The national Day of Prayer for Dementia on 19 March is an opportunity for everyone to join in prayer for those who live among us with dementia.
Recent statistics indicate that there are 820,000 people in the UK with dementia. Of these, it is estimated that 1 in 1,400 cases are aged 40-46, rising to 1 in 100 aged 65-69 and 1 in 25 aged 70-79 years.
“I am very pleased to commend the Day of Prayer for Dementia on 19th March. It is a way of highlighting the daily struggle that many people experience just to keep going on life’s path and it is a good opportunity for us to ask Our Lord to strengthen them on their pilgrimage of faith. It is also a way of encouraging each of us to be a support and understanding friend to those who experience dementia and those who take care of them.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley
The Day is the initiative of the Pastoral Care Project charity. Charity Manager, Frances Molloy said “We are so thankful for Archbishop Longley’s support and are also delighted to have the support of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales Mental Health Project 2010-2012 Day for Life Funds to enable the Project to produce resources to raise awareness with schools.” Schools can download resources from their RE Department, the Pastoral Care Project or www.dayofprayerfordementia.org.uk. The specially designed Prayer Cards are available for parishes, organisations and individuals and can be ordered via the internet or by contacting the Pastoral Care Project on 01675 434035.
The Project will be giving assemblies in several schools and are also so encouraged by the number of care homes asking to take part and to do something special in the lead up to the Day on 19th March. The theme of ‘Wear Yellow’ has been well received and care homes tell us that in addition to using the Posters and Prayer Cards, they will be using yellow ribbons, balloons, and music to encourage friendship. Various ideas and resources can be downloaded from the website to enable people to pray together or alone at a time to suit. A live prayer is available on the website and on You Tube to reach a wider audience. It is such a privilege for everyone associated with the Project to be with the person who is vulnerable. “In their forgetfulness of time or place there is the moment during prayer or sacramental liturgy when they have a deep sense of knowing that the Lord is present – they are receptive to the Holy Spirit and share this love with us.”
The Pastoral Care Project’s pioneering work began in 1994 from accompanying people with dementia on their spiritual journey. Seeing how, through familiar prayer, the sacraments and mass; helping them connect with the Lord was so wonderful to them – to live in the present moment, whether in care settings or in the community.
The Pastoral Care Project now offers days of prayer, training and resources, and has worked with many care homes, parishes and deaneries who wished to set up their own pastoral care initiatives.
It is hoped that the Prayer Cards will be a way of connecting with neighbours and carers whose lives are often put on hold with their very demanding role of caring, many of whom are elderly themselves.
This was a concern raised by the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, at the Mass for the Sick at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 19 February 2011, where he said: “It seems to me that, even in economic terms, the support offered to families who work hard to care for their beloved parents in times of great need, are the last things which should be cut. Indeed it makes more sense to help families to care for their elderly wherever possible. The spiritual care of the sick is vitally important, not only to those who are patients but also to those who care for them and tend to their needs. Indeed, as Pope Benedict reminded us: ‘ as the normal span of our lives increases, our physical capacities are often diminished; and yet these times may well be among the most spiritually fruitful years of our lives.’ Simply put, the sick and the elderly have a great deal to teach us.”