Wet, windy Eastbourne hosted a Dementia Conference today run by Pilgrims' Friend Society. The Pilgrims' Friend Society is a Christian charity which runs care homes but also wants to shape the issues of ageing that affect us all.
This conference covered the issue of dementia but also looked at issues for family caregivers some of which are relevant whether or not the person who requires care has dementia or not. In addition, there was a session around Visiting and supporting people with dementia.
As this was a Christian conference, there was an enormous emphasis on the person with dementia retaining their personhood and how that in God's sight, those of His people who have dementia are precious and a part of the body of believers who still need the continuing ministry of other believers. Of course, I knew this before but hearing it articulated clearly was so helpful and a reminder to look out for brothers and sisters with dementia.
The session about carers had some of the rather scary statistics about how caring influences health of caregivers adversely including an apparent increased incidence of dementia in those care givers as well.
There were some practical suggestions to help which included having others pray, Scripture verses pinned up, having a "crisis" friend, learning to look after oneself , having an eternal perspective and interrogating oneself with Scripture.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him.
Like most conferences, I have attended, one of the most helpful parts is talking to others: those on the end of a new diagnosis or involved in the nitty-gritty of caring or who advocate for older people and want to be able to show practical Christian love even if that means making sure that the church doormat looks like a doormat and not a hole to an older person.
Plenty to mull over and a great to come home with new ideas and insights. Practically, I know there are caregivers who would benefit from a day such as this who just can't get out. I'm very grateful that my husband and older daughter could help look after the young and old so I could have a day off but many people don't have this luxury. Just a thought, for anyone who knows a caregiver who finds it hard to get out!