A New Chaplain for Dementia Care Licensed by Bishop Philip

A New Chaplain for Dementia Care Licensed by Bishop Philip

A special licensing service has been held at Highfield Church in Southampton for Revd Dave Hendra, believed to be the first chaplain specifically for dementia care in the country. Dave is a chaplain for Caraway, a Christian charity in Southampton that provides spiritual and pastoral support for older people at home, in the community and in residential care. 

The service, led by Bishop Philip, was part of the charity’s annual ‘Refresh and Resource day’ attended by people from churches across the south of the diocese who care for the elderly and vulnerable.   

Revd Dave Hendra said, “We’ve just had a conference today and a lot of the speakers have been focusing on loneliness and isolation. That came to the public consciousness during the Covid pandemic, but it hasn’t gone away.  So many people are isolated and lonely and part of what we do at Caraway is meeting people who, through the effects of dementia, either themselves or their family members become isolated. It’s good to be able to go to people where they are or invite them to community gatherings where they can get friendship and support. You can tell how important it is by the smiles on people’s faces.  It’s a path that’s been trodden before me by amazing volunteers and Anna Chaplains.  We get the chance to be alongside people and spend time with them and when you do that, they start to trust you and ask you questions. Sometimes those can be deep faith questions that they have wanted to ask for a long time.” 

Dave’s work is supported by a team of volunteer chaplains who work across the city.  They are there to listen and help work through the changes, challenges and transitions faced in later life.  The licensing service included prayers for all these chaplains and volunteers in Southampton and beyond, called to serve God and the older community.  

When we are thinking about people with memory loss and other elderly people who find themselves on the margins, our job is to do just what God does and to remember them and to hold them in our hearts and minds with love. Being here today is so impressive because that’s exactly what I see people doing, caring for some of those who are vulnerable and sometimes written off, and they are remembering those people with real love. We think Dave might be the first person licensed particularly for dementia care in the country, so it’s a really special thing to do and a great expression of the love of God. I am privileged to license him and give him formal official permission and recognition for this ministry.

Bishop Philip

Caraway has developed from the work of Revd Erica Roberts in her role as Southampton Chaplain for older people, which began in 2014. The charity has expanded over the years with the aim of combatting loneliness and social isolation. The team also works alongside social and health care sectors and encourages and resources local churches and communities to connect more widely with the older population. 

The theme of this year’s Refresh and Resources day was “A bright hope for tomorrow” and included workshops and a chance to share stories and encourage each other. Revd Gill Sakini led a creative workshop: “It’s important to have this event.  It draws people together, so they know they are not alone.  It’s important to support each other and to share stories and struggles and ideas to take back to your home.”

Revd Erica Roberts said: “We started this day about 10 years ago when I was first commissioned as city chaplain for older people to encourage and support and inspire our volunteers and it’s grown each year.  People love coming together and networking and being inspired by other people who are also passionate about serving older people. When we think about our churches so many people talk about the younger generation and children and families which is crucial, but today is a day for encouraging those who are passionate about serving people who are on the edge and sometimes forgotten.”

The Caraway team offers a growing number of dementia services including courses for carers, wellbeing calls, home visits, memory cafes and a recently established men’s group for carers. 60 people have attended the 7-week carers course since it was established 18 months ago. 

Ros Simpson, Chair of trustees, said: “It’s about creating a community of people who can support each other.  I am a GP, so I know what dementia is like.  It’s a multiple loss and having a chaplain for that journey is so important. Chaplains are very accepted and in great demand. It’s a time when the NHS is struggling to meet the needs for dementia care and the church can step in. People open up to Dave and are happy to share their highs and lows. I’m excited to see where this new role will go and where God wants it to go.”