Guest Post: Making Carol Services Dementia-friendly

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Making Carol Services Dementia Friendly

With Christmas just around the corner, a number of churches have already made plans for their Carol services – indeed, many will have already started a programme of Christmas events. My social media feeds – bear in mind how niche they are – have already been starting to fill up with tips and challenges.

One topic that won’t have been seen by many folk will have been the challenge of including people in different stages of Dementia in the festive period. Fortunately, help is at hand. Faith in Later Life, an initiative that has emerged from Pilgrims Friend Society and a number of other charities, has offered some tips. I’ve reproduced them here as a blog post, because I think they deserve a wide readership. Naturally, the vast majority of these suggestions are also eminently sensible for inclusion and welcome generally! I’d particularly note – and this applies in a range of situations – the note about caregivers.

With Christmas fast approaching, Faith in Later Life was asked “Our church is wanting to put on a dementia-friendly carol service this year. Have you any resources, ideas, advice or counsel for us?

That church was very appreciative of the combined advice from contributors to the website and we are circulating that to help any other churches who are asking the same question.

The general advice is as follows:


  • Body language is important: lots of welcoming smiles and genuine warmth. People with dementia have heightened emotions and soon pick up on indifference.


  • Make sure the service is not too long or chaotic or too noisy.
  • Ensure that the service is interactive, for example, asking things about their childhood Christmas experiences. If this is done you have to be prepared for no response, and not to be concerned but just to carry on.


  • Be prepared for interruptions and have plans in place. For example, make sure you have designated befrienders who can give a cup of tea or show the way to the toilet.



  • If there is a talk please make it short and with one main point which they can remember.
  • Any message should be no longer than ten minutes, and please don’t speak quickly.
  • Have visual aids if they are going to give a message. For example It could be a beautifully wrapped box and the message could be ‘The Gift of Christmas’.[Tom adds – Chris Green has written a great post about the Carol Service Talk, which dovetails nicely with this]


  • Have Christmas cards with Scripture verses on to give to each visitor as they leave.
  • Take the opportunity to support the caregiver who may accompany the person. The caregiver is so often forgotten, and they need to be acknowledged too.
  • Consider serving refreshments.

For those interested in further detail you can see some more detailed preparation notes and download a sample order of service from the Exeter Diocese via this link:


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