Is there any influence from faith on dementia and dementia care?
Dementia affects people of all backgrounds; of all faiths and of no faith. It is important to know that faith can have a very positive impact on caring for someone with dementia, but it can also be a stable constant for people who have always been spiritual or practicing of a faith. Faith allows people to seek comfort, solace and acceptance of change by acquiring strength from their faith.
It can also become a negative for others. perhaps people of faith may question their faith if they feel being tested with dementia or dementia care is unjust. Some may simply think about jinn and spirit or demonic possession, that is for you to decide how valid it is, but it should not stop you speaking to a health professional such as a GP to for assessments, a diagnosis and social support.
Never the less, BAME communities tend to be more practicing and as such faith and the faith institutions can play a greater role in supporting the person living with dementia and their carer(s). The Qu’ran makes mention of ‘…forgetting after having known much…” Examples such as this can help BAME faith communities to challenge community and family-based stigma and challenge if they can draw links between dementia, test by God and that faith already recognises dementia as something to ‘deal’ with.
Faith based festivals and occasions are often very important for people with dementia but are BAME faith institutions ready to take on this challenge?
How can you help yourself?
Maintain Normal Routine
Maintain a normal routine as much as you can if you are now living with dementia. This might mean keeping up with regular prayers, taking part in religious occasions, etc. Things may not always seem clear or understood, but remember there is no compulsion in having to maintain these if you find them difficult. But ask for help if you feel you need it.
Access to the Faith Community
Access the faith community to maintain connections with faith as much as you are willing and able to do so. This will help continue with normal day to day routines but may also help keep you connected with the wider community. You can become an advocate for people with dementia to support their carers as well as to encourage places of worship to explore dementia friendly approaches to being inclusive rather than ostracise folk if they seem disruptive due to their dementia.
Access to Faith Institutions
Faith organisations can make a huge difference to BAME people living with dementia. You can help normalise the conversations and support for dementia by encouraging faith institutions to talk about it in sermons and by being involved in activities in and around the faith institution.
Using faith as coping tool
Dementia is a condition that affects people in all communities, of all faiths and of none. How we cope with dementia and dementia care can be influenced by our faith. some people use faith to see reward by being patient, accepting and feeling that it is a test from God that they need to pass. Other people can question their faith asking ‘Why am I being tested?’.
There is no right or wrong way of approaching dementia and faith, except what works for you as someone living with dementia or as a carer of a relative living with dementia. Check with local faith leaders if there is faith counselling, prayer or space in your faith organisation for thinking, mediation or being able to have a chat with someone.