Forfar church provide support through song

Helping out  at the music caf� were (from left) Bruce Simpson, pianist Margaret Anderson, Rhona Cathcart and Alzheimers Scotland dementia advisor Lindsay Shaw.

Helping out at the music caf� were (from left) Bruce Simpson, pianist Margaret Anderson, Rhona Cathcart and Alzheimers Scotland dementia advisor Lindsay Shaw.

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Forfar East and Old Church has been using music to help support people with dementia and their families.

The music cafe at the church launched six years ago, and now trainee healthcare workers are visiting the cafe to see first-hand why the church has gained a reputation for best practice in dementia support.

Volunteers host the cafe every Monday with around 40-50 people attending.

Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin said: “It gives people with dementia a very caring environment where they can feel safe. They come with their carers and there is singing, talking and a safe place to share those old memories that they all have. It is really good to see people come alive and enjoy themselves in good company. It’s a good support for carers and I think every one of us comes away feeling happy and uplifted.”

Mrs Sweetin had heard of ‘Singing for the Brain’ and wondered if the church could do something like that. She consulted with church elder Pat Brodlie, a dementia expert who works for Alzheimers Scotland, and they created a partnership that, she says, has been “crucial to getting it right”.

Mrs Brodlie gave the minister and church volunteers a two-week training, that taught them the dos and don’ts of dementia support.

Mrs Sweetin says: “We learned how to communicate better. We don’t raise our voices or move too abruptly and we are careful to respect people’s personal space.”

Volunteers have gone on to add a dance session every second week - the Friday Fling. The music café is open to everyone. People come from across Angus, and include several carers whose partners have now died from their illness. While the church is closed for renovations at the moment, the cafe still meets at Forfar OAP Hall at 2pm.

The focus on dementia support has led to all kinds of other changes for the church, Mrs Sweetin says, from installing plasma screens with blue words on a yellow background, to removing barriers and using pictures as signposts instead of words.

The Church of Scotland has been at the forefront of supporting people with dementia and their carers. Forfar East and Old is just one of many churches that have partnered with Alzheimers Scotland to run supportive services such as cafes and singing groups.

See this week’s Dispatch for more.