Some 50 people gathered in the Cathedral Centre at Salford to discuss how our parishes in the Diocese of Salford and beyond can become communities of welcome for all those whose lives have been touched by dementia. The day workshop was organised by Caritas Salford and the Society of St Vincent de Paul and facilitated by Ben Bano of the ‘Welcome Me as I Am Project’. The training –programme is supported by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales reflecting the importance attached to the issues of spirituality, care and old age.
All the participants were enrolled as ‘dementia friends’ and in the course of a stimulating day discussed the many ways in which our parishes can become more ‘dementia friendly’, for example through ensuring that people with dementia can continue to play an active part in parish life and making church buildings more dementia friendly. There was also interest in further support and training for Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. The participants committed to developing an action plan over the next six months. The action plans will be supported by an on-line toolkit developed by the Caritas Social Action Network which will be launched shortly.
Ben Bano, Director of the ‘Welcome Me as I Am Project’, said: ‘It was really encouraging to see the commitment and level of interest in the Diocese to taking this important agenda forward. We really can make a difference in our parish communities to the lives of all whose lives are touched by dementia. In the course of the day we focused also on how we can empower people with a dementia to feel a sense of purpose at a time when it is so easy to feel undervalued’.
Mark Wiggin, Chief Executive of Caritas Salford, added: ‘ We could have filled the conference twice over with the interest from parishes and clergy that just shows how important it is to develop our understanding of dementia and how as parish communities we can support people and their carers. It will be important now to build on the training and develop an action plan that can offer more support to people whose lives are touched by dementia’.