Thelma has had dementia for close to fifteen years, but still loves to sing hymns and read the Bible. Thanks to a new suite of resources produced by HammondCare, she still can.
Faith for Life: Biblical resources for people with dementia is a series of resources designed to help people living with dementia connect with their Christian faith.
“People who belong to God have a faith that continues despite what happens in their life, despite terrible sicknesses or accidents, and likewise despite dementia,” says pastoral care worker Lois Haultain.
“There is so much about faith that isn’t about adding cognitive knowledge, it’s about being reminded of who God is.”
“Although dementia is a disease of the brain, it’s not a disease of the heart and the spirit. These people who belong to God and have a relationship with him, we are assuming that their relationship can continue to grow, because there is so much about faith that isn’t about adding cognitive knowledge, it’s about being reminded of who God is: that God is in control, that God is good and there is a glorious destination for his children.”
The Faith for Life resources include pictures, a few words of Scripture, a hymn and a prayer to help stimulate connection and conversation with those suffering dementia.
Thelma’s daughter Heather says they are working.
Thelma and Heather were part of the pilot programme, where they worked closely with HammondCare to discuss what kind of product would work for supporting and encouraging Thelma’s faith. There were twelve other pilot participants. Bible Society Australia was involved in the early stages of the project.
“We got together and discussed specific things for mum – she loved reading and could still read really well at that time. And I would come and do a lot of singing with her as well. Hymns were really important for her,” says Heather.
Out of those interactions, HammondCare produced a pilot book for Thelma titled Thelma’s Bible and Song Book, which included passages of Scripture and hymns. Some of the other pilot participants received A-frames with Bible verses and pictures, and cards with pictures and simple statements about God.
Heather says that the resources are as much a way for her to connect with her mum as they are a way for her to connect with her faith.
“Sometimes when maybe she’s a little sleepy or bored, you can get it out. Or if she’s a little bit feisty, to get it out settles her. The singing is really nice too. It’s just something to interact with her,” says Heather.
“She can interact with it, and actually read it. You don’t know what that’s doing for her. And other people can use it as well. Some people come in and don’t know what to do. Someone who hadn’t seen her for a long time could sit down and feel comfortable. It can be something to do together.
“It’s nice to think it’s going into her spirit. Maybe nothing is there, but we are speaking these words over her and into her. Hopefully it’s a good little witness for others as well.”
Lois says she has had the opportunity to share the resources with both Christians and non-Christians at the facility she works at.
“It’s not coercive, it’s natural, it’s an opportunity to engage and build bridges, to say something positive about God, rather than taking a person from A-Z about the gospel.
“It’s possible for someone with dementia to come to know Jesus for the first time,” says Lois.
“And dementia isn’t a barrier to faith growing; just like all of us who have faith need to nourish the faith we have, we wanted to develop things that remind and nourish and help people with dementia grow.”
The Faith for Life resources are available for purchase from HammondCare.