"A magical occasion" was one description of the 6th Annual Dementia Awareness Day at Cardinal Heenan House in Roby Mill, Upholland on 12 March.
That was the verdict of Father Stephen Beale, chaplain to the community at the care home which offers specialist dementia care. Father Stephen was part of an impressive cast list of speakers who contributed to an event attended by Bishop Tom Williams, Methodist minister Rev Daniel French and Councillor Nikki Hennessy, the Mayor of West Lancashire.
It was Father Stephen who began the day with a presentation titled 'HeARTs and Minds', a pastoral care initiative currently in gestation which invites young people, through the arts, to train as volunteers to visit people with dementia in their homes or care homes.
Local musical duo Alan Hart and Ian Unsworth then showed the importance of music for people with dementia, who are still able to remember songs and hymns; and next came a presentation delivered by Sister Rachel Duffy, explaining her involvement with 'The Reader', a Liverpool-based project which highlights the importance of reading – poetry, in particular – to those living with dementia.
Children from St Marie's parish in Standish participated with the readings and then had the opportunity to meet some of the Cardinal Heenan House residents. They saw how some residents have 'dementia dolls' which call to mind children they may once have cared for.
The afternoon session included talks from Father Stephen, who discussed the spiritual aspects of dementia, and Libby Wilson, a founder member of OWLS (Older, Wiser and Longer), who spoke about her group's community efforts and her own experience of living with her husband Ted, who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Bishop Tom also offered a reflection on his parents' dementia and then it was the turn of Anne Marie Sandelands – a physiotherapist working with people living with dementia as well as representative of Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer's Society initiative – who expounded on the five main points defining dementia. The day's final speaker was Joanne Tocker, a team leader from the Cardinal Heenan House staff who promotes the dementia resource Dignity, emphasising the need to approach all people living with dementia as respected members of the community.