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Drawing on the deep experience and expertise of the Reverend Dr Elizabeth Mackinlay the Parish of Batemans Bay hosted a full day seminar on ‘Finding meaning in the experience of Dementia’. The seminar, attended by 90, was focused for people with dementia, their care partners and pastoral carers. Chaplains, health professionals and organisations working in the Dementia field also attended.

As a pastoral carer visiting a patient with a broken arm you might ask ‘How is your arm today’? When on your visits have you ever started the conversation with ‘How is your dementia today’? ‘Why don’t we ask this question’? Dementia is almost a forbidden subject. A subject that can raise deep fear as we reflect on it for those we love, for ourselves and for our future. Who are we? What defines us as a person? Can the meaning be taken away from our lives? Liz gently helped us address these issues of fear and concern by reminding us that dementia is not a biological disease but a condition of the whole person; to be addressed in body, mind and spirit.

Meaning (and identity) are not defined by our capacity for cognitive language and capacity for conversation but by the depths of our relationships and our connectedness. Hope arises out of meaning and relationship is key to connecting with people who have dementia. Sharing our spiritual stories is a very significant and powerful way of affirming identity and building relationship. The seminar suggested some good opening questions for pastoral carers might be: ‘What brings meaning to your life’ or ‘Where do you find purpose in life’? Liz will also be presenting at the 8th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality to be held in Canberra 27-30 October 2019.

The parish is also planning a Spirit 2019 Conference on 13-14 September with Ken Fish as the speaker. Further details are available from the parish on

by Reverend Doug Newman

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