Episcopalian

Rev. Danielle Thompson, Episcopalian

Rabbi Israel de la Piedra, Jewish

Monsignor Paul Fitzmaurice, Roman Catholic

Rev. Julie Conrady, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. David Saunders, Anglican with Rev. Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel (living with dementia), Presbyterian (USA)

Rev. Dr. David Seymour, Lutheran

Rev. Carol Steinbrecher, Congregational


Resources

10. Begin a Stephen Ministry

To help these families know that they are not alone. Encourage dementia training and education along with traditional Stephen Ministry training. A Stephen Ministry equips lay people to offer members of their congregation and community: prayer, support, encouragement, and a compassionate listening ear for as long as there is a need. A Stephen Ministry also offers vital support to the pastoral team.

Resources

11. Begin a Congregational Respite Program – a Respite Ministry

Begin a Congregational Respite Program – a Respite Ministry or join forces with other churches to provide a spiritually integrated program offering meaningful activities, social engagement, art, music and exercise for those living with dementia. This also provides a much needed respite for the caregiver.

Resources

Robin Dill

Why Congregational Respite Care?

Robin Dill enlightens us all! Robin served for twelve years as Director of Grace Arbor, a congregational respite program at First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Today, Robin mentors other churches as they begin Respite Ministries of their own.

12. Run with our own unique way to serve these forgotten families


Remembering always...it is not important how big the beginning...it is beginning that is important!