Matthew Dineen’s wife Lisa was diagnosed with dementia in 2013 at the age of 43. Photo courtesy Matthew Dineen

Making churches dementia-friendly

  • January 19, 2020

OTTAWA -- An Ottawa man is on a mission to make Canadian places of worship more welcoming to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who suffer from dementia.

With January being Alzheimer Awareness Month in Canada, a Mass at a Catholic Church in Ottawa on Jan. 26 is part of an effort by Matthew Dineen to help Canadian places of worship do more to reach out to those with dementia. He wants to make sure that they know they are welcome to continue being a vital part of their church community.

of Dementia Advocacy Canada says that places of worship and Canadian society as a whole need to do more to meet the needs of Canadians who suffer from dementia so that they are not isolated from the rest of society.

Dineen said that with dementia the body may be failing, but a person’s soul, their spiritual side, still needs and can benefit from staying connected to their places of worship.

“People with dementia are still capable of responding to God,” he said.

Dineen’s advocacy comes from personal experience. His wife Lisa was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia at the age of 43 in 2013 and was subsequently placed in long-term care.

Since then he has committed himself to pushing for societal changes to make life easier for Canadians who suffer from dementia and has been working on a set of guidelines on how places of worship can be part of those changes.

“I have been busy preparing guidelines as part of my Dementia Advocacy Canada work on how to make places of worship in Canada more dementia-friendly and inclusive. I have been speaking with key experts from across the world to learn more on this subject,” he said, adding that Canada can learn a lot from what is happening in other parts of world, specifically in the United Kingdom and Scotland.

“There they have made a societal effort to address the needs of people with dementia, they set lofty goals and that has been embraced in their culture,” he said in an interview with Canadian Catholic News.

One of the people that Dineen has been consulting on how Canadian places of worship can be more dementia-friendly is Lynda Everman, founder of the ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s network.

Part of Everman’s ministry is making stoles and tallitot for clergy, one of which will be presented at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at the St. John the Apostle Church in the Archdiocese of Ottawa on Jan. 26 where the first international stole created by Everman will be blessed and Dineen will also speak.

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