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Exeter Diocese

The Diocese of Exeter is the Church of England in Devon, a network of over 100 mission communities and nearly 500 parishes in cities, towns and rural communities across Devon.

6 August 2015
South West
Faith Groups, Hospitals and Hospital Trusts, Schools, Voluntary Sector
Local Alliances:
Exeter Dementia Action Alliance (EDAA)

1. Action Plan

1. The National Dementia Declaration lists seven outcomes that the DAA are seeking to achieve for people with dementia and their carers. How would you describe your organisation’s role in delivering better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers?

The Rt Revd Nick Mckinnel, Bishop of Crediton says: ‘For those in the strange land of dementia, we can offer the comfort of human presence and rejoice in the truth that there is nowhere we can go from God’s presence, that even if we take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there his hand will lead us and his right hand hold us.’ A. In fellowship with other Christians we believe nothing can separate us from the love of God, including dementia, and so we are committed to the spiritual welfare of those living with dementia in Devon and will continue to love, respect, care and support them as people known to God. As a network of local parishes through awareness sessions, regular briefings and updates on our website, and workshops, we are learning to:

1. say hello to everyone including people with dementia, and be patient with communication, ready to listen to what people with dementia want to say, to give them time and to reply in simple straightforward sentences;

2. encourage each other to not be embarrassed but accommodating to unusual behaviours;

3. provide a safe and familiar environment for people with dementia to share in the life of faith

4. include familiar hymns, prayers and worship symbols when people with dementia are among us;

5. cherish the gifts God has placed in each of us including those living with dementia;

6. be positive about what someone can still offer and achieve rather than focus on any skills they may lose;

7. adapt everyday activities and services to enable people to remain active and involved in their parish and community;

8. value people living with dementia and involve them in the life of the local church for as long as possible;

9. continue to offer them the Eucharist (Holy Communion) irrespective of their ability to think or remember:

10. and support carers and their social and spiritual well-being.

B. We are raising awareness in our parishes and their local communities that despite the challenges with the right support it is possible for people to live well with dementia and we are already actively taking part in dementia alliances working towards their town or village becoming a Dementia Friendly Community. Towns in Devon which have already achieved this are Crediton, Exeter, Dartmouth, Plymouth, Tavistock, Torquay and Yealmpton.

C. We are gladly working together with Christians of other traditions and other associated organisations including Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia, Devon Senior Voice, Age UK, Dementia Friends and the Alzheimer’s Society, sharing skills and experiences.

2. What are the challenges to delivering these outcomes from the perspective of your organisation?

A major challenge for our work in supporting people with dementia is our geography. As the third largest county in England, the county is also the seventh most sparsely populated, with few large settlements and a dispersed rural population, covering two national parks. Rural isolation and deprivation means that people can find it difficult to access the services they need. Poor income, high transport costs, fewer work opportunities makes ordinary life a challenge for many in our communities but this is rarely understood outside the county. The Alzheimer's Research Trust says the South West has among the highest rates of dementia in England, according to new figures. The Trust says Torbay has the highest prevalence of dementia at 2.0%, with Devon fifth at 1.67%. Devon’s health authorities expect an increase in the number of people in Devon with dementia from around 12,000 people now to around 17,000 by 2021. Current diagnosis rate is 39% of estimated prevalence which means that there are likely to be many people who are not receiving appropriate treatment and support. So potentially we have a high number of people living with dementia across a broad area where public transport is sparse, petrol prices rising and the population is ageing. Among our churches, there are many small rural congregations who lack the support of a local priest or minister and who themselves feel isolated. The challenge will be to motivate and support this work through visits and local training as well as information from 'the centre' Exeter.

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2. Actions