Dementia & Communities of Faith
If you or your loved one are a person who has always been involved in a community of faith, it will be important to look for senior living that enables you to stay connected to your home community of faith or be given the opportunity to be part of a new community of faith. Many times communities that provide support for people living with dementia either neglect this important aspect of life or only provide one type of service for their residents. There are many different types of faith communities even within the same religion, so finding a community that provides a variety of experiences is key. And finding a staff that is committed to finding ways to be involved in spiritual life can be a significant factor in a person’s overall well-being.
Importance of Spirituality
Spirituality is very important to people living with dementia. If a person has been involved in a faith tradition throughout their life, this faith tradition continues to be important even when they are living with dementia.
Here are some practical reasons why these traditions continue to be important include:
- Routine and rituals provide opportunities to utilize memories that are attached to emotion.
- Routine and rituals provide opportunities to utilize memories that are held in long term memory.
- People living with dementia are more successful in activities that have a routine.
- People living with dementia are able to sing familiar songs even when they have difficulty with speech.
- People living with dementia are able to say familiar prayers even when they have difficulty with speech.
Some other reasons why these traditions continue to be important include:
- Spirituality is the experience of something greater than our- selves and this is not affected by dementia.
- Our spirit is not affected by brain changes.
- Spiritual experiences can be both communal and individual.
- Feeling connected is important for all people.
- Being with people who offer a safe place to be, such as a community of faith is very nurturing and promotes health.
Faith Communities & Dementia Support
Here are some reasons why it’s important for faith communities to be involved with people living with dementia:
- Provides the community the opportunity to live out their message of the tradition.
- Provides the community the opportunity to practice forgiveness and love.
- Helps dispel the myth that people living with dementia are “not in there”.
- Provides the opportunity to learn from others and learn how to be with someone who has different abilities.
- Providing support to families.
Stories of Those Living With Dementia
Above are some practical reasons why faith traditions are important for people living with dementia but the reasons that have the most impact are the stories of people living with dementia, which include:
- When I had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair no one acknowledged me when I went to church.
- When I left my job because I had dementia I lost my purpose in life but I find purpose in my community of faith.
- The music is very important to me.
- I just want to be greeted and treated like a real person.
- I cannot do all of the things I used to do at my church but I still sing in the choir and when I make a mistake we just keep singing.
- Listen to us and hear what we are going through.
- I just need someone to help me know what to do during the service.
- Know that I am still here, I am the same person you knew before dementia.
Communities of faith have the opportunity to help these statements turn into positive experiences. Orchard at Brookhaven recently offered a community event on spirituality and dementia because Orchard is committed to providing a holistic approach to senior living in Atlanta. We will provide transportation for residents to continue to be part of their community of faith and also provide in house services of various traditions.