Goals and Benefits

Even though it is thought that residents with dementia no longer care about spiritual things because they don't seem to remember them, it is one of the many things that persons in the early and middle stages of dementia care most about. They are comforted when they are able to hold on to the things that matter most: their memories, their identity and their belief in themselves as persons. These facets of their self-concept are rooted in their spirituality. Attendance at worship services adapted to the resident's level of function can trigger past memories, provide present experiences and preserve a sense of connectedness to their faith, faith community and family. This can help them to preserve a sense of self and find some sense of peace with their present lives.

Residents with dementia continue to feel and respond to feelings long after they are able to understand them. The spiritual needs of residents with dementia are frequently forgotten when the resident is no longer able to attend worship services in traditional settings. The music and religious symbols of the resident's life-long faith can still trigger memories and feelings of fellowship and hope when shared with family or caring people with the same faith values.

Many residents with dementia are able to connect with others through the rituals of their faith even in later stages of the disease when they can no longer connect in other ways. Adaptations are needed to help them maintain a connection to their spiritual history. This may call for a different use of religious symbols, a new way of relating spiritually and thinking about a variety of methods to share spiritual experiences. The following outline can be used to stimulate thought on building a program unique for the residents in your facility:

Worship Services Promote:

  • Focused group activity with other residents.
  • Improved quality of family visits through common activity.
  • A feeling of satisfaction in displaying competent behavior rooted in remote memory of well-learned rituals.
  • Experiencing aspects of personal history associated with a sense of belonging to a caring group and personal peace.
  • Respite from the anxiety of daily life.
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