Stirling Presbytery dementia project hosts Sally Magnusson talk in Dunblane

Broadcaster Sally Magnusson has inspired local church members in the Presbytery of Stirling with a moving talk at Dunblane Cathedral. Ms Magnusson, who founded the charity Playlist for Life, spoke about her own experience of caring for a mother living with dementia.

Sally Magnusson awarding certificates to members of local dementia groups
Broadcaster Sally Magnusson spoke about her experience of caring for her mother and awarded certificates to members of local dementia groups

The event, held on 1 Nov and attended by more than 300 people, raised over £1000 from donations, and another £200 from sales from Ms Magnusson's book 'Where Memories Go'.

She also presented certificates on behalf of the Presbytery of Stirling to different groups who have worked locally to improve dementia awareness, including Dementia Friendly Sauchie, Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

One of the reasons why it was chosen as a venue was the efforts the cathedral has made to become more welcoming for people with dementia.

A poignant event

Speaking afterwards, the minister of Dunblane Cathedral Rev Colin Renwick said:

"It was a good event - edifying, moving, poignant, and reminding the many people present who know the effects of dementia that they are by no means alone.

"It was a challenging event too, reminding congregations that improved awareness and even modest changes to how they do things and to the physical environment of their premises, can make a huge difference for people living with dementia and for those who care for them."

As the first Presbytery to appoint a designated dementia coordinator, they are offering support for their 46 churches on how their church buildings, people and activities can be more dementia friendly.

Bonnie McDowell, who has been in the role since June and has a background in nursing, explained why these three areas are important.

"By people being informed about dementia and its effects they can be better at understanding the needs of people who have it and their capabilities", she said.

"Within the environment there are many things which can cause stress and distress, such as signs which can be confusing.

"The aim is to minimise these challenges - it can become a reason people stop going out.

"There's an audit for churches so they can think about what they can change to make things easier and better.

"For activities it's about doing things with people not too them and working with old memories.

"Really it's about getting to know people better."

"One of the underpinning themes of the project is working in ways so everyone knows that they're unique, precious and valued and always will be."

Fostering partnerships

A major part of her role is providing free information sessions about the importance and value of dementia friendly communities as well as fostering partnerships with other organisations such as Playlist for Life.

Presbytery Clerk Alan Miller said:

"Stirling Presbytery are delighted to have been able to appoint Bonnie McDowell to work with our congregations in the area of Dementia awareness.

"Bonnie has been able to engage with many of our communities on behalf of the Church of Scotland, helping people to understand the challenges faced by those living with dementia and how, as congregations and individual church members, we can best offer appropriate support and pastoral care."