A BARRHEAD clergyman highlighted the “hugely uplifting benefits” traditional hymns and prayers can have for people with dementia.

Father Paul Brady says older people with the condition who had been regular worshippers in earlier life still respond positively to elements of the Mass which bring back lots of memories.

The smell of incense, prayers delivered in Latin and the ringing of altar bells all helped in the process, he said.

Fr Brady was speaking after a service at St John The Evangelist Church, which had issued a special invitation to people affected by dementia.

Around 150 people from across the community, including residents of care homes and their families, packed the pews for the service.

The evening prayer and benediction was part of a growing ecumenical movement in the area to encourage people with dementia and their families to attend church.

Fr Brady said: “There was a lot of joy in the church – it was very uplifting.”

The idea of the service had been suggested to the priest by Karen Anderson, activity co-ordinator at Millview Care Home, in Barrhead, and Caroline Brown, from Outside the Box, which works to combat isolation and loneliness.

The service was designed specifically to prompt the memories of worshippers who had been regular church-goers and it was felt the traditional hymns, prayers in Latin and use of incense would help.

A 12-strong choir, Schola Benedicti, which is based in the Diocese of Paisley, also took part.

Fr Brady said: “We wanted everybody to feel at home and remember something of their faith which stays with them when they have dementia. They always remember a verse or two of a hymn and they will respond to Mass and make the sign of the Cross.

“Even if the dementia is quite far advanced, they will respond. And if I am visiting a care home, they will recognise that I am a priest.”

Caroline paid tribute to the attention to detail undertaken by Fr Brady to ensure everyone felt included. This involved printing some programmes in large text for the visually impaired.

“The incense, music and bells prompted memories for many people,” she added.