Dementia and Religion

Last weekend I went to a conference, about dementia and religion, and was pleasantly surprised at all of the work that had been done to help and support those with this illness.

This was run and organised by a Christian group called, the Christian Council on Aging, CCOA, and I found that there were a lot of people there who were genuinely interested in changing the way the churches think, especially where illness and age is concerned.

In the past I have had major problems trying to remember things, and got very close to giving up my religion, as I felt that the church was not even bothering to keep people with this illness on board.

I had major problems sleeping at one stage due to very vivid nightmares and dreams, and found that I only went into a deep sleep around 6-7am in the morning, so I would not get out of bed till around 8am.

When this illness started I lost the ability to say the Lord’s Prayer and found it distressing, but after being given the medication I started to learn it again, only to find that when I went to a church service the words were different, and that was because they were using one or other of the modern variations.

At this time I also had problems singing hymns and psalms as I took time to remember the tune, but could not tie the tunes to the words. So imagine how I felt when they started singing the Lord’s Prayer, instead of saying it as I had done for years.

Our church kept changing its forms of service and prayers so much that I lost interest and did not want to go. I also found that people would sit and talk all of the way through the service which made it very hard to concentrate, something that would not have been tolerated in the past, as everyone was told to be quiet and respect everyone else.

I do feel that many religions including our Church which is the "Church of England” are trying hard to attract youngsters into the church without much success as they are not really interested, yet the people who were the mainstay, in as much as they went regularly and paid more than their fair share of the church income were being side-lined and in many cases forgotten, and they are the elderly.

I have even heard of priests who were not very interested in taking services in care homes, because they thought it was a complete waste of their time and money.

They say that those in the homes, don't sing or say their prayers so why bother?. So when these priests go to care homes, they find that those with memory problems do not know the words and loose interest? so just whose fault is this.

I did think this was because they had forgotten one major factor, and that is people as they get older and those with early onset dementia, remember the services they were taught either in church chapel or at school, but the modern church has changed everything to suite the younger people, including most forms of the service and for some extra ordinary reason they have many variations of things like the Lord’s Prayer.

In desperation I sat down, and after many days I had written a letter to a Bishop explaining the problems associated with neurological illness and changes to church services, included also was my problem of sleep patterns.

I did this because I was misguided enough to believe that a Bishop would be sympathetic and understanding, but what I shock I got when I got his response.

He more or less told me to get up on a Sunday morning, and go to 8am Communion where they used the King James Version of the prayer book, and I would not have any problems.

This confirms my fears that all of these Bishops were academics who did not live in the real world, and in some respects did not really care about Joe Public and his problems.

But then many of these people have never had to do a day job as we do, they simply went to university, and then into the church, with the view that we are their servants and they were there to change as much as possible while they had the chance, and make life as hard as possible for those who are ill.

When we look back to our school days, we had assemblies every day, and many had respect for all around them including the teachers, who we looked up to, but now the teachers don’t like assemblies or religious lessons, so is it any wonder that children are in many cases no longer interested in religion.

It’s a pity that these priests don’t take notice of what is happening around them these days, then the churches would be full as they were years ago.



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