Caring for the Spiritual Needs of Alzheimer’s Patients
Many people living with Alzheimer’s disease have relied on their religious beliefs to provide comfort, peace, and happiness throughout their lives. When a person experiences memory loss, their spiritual needs must be realized and fulfilled in order to maintain an important facet of their lives.
In the early stages of the disease, it is necessary to conduct a spiritual assessment. It is helpful to know their religious denomination, church affiliation, favorite prayers and hymns, inspirational passages, and meaningful rituals and objects. Documenting this information will be beneficial in providing an effective level of spiritual care in the later stages of the disease when communication becomes difficult.
Spirituality can be expressed in a variety of ways. Community worship, private prayer, music, nature, and artwork may be a part of one’s religious life. For Alzheimer’s patients; worship services, small prayer and study groups, and one-on-one visits can provide an opportunity to socialize while experiencing a multi-sensory interaction.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may be engaged by verbal, auditory, and visual cues. Questions—or verbal cues—can encourage the person to discuss their spiritual experiences. They may enjoy reminiscing about a significant religious celebration during their lifetime. Sometimes, sharing a prayer or scripture reading can evoke special memories. Choose a short prayer or verse from the Bible that is meaningful or relevant. Read it aloud to the person or, if they are able, encourage independent reading.
Music is a large part of religious celebrations and provides an auditory cue for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Carefully select hymns and songs that reflect their spiritual needs. Vocal and instrumental pieces, the sound of an organ, a piano, or church bells can provide spiritual fulfillment and encourage reminiscing.
Visual cues can also promote engagement. For example, a person may have a photograph of a family wedding in their room. Using the photo to prompt a conversation can recall a cherished memory. They may not recognize the people in the photo, but they may know it was a very special event. Examples of other visual cues may include a cross or crucifix, a Bible, rosary, holy card, or a statue.
It is important to care for the spiritual needs of an Alzheimer’s patient. It requires creativity, compassion, and self-awareness. Recounting spiritual experiences is a meaningful activity that stimulates the heart, mind, and soul. People who are experiencing memory loss can be left with a feeling of joy and reassurance, thereby improving his or her overall quality of life.
The Bible Verses book from Shadowbox Press can be used in conjunction with a spirituality program. The popular words from scripture and the magnificent photographs of nature can be discussed, providing an opportunity to recall memories of a spiritual life.