BY SCO Admin | October 7 2016 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Join us in helping those with dementia

Bishop John Keenan backs SCO and Alzheimer Scotland campaign to make our parishes more friendly to those with dementia

Scottish Catholics are being urged to back a new campaign by the SCO to make parishes more dementia friendly.

The SCO Dementia Campaign is being run in conjunction with Alzheimer Scotland throughout October and urges parishes to take a few simple steps to make parishioners with dementia feel safe and valued when they attend Mass.

Nearly 100,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed as suffering from dementia and Bishop John Keenan of Paisley said he ‘wholeheartedly endorsed the SCO campaign and hoped others would do the same.’

“We often talk of our parishes as ‘families,’ communities which care for and are concerned about all their members,” the bishop said. “This is never more important than when a member of the family is ill. Dementia is an illness which affects many people and brings many challenges. Few, if any of us, can fail to have encountered it or be aware of it.”

The bishop, who has responsibility for family life in the Scottish Bishops’ conference, said the ‘campaign by the Scottish Catholic Observer to raise awareness of dementia and encourage parishes to support and affirm those with the disease is very timely and worthy of our support.’


Parish efforts

Fr Allan Cameron, parish priest of St Gregory Barbarigo’s in Wyndford, Glasgow, which has received workshops on becoming more ‘Dementia Friendly’ from Alzheimer Scotland, said he would encourage other parishes to tackle the issue.

“We’ve seen the benefits of it,” he said. “There is still room to grow but we are moving in the right direction and I’d say to any other parish it’s really worth the investment of time and energy.”

Fr Campbell said it had become a focus for St Gregory’s shortly after he’d come to the parish in 2013.

“My mum had just died of Alzheimer’s, so I was personally very aware of it,” he said. “And a lot of solid parishioners had reached a stage where they maybe needed care, or they were caring for someone with dementia.”

He said the parish had done the workshops and raised money for Alzheimer Scotland through their annual fun run, but also took steps to change their perceptions.

“St Gregory’s was 50 last year,” he said. “And a lot of people who moved to the area and built the parish have aged. So maybe we had to recognise we weren’t a young parish any more, but a bit greyer and we needed to focus on caring for the elderly among us because ‘old age never comes alone,’ as they say.”

Michael Turnbull, a parishioner at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, whose wife has dementia, said the campaign served a vital purpose.

“Already at least one Scottish bishop has died with dementia, several members of the clergy and many laypeople,” he said. “Dementia is the elephant in the room. It is a great disservice to those afflicted with such diseases to ignore its real presence.

“Along with other denominations, the Catholic Church also has an opportunity to develop shared parish structures which can support the unpaid and unacknowledged family carers on whom the sufferers from degenerative diseases depend.”


Church’s vital role

Gabriella Mitas, faith outreach co-ordinator for Alzheimer Scotland, said the Church had a vital role to play in helping people with Dementia.

“It is likely there is someone in every congregation affected by dementia,” she said. “Because churches are welcoming places, where people support each other they can provide a community that makes a huge difference to people with dementia and carers.”

She urged parishes to sign up for Dementia Friendly workshops with Alzheimer Scotland. “They are short workshops, but they give people practical skills that can make parishes much more welcoming.”


If you would like to sign your parish up for a Dementia Friendly workshop visit the Alzheimer Scotland website: or call 0800 808 3000


For more info on making your parish Dementia Friendly, see pages 10-11



—This story ran in full in the October 7 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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