Christian worship leaders' attitudes and observations of people with dementia

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Background:The cognitive, emotional, and psychological consequences of dementia are profound and can include memory loss, processing and, communication difficulties, social isolation and agitation. Procedural memory remains fairly intact in people with dementia (PWD) and is readily triggered via sensory cues and prompts. As religious services are often highly structured, it is likely that PWD can participate competently, potentially enhancing their quality of life, and wellbeing.Aims:This study aimed to investigate Christian worship leaders' attitudes and observations of PWD attending religious services, to identify recurring themes, and to generate hypotheses regarding the effects of participation in religious services on PWD.Method:The participants were Christian worship leaders experienced in conducting religious services for PWD. The study adopted a grounded theory approach consisting of two phases: a focus group of four worship leaders at Phase 1 and a series of one-to-one interviews with eight worship leaders at Phase 2.Results:Five linked themes emerged: familiarity and structure; enhanced sensory cues; significance of worship leader's approach; social support from and for family and carers; and the personality and characteristics of the PWD. These themes were used to develop a conceptual model, sharing the moderating and mediating factors of wellbeing.Conclusion:Religious worship appeared to constitute a naturalistic psychosocial intervention comprised of the service itself and the social context. Further investigation and conceptualisation of the interaction between PWD and their social environment is warranted, and collaboration with those people who constitute the PWD's social support network.

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