14 March 2011

Feast of St Joseph, Day of Prayer for Dementia

In 2009 Pastoral Care Project, based in Coleshill, near Birmingham, England, initiated a Day of Prayer for Dementia to be observed on 19 March, the feast of St Joseph.

The mission of Pastoral Care Project is 'To raise awareness to the spiritual needs of the frail elderly – enabling carers to support them in their journey to the fullness of life.' It began more than twenty years ago when Mrs Frances Molloy, originally from Rathlin Island off the northern coast of Ireland, began to notice the needs of older persons, especially those with various forms of dementia, and of those taking care of them, whether family members or people working in nursing homes.

The word 'Alzheimer's' has become part of our vocabulary and is often used as a generic term, even though it is only one form of dementia. However, its use has helped make us more aware of the reality of the situation of person affected by dementia. Very often it is not those with dementia who suffer most but those around them, for example, a husband seeing his wife turning into a seemingly different person, often nor recognising him, or adult children 'losing' their mother. I remember once visiting a Christian Brother who had taught me in secondary school in Dublin and whom I revered for his saintliness, as did everyone else who knew him, and feeling so distressed when it was clear that his very active mind had failed and he didn't know who I was.

I became aware of this apostolate during my two years in Britain, 2000-2002, when Frances invited me to celebrate Mass in a nursing home in Birmingham. I then became involved to a limited degree on the fringes.

Here is part of a press release from Pastoral Care Project. I have highlighted some of it and added [comments].

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. [Quite possibly there is a similar number of Filipinos with dementia. The population here is larger than in the UK but the latter has a higher percentage of people who live to a very old age.]

'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 [not only those with dementia but especailly family members taking care of them] 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 (of Birmingham).

Do this in Memory of Me

Loving Father in Heaven,
You sent your Son, Jesus,
to change the world,
to bring peace to people of good will.

As he gave himself to us,
He said ‘Do this in memory of me’.
So, when we gather in his name,
we remember Jesus and his words,
and he becomes real for us.

Father, we pray for those who need to be reminded
for as they grow frail their memory may fail them,
and who may struggle to find the right words,
but whose life is made up of many stories.

When the memory fades,
we know that it is not today that is remembered,
but days of long ago.

When we hear your words
‘Do this in memory of me’
we are reminded that nothing can
separate us form you love.

So let us cherish today, heavenly Father
and all the memories we are making,
memories that are written in the book of life,
stored forever in grateful hearts.

Life is a gift from you.
Memory is your gift, too.
Let us accept your gifts with joy,
and always remember
that you are the beginning and end
of our story.

We make every prayer to you, Author of all that is good
in the name of Jesus, our companion on the journey,
and with the Holy Spirit, our inspiration and our life.


There is a suggestion of praying and sharing a meal together with persons with dementia. I know that here in the Philippines birthdays are always marked. Maybe the feast of St Joseph could be marked too by something special within a family that has a member with dementia. Music can bring people alvie, especially if has some significance for the person, for example, 'their song' and music from their young days. Sometimes this can have a negative affect. Dame Vera Lynn, now in her 90s. was one of the most popular English singers during World War II and her recordings are still being bought. However, I read about one old woman in a nusring home who asked when one of Vera's songs was played, 'Is the War not over yet?' For an outsider this may sound funny but for this person it was bringing back the suffering of those years when British cities were destroyed by bombs and many families lost members who fought in the war.

Pray and Share a Meal Together

“The peace and joy of sharing with others has been a real time of healing.” s

We invite you to make use of our Prayer Card at any meal time.
This may be an opportunity to think about and share the different ways
dementia affects the person and their family.

For example, the person with dementia may have reduced Sense of
Taste, so it is important to consider this.

The visual Sense can be affected whereby the food may look dull and
unappetising; so it is important to consider interesting colours

The Sense of touch and the texture. Therefore it is important that
food is presented in easily manageable portions. As dementia progresses
the person may need assistance as they may forget how to eat or that
they have eaten at all.

Consider the needs of the full time Carer, they may neglect their own
mealtime and so it is important to consider their wellbeing.

The Pastoral Care Project resources - Quiet Days for Carers would enable
any church, community group to offer such Days.

As one carer said, “The peace and joy of sharing with others has been a real time of healing. I return home with new hope and confidence.”

From your prayer/meal you may wish to make an offering to the work of the Pastoral Care Project. You too will be raising awareness!

Additional Prayer Cards are available at a cost of 5p each +p&p from
Pastoral Care Project, St Gerard’s, Coventry Road, Coleshill B46 3ED
Email pastoralcareproject@gmail.com Tel 01675 434035

Copyright Pastoral Care Project and Day of Prayer for Dementia all rights reserved.
The online resources for the Day of Prayer for Dementia include, with notes for presenters, a PowerPoint presentation for primary schools and one for secondary schools.
The website of the Dementia Society of the Philippines is here. 'This website was created in order to reach out to all physicians, allied specialists and laypeople who have a special interest in dementia. All our activities and conferences can be accessed through this website. The DSP hopes for you to be our partner in our endeavors and in caring for individuals with dementia and in helping their caregivers.'

1 comment:

assistant potter said...

thank you for your post. it is a good idea to adopt march 19, the feast of st. joseph, as a day for prayer for all those who are undergoing dementia as well as for their family, friends all who love and care for them. st. joseph, whose kind and gentle heart was so disposed to looking after his holy family, will surely be pleased for this to take place on his special day.