St Edmundsbury Cathedral Marks Dementia-Friendly Sunday
This Sunday, 14 May, we will mark Dementia-friendly Sunday at the 10.30 Service. There are currently over 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, more than ever before, and this number is projected to increase*. The Cathedral is evolving to ensure it meets the needs of this vulnerable group. The date has been chosen to coincide with the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Awareness Week, 15-21 May.
The Service will highlight Memory Boxes which can be created using small items such as old toys, old kitchen utensils as well as images, or newspaper cuttings of popular culture and events, specific to any historical period. Memory boxes prompt conversations in a relaxed setting, where the person can be encouraged to connect in their own time or to move on to other more meaningful items. They are part of Reminiscence Therapy and can be created with a person in the early stages of dementia.
We marked Dementia-Friendly Sunday for the first time in May 2022 and have continued working towards being a more dementia-friendly place in the year that’s followed. Together on Tuesday is a service for anyone who might find a longer service difficult, but still enjoys singing and praising God. This service is short, relaxed, and informal; people are encouraged to be as comfortable as possible and move around if needed. There is always coffee, cake, and a strong emphasis on fellowship and support, thanks to an experienced pastoral support team consisting of pastoral carers, nurses, and those experienced with dementia. Refreshments and cake are served after the service and attendance has grown throughout the last year. We are now welcoming a regular worship group every month.
To help us become a better place to visit for those living with dementia, a working group has been formed. In the past 12 months they have consulted on projects to ensure inclusivity. New signage has been installed across the site that is dementia friendly and a list of small improvements have taken place, like new welcome mats to ensure comfort and safety. Dementia awareness training has also been provided for Cathedral staff and volunteers.
Rev’d Canon Matthew Vernon leads on the Dementia-Friendly project. He said, “We are an inclusive Cathedral, which means we believe all people are created equal by God and we aim to welcome and treat all people fairly, irrespective of age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Our work on becoming more dementia-friendly is an important part of being welcoming to all. What might seem like small changes to us, like adding icons to signs, makes a big difference to those living with dementia and we will continue to create a space at the Cathedral for everyone.”
*Source: Prince, M et al (2014) Dementia UK: Update Second Edition report produced by King’s College London and the London School of Economics for the Alzheimer’s Society