Spirituality isn’t always about religion. However, belief in something bigger than ourselves and faith that whatever challenge we’ve been dealt is part of a larger picture can help to weather the worst of times, especially after a dementia diagnosis or caring for a loved one experiencing it.
I consider myself to be spiritual, not religious. As a child, my enforced Catholicism didn’t stick, and at an early age, I questioned, “Why do I have to go to church if God is everywhere?” In catechism class, I asked the nun, “If Mary was a virgin and pregnant, was she still a virgin after giving birth?” That got me a trip to the principal’s office; I was a regular there. At some point in my adult life, I realized I had no real concept of what God really is, but always retained an unshakeable faith there’s an order to things, something is running the show, and my actions are guided.
Most of the people with dementia are older, and many attended churches throughout their lives; until dementia. Commonly as dementia progresses, the sensory overload of a church service becomes unmanageable. A man I cared for had been part of a choir most of his adult life. When his dementia progressed, he couldn’t follow the songs or hold a tune, and when he could no longer attend church, the pastor and congregation made no attempt to stay in touch with him. When he was placed in eldercare, his daughter asked the church to donate their old choir robes. Each Sunday, she played his favorite religious songs on the piano while her dad and the other residents sang in their newly formed choir at the facility.
Spirituality can lift us up from the drama of our present-day challenges, not only for the caregiver but also for the person with dementia. When you read from the bible, sing those spiritual songs, practice religious holidays, or pray together, you bring them to a place where they feel safe. Doing this reconnects you both on a deeper level than even a family relationship. Whatever the spiritual belief of the person with dementia has been continued practicing it with them. It’s still meaningful for them.
Schedule early Sunday after breakfast as create an hour of worship time. Play spiritual music, sing the songs, put a church service on the TV (always join them), read religious texts they are familiar with, pray in the garden together, or talk about spirituality. Even if you are an atheist or have different spiritual beliefs you can give them the gift of one hour.
Dementia takes so much from them. Don’t allow it to take away your loved one’s spiritual practices.
Those who pray together, stay together. It will reconnect, refuel, and reinforce you both.