The Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging of United Church Homes is offering its annual Wisdom Conversations series on Ministry and Dementia, Feb. 2, 9, and 16, 2021, from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. each day. The three webinars will be presented by the Rev. John and Dr. Susan McFadden, authors of Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities.

“The series is for clergy and lay leaders who are aware of members of their communities who are living with the diagnosis of dementia,” says the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, director of the Parker Center. The series will provide accurate, up-to-date information about dementia; a theological framework for compassionate care for those with memory concerns; and an exploration of ministry possibilities that promote meaning and joy for those living with a progressive condition.

The registration fee for the three-part webinar is only $15. Each session will include presentations and discussion, in addition to small group conversations inviting participants to share from their own experiences. Each session will focus on one area:

Feb. 2 — What information is more important for clergy and lay leaders? This session will include a discussion of biomedical terminology used to describe the different types of dementia and the limits of such terminology; the stigma associated with dementia; and how discussing dementia from a theological perspective affects our attitudes about dementia and people experiencing it.

Feb. 8: What is “normal aging” and what is not. This session focuses on compassionate responses to people with subjective memory concerns, including how to have conversations when we note changes that aren’t acknowledged by our friend, family member, or church member;  theological guidance for such discussions, as well as when to consult a physician. It will include personal and profession insights from the Rev. Scott and the Rev. Karen Grisswold, pastors of South Vienna (Ohio) UCC.

Feb. 16: Ministry and Dementia – New Opportunities for Meaning and Joy. This session will include theological reflections on responses to a progressive condition; how spiritual care changes as dementia progresses; what worship accommodations may be needed; how people living with dementia can still serve; and a discussion on end-of-life care.

The seminar is crucial in helping pastors and their congregations find ways to minister to members with progressive memory issues, Long-Higgins says. “I know from my 25 years in pastoral ministry that I found it difficult to know how to provide pastoral care for individual who have a difficult time remembering,” she says.

Additionally, Long-Higgins adds, “the gradual stresses on the family and loved ones who assume increasing responsibility for the care and safety of the person living with cognitive decline can become unbearable. What are the ways that congregations can support the care givers? This webinar series helps answer that question.”

Register for the webinar.