Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Last month, a small, 86 year old woman preached the Gospel to over a million people in Lahore. Marilyn Hickey made such an impact that it came to the notice of even the main stream media. American CBS TV sent a reporter to Pakistan and has aired a newscast – see at the link below – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbsn-on-assignment-evangelist-marilyn-hickey-mission-muslim-world/)
Marilyn says she has no intention of slowing down. ‘She is widely considered as the “Mom of Pakistan,’ reported a Christian magazine, ‘and has been granted incredible favour within the Muslim community. Many Imams consider her one of their closest confidents. She says that terrorists think she’s a stupid old woman, so they largely leave her alone and let her peach the gospel. She’s praying for more opportunities to meet with Imams in other Muslim-dominated countries.’ Read it at the link below –
Marilyn felt called to reach Muslim countries in 1995, particularly Pakistan. Five years ago, at the age of 81, 2330,00 people came to here her preach.
‘This is how I take retirement,’ she said, ‘Retirement is doing what you like. So this is what I like. I like to do this. It doesn’t make you idle. It makes you supernatural.”
It seems to be an example of God’s special purpose for Marilyn at this precise age. A younger woman in Pakistan probably wouldn’t be allowed to take such a prominent, public role. It certainly suits her – better than Saga holidays any time!
It’s such a sad question. ‘How can I communicate with my father, who doesn’t know who I am any more and just sits there, in his own world?’ asked a daughter, whose father had dementia. She wondered if it was worth going to visit him in the care home any more.
There are practical and spiritual responses to this question. A practical response involves knowing the person well enough to know what was dear to him before he became ill and what his hobbies were. For example, David had loved his dogs and going fishing, so a good idea would be to take in photographs of his dog, or perhaps a little model of a similar type dog, or a magazine about dogs, and sit alongside him showing them to him, talking in a relaxed manner about them. It’s a kind of relaxed burbling, with pauses so he can respond. It’s a bit like fishing from a bridge – throwing out a hook and seeing if it catches. It’s described in our booklet, Visting Someone With Dementia, available from our website.
Also, as Christians we are we are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is the most powerful communicator in the universe. Deep calls to deep, the Scripture says (Psalm 42:7). ‘Only a call from the depths can provoke a response from the depths, ’Watchman Nee wrote,‘ nothing shallow cannot ever touch the depths, nor can anything superficial touch the inward parts Only the deep will respond to the deep. Anything that does not issue from the depths cannot touch the depths.’[i]
So when we visit people with dementia who have lost the ability to communicate, who have withdrawn into their own inner world, we have the power of ‘simply being’ alongside, knowing that we are carrying the Holy Spirit within us. We can sing a spiritual song or an old hymn; we can read the Scriptures, and we can pray. When we do this we are connecting at an eternal level. We often see ‘silent’ residents in our care homes join in a verse, face alight in worship. In one of our care homes, Lilly, a resident with dementia wouldn’t settle down for the night, so the manager called her friend Betty, another resident, to come and pray with her. Betty was astonished when Lilly prayed for an issue that Betty had kept secret, that absolutely no-one knew about.
Whether or not the person responds, whether or not he knows who you are, if you go with love you will give comfort, even though you may not see it. Christine Bryden, who was diagnosed with dementia over 22 years ago gave a talk at an international conference where she said:
‘‘As I lose an identity in the world around me, which is so anxious to define me by what I do and say, rather than who I am,
I can seek an identity by simply being me, a person created in the image of God.
My spiritual self is reflected in the divine and given meaning as a transcendent being …
As I travel toward the dissolution of myself, my personality, my very ‘essence’,
my relationship with God needs increasing support from you,
my other in the body of Christ.
Don’t abandon me at any stage, for the Holy Spirit connects us. …
I need you to minister to me, to sing with me,
pray with me, to be my memory for me …
You play a vital role in relating to the soul within me,
connecting at this eternal level.
Sing alongside me, touch me, pray with me, and reassure me of your presence,
and through you, of Christ’s presence.
I need you to be the Christ-light for me,
to affirm my identity and walk alongside me’.
Every year it’s the same: New Wine, in Shepton Mallet is a little touch of Heaven. The crowds, the companionship, the Christian fellowship and comraderie … it’s so refreshing and re-energising. That’s why it works so well. When they pack their tents and load their cars at the end of their stay, everyone feels fitter for the rest of their pilgrimage.
Again this year we have an information stand in the Market Place. Actually, it would be good if we could have a simple sitting area with comfortable chairs and cups of tea and little tea cakes. Dads and Mums, Granddads and Grandmas, daughters and sons come to us for information on every aspect of old age you can think of – which is very sensible when you think we have 210 years of experience to draw from! We’re the only Christian charity offering practical and spiritual help for older people. It’s good to chat, but we also have to display our books and other publications, so we have the traditional stand. This year there’s also news of a new book coming out in September – called What’s Age Got To Do With It?
Here’s a picture of Janet Jacob, taken on the first day. Many of you will know Janet already: she’s one of our most appreciated speakers and trainers. Taking the photograph is Peter. Next week it will be me – Louise, and Fran Waddams. (You may remember us from last year!)
Do call and say hello!
No cure for dementia, so let’s work to prevent it.
It was ‘plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose’ at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. Or as Solomon observed, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ There’s no cure for dementia and the causes are still largely unknown, so the move now is towards finding ways of preventing it. A big metastudy by experts on ageing based at University College London, came up with a plan that would help to do exactly that. You can read it here – (risk factors).
For the first time researchers identified mid-life hearing loss as one of the worst because it places a ‘significant compensatory burden’ on the brain and can cause it to shrink, but also because it raises the risk of social isolation, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression. Negative emotions like these are usually only glancingly noted, but here they’re included on the ‘risk list’. Feelings of loneliness double the chances of developing dementia, and depression slows blood flow to the brain. Chronic stress is also a known danger, prompting an inflammatory response.
The conference coincided with the publication by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health earlier this week showing that traumatic life events increase risk. Twenty-seven examples were listed, ranging from having to repeat a year of school, to the death of a parent or a sibling, or having an unfaithful spouse or partner. The effect is cumulative, with more events accelerating an ageing process and the risk of dementia. It’s good that more attention is being paid to the effects of damaging emotions. I’ve often referred to the late Professor Tom Kitwood, the clinical psychologist who’s seminal work, Dementia Reconsidered, changed the whole paradigm of dementia. He suggested that the progression of dementia was due to a ‘malign social pathology’, in other words, the body of sin in the world. He didn’t use the word ‘sin’, but described the evil of unkindness in our society. He said that every interaction was a ‘neuronal event’.
The good news is that the rate of new cases of dementia, the incidence, has dropped by 20% in the last two decades. However, there will still be an increase amongst the 80-year-olds and up because this is when the likelihood of dementia is higher. And, thinking of the Wisconsin study, could it be that this older generation has been affected by the trauma of World War II with those years of fear and the loss of so many loved ones? When coping meant keeping a stiff upper lip?
Perhaps Christians should add another preventative to their plan. ‘Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences,’ says Proverbs 4:23 (CJB). I wonder – how do you guard yours?
You’ll find more information about research and practical ways of ‘guarding your heart’ in the books, ‘Could it be Dementia? Losing your mind doesn’t mean losing your soul,’ and ‘Dementia: Pathways to Hope’. They’re both available on Amazon, etc., and through our website.
A report by the Institute of Health Equity at University College London showed that although we can expect to live longer, the line on the graph isn’t rising as fast as it used to. Before 2010, average life expectancy at birth in the UK for women was increasing by one year every five years. Now it is one year every ten years. For men it was increasing at a faster pace of an extra one year every three and a half years. Now it is one year for every six years. The report was initiated by Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute, and his comments came as no surprise.
Death rates have been rising amongst people aged 80 year and older since 2010. Last year showed the biggest spike for almost fifty years – a 5% increase in mortality rates in just one year, and the highest since World War Two. Most were among elderly women.
I wonder if , in our fragmenting society, we’re seeing an increase of death-by-loneliness?
Sir Michael Marmot implied that there was a link between “miserly” levels of spending on health and social care in recent years, at a time of rising health need linked to the ageing population. He said it had affected the amount and quality of care older people receive. Councils have closed Day Centres, and the meals on wheels services that brought human contact into solitary lives have been abandoned.
Age UK estimates that for over 4 million people, television is their only companion. Feelings of loneliness increase the risk of dementia and can lead to an early death.
The best antitode to feelings of loneliness is a sense of belonging, of being part of someone’s ‘bundle of the living’, as Samuel puts it (1 Samuel 25:29). God designed people to be alongside one another; to care for one another. Most reading this blog will be part of a family, a circle of friends, and probably, to a church. It’s good to hear about churches reaching out to the lonely around them.
In the current issue of the Pilgrims’ Magazine there’s news of a ‘Neighbourhood Chaplain’ programme, that has been tried and tested in Bedfordshire. It offers training and support in reaching out to local communities.
It’s a terrible indictment that in one of the most advanced and richest countries in the world, old people can die of loneliness.
I just had to post this photograph. It’s of Beth, the manager of our care home in Framland. I know she’s wonderful because someone who’s helped a frail elderly friend to become a resident there recently emailed me to tell me so. Him, and dozens of others, I should add. It also happens to be one of the best photographs taken of Beth! But as well as being a good picture, it shows the happiness of the resident standing next to her.
There are no lonely people in our care homes. We try hard to make sure there are no lonely relatives, either, because we try to make them feel at home too, and come and spend as much time as they can with their loved one in the home. Staff don’t wear uniforms, to keep the atmosphere as homely as possible.
So this is what not being lonely looks like.
They crossed 5 counties cycling 357 miles in four days, spending most of the daylight hours in the saddle and finishing the last lap at our Brighton home in Sussex late on Wednesday. They were met with delighted smiles and cups of tea and cake.
The challenges this time were not as severe as their previous marathon in the North. They had only a few punctures; no major mechanical failure, only one day of bad weather (the rain on Tuesday), and weren’t chased by angry dogs! The only dogs they remember seeing were the half dozen who were taking refuge from the heat in the cool of the village pond they cycled past on the hottest day. God answers prayer!
‘A particular blessing was the warm welcome we received from residents and supporters at the homes,’ said Stephen, ‘They were so pleased to see us! And it was a delight to take a ‘greeting’, in the form of the first line from a well known hymn, from one home to the other.’ Milward House in Tunbridge Wells welcomed them with a huge banner.
And finally – all the way home! The heroes are surrounded by friends and family in the snap below.
LONELY NO LONGER
When we think of loneliness, especially amongst older people, we think about those who can’t get out because of immobility, or lack of transport. But sometimes it’s because people are held back by negative thinking or a lack of social skills. Persistent loneliness can produce much negative thinking, making us sensitive to rejection, or criticism, or to developing low self-esteem. The reason loneliness is deadly (some research has shown it can lead to early death and increase the risk of dementia) is because it is the exact opposite to what God intended for humanity. God designed human beings to develop in relationship with one another, in families and in communities. There are studies of places where healthy old age is commonplace, not because of diet or exercise, but simply because of living in community.
Churches are communities in miniature, and are well equipped to tackle loneliness, both in their district and in the fellowship. A survey we did of churches in some Welsh valleys showed that top of their list for the seminars and workshops my colleagues and I take was ‘Tackling Loneliness’. (Second came dementia.) We look at tackling loneliness from several practical and spiritual angles, speaking from our rich experience of older people. We also describe ways of empowering and enabling older people to help. We listen to people who are tackling loneliness in their churches with a whole gamut of tactics. In a couple of weeks time, when we’re at New Wine in Shepton Mallet we’ll be listening, learning and sharing, developing even more depth.
It’s an important part of our ministry – but it’s not without cost – and you can help! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundrai…/stephenandphiliphammersley1
A final thought – it’s known that spending time with a group of other people is the best way to tackle loneliness, and help rekindle social skills, and groups that meet for a purpose, not just a social event, are best. Our Brain & Soul Boosting for Seniors fits the bill so well it’s being taken up more and more churches, from others’ recommendation. We’ll have some discounted copies available at New Wine – if you plan to be there, do come and see us!
Day Two and a safe arrival at the Leonora Home in Chippenham, Wiltshire, after pedalling every inch of the 85 miles from Taunton! They were welcomed by happy residents; cups of tea (what else!) and lemon drizzle cake made by Bev.
On the way they cycled through the village that claims to be the home of Jack and Jill, which Stephen said was bad news for cyclists as the hill is very steep!!
Stephen reports that the ride from Taunton was uneventful, though there’s no explanation as to why Philip is stretched out on this little dirt lane. Apart from the fact that he’s holding a bottle of water.
Tomorrow they have 100 miles to cycle, first to Framland in Wantage and then to Shottermill House in Haslemere. And the weather forecast says ‘RAIN!’
Again, do pray for safe cycling through the rain and for God-speed.
Sunday at the Bethany home in Plymouth saw Stephen and Philip Hammersley set off on their sponsored cycling marathon to clapping and cheers from staff and residents. It didn’t promise to be an easy ride – anyone familiar with that part of the country knows about the hills! And nine hours later, arriving at their first stop, in Taunton they’d covered 85 miles, including hills which amounted to the equivalent of two Snowdons, according to Stephen. Apart from the hills, the ride went pretty smoothly.
They will be cycling 357 miles through five counties, visiting our homes, chatting with residents and staff, and taking a daily service in each one.
Stephen’s training for the marathon included cycling home at the end of the day from our offices at Tower Bridge Road, London, a three and a half hour trip. Much of the route was along a tow path where he was would be chased by Canada Geese and threatened by a couple of alsatian dogs living on a barje.
So far they haven’t been leapt at by dogs, although Philip did have a little contretemps with a hedge. Do pray for safety and for God-speed: and for donations that will help us boost our ‘Lonely No Longer’ campaign. Also, do pray with us for their safety and success! The Marathon is to raise funds for our campaign to help churches combat loneliness in the community. You can help too, by donating at this https://mydonate.bt.com/fundrai…/stephenandphiliphammersley1
Before leaving Bethany, Stephen took the morning service, showing a small bottle of water he was carrying and speaking about Jesus’ first miracle, when at a wedding in Cana (John 2: 1-12) He turned the water into wine and saved the host from the social disgrace of running out of wine. Before they left, he and Philip were given biscuits baked in the shape of a bicycle wheel. And resident Jenny blessed everyone with a heart-felt prayer for their venture.
Inspectors of Plymouth Council’s Quality Mark Assurance (QA) team told our Bethany Home that its Dementia Improvement Plan Review not only ‘passed with flying colours,’ but they’d like to use it as an example for others in the region. Manager Emma Hughes said that much of the credit for the success of the home’s dementia care is due to Care Team Leader, Jackie Lamey, who has a huge heart for people with dementia and an instinctive understanding of their needs. She is a real motivator and inspiration for the whole team.’ Jackie is pictured here with a happy resident.
Staff receive continual training which includes dementia care. It includes training in ‘emotional intelligence’, which helps staff recognise emotions that people with dementia are trying to express, and also those in other team members, so they can support each other.
The home only registered for dementia care in 2015. ‘It was partly because some residents developed dementia and we wanted to continue to care for them,’ said Emma. ‘And at the same time, we didn’t want to turn away new applicants who had dementia: we wanted them to be able to live here.’
In the Dementia Portfolio Emma noted: ‘Not only have staff grown in their understanding of the challenges with dementia care but some are now actively choosing to care for and even be the key workers for these residents. Something of an affectionate, professional respect for residents who exhibit challenges is growing amongst the care staff, who are better able to enter the resident’s world and see life from their perspective. An example of this is when a resident asked for cutlery for a visitor whom she believed was in the room with her. The carer provided the cutlery as asked.
‘On a practical note, new toilet and wet room facilities on the ground floor have proven to be beneficial with all residents including those who have dementia. Using contrasting decor has worked well for those who have sight problems and both rooms are very accessible to those who have mobility difficulties . Residents who use these rooms do not appear as confused or as muddled as was sometimes the case before.’
There is also a sensory patio garden and a herb garden, with attractive seating, that’s proving increasingly with residents.
She is one of our stars. Evangelia is taking over the manager's role at Dorothea Court, our housing complex in Bedford, as the current manager, Deryn, who's been there for some years now, is retiring in September. Deryn and Evangelia are working together to ensure a smooth transition. Behind our stars is a lot of prayer. Can you imagine being responsible, in a small or large way, for the wellbeing of dozens of older people? Do pray for Evangelia, for wisdom and energy in her work, and for Deryn, for a strong sense of God's presence and leading in her new life.
Christian providers of respite, residential, nursing and dementia care. Also retirement apartments for assisted living and for extra care housing, and fully equipped houses for missionaries' home leave.
We share our experience and knowledge at seminars and conferences, at national and regional level.