woman praying

Honoring Who They Were by Honoring Who They Still Are: Spirituality in Dementia (Part 3 of 4)

In this four part series, we will walk you through ways to help honor your loved one throughout all stages of the dementia journey. No matter how advanced the disease may be, there are plenty of opportunities for you to connect with your loved one, show your care and create moments that can be cherished.

Spirituality, whether through organized religion or a more informal form of reflection, plays an incredibly important role for many of us. That connection to a higher power provides peace, hope and reassurance during difficult times. Individuals living with dementia very often turn to this spirituality as they face and travel through the journey of the disease.

“Spirituality is an essential part of life at The Reutlinger Community, and we incorporate it into the care plans of many of our residents,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Although the lifestyle of our community is based on the Jewish faith, we welcome and have many residents of different religions and faiths who call us home. For individuals with dementia, familiar beliefs and practices help them find comfort and find perspective while their lives are changing around them.”

Benefits of Spirituality
Much like dementia, spirituality can affect each senior differently. However, research and observations have shown that people’s lives can be greatly improved by being part of a spiritual community. Being among like-minded individuals with similar beliefs and values can help improve mood, which boosts health and well-being and can increase life expectancy. But spirituality doesn’t have to be experienced in a group to reap benefits. It also allows aging adults to improve themselves on a personal level, such as:

  • Being more mindful and in the moment
  • Providing an avenue for relaxation
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Helping individuals accept and gain peace with their situation
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Sharpening their mind
  • Allowing seniors to let go of the past and forgive those who may have wronged them
  • Increasing overall quality of life and happiness

Recent studies also suggest that participating in a spiritual sense can actually help prevent memory loss and slow cognitive decline.

Why is this? According to research, it could be because the traditions and habits we practice in a religious sense are familiar and routine, which can help stimulate centers of the brain that are less affected (or not affected) by dementia. Performing these habits also decrease an individual’s cortisol level, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. Or it could simply be that spirituality just makes people happier.

How to Practice Spirituality and Wellness with Your Loved One
Honoring your loved one by practicing spirituality with them or providing opportunities for them to practice on their own, can be an incredibly meaningful thing for both of you. Here are some ideas for helping foster these moments:

  • Use nature. Many people have expressed that they feel closer to a higher power when they spend time in the great outdoors. It’s also been shown that activities like gardening or birdwatching can help seniors with dementia to relax. By diverting their attention to their surroundings, such as the sounds of birds, the smell of plants or the feel of wind on their skin, it helps remove them from their thoughts and instead be present in what they are feeling, sensing and experiencing.
  • Practice journaling. According to an article from the University of Minnesota, the practice of journaling can help people feel more connected to the world and what’s happening around them. For individuals in the earlier stages of dementia, journaling can help them come to grips with the disconnect they feel, process their experience and bring peace and resilience to their world.
  • Find holistic therapies. There are a variety of therapeutic activities, such as music, art or pet therapies, that have been shown to help seniors with dementia to process negative emotions, reduce anxiety and increase well-being. Find activities that speak to your loved one, especially if they had a passion in their past that they truly enjoyed. By finding ways to express themselves through these activities, you can help your loved one connect to a meaningful time that will bring good feelings and emotions.
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices can improve mood, boost well-being and can even potentially slow cognitive decline. (It’s also a great exercise for those of us who are caring for loved ones with dementia – it helps us be present and in the moment!)
  • Do tai chi. Low impact exercises that pair body and mind can be very beneficial for people with dementia. Not only does it help get your loved one moving and build strength and flexibility, but the mind/body connection that’s integral to the practice of tai chi can help provide meaning and connection.
  • Try yoga. Similar to tai chi, yoga connects the brain and body in many different ways to improve mental and physical health. Seniors with dementia can benefit from better flexibility, balance, strength and even better brain connectivity.
  • Pray or read the scripture. Read scripture or devotionals to them. Sometimes seniors with dementia are still able to recite favorite verses they memorized years ago.
  • Pray together. If your loved one is religious, there is no substitute for the comforting act of praying or singing favorite hymns together. Recite familiar prayers together, which can provoke happy memories and release stress. Reading sections of favorite religious passages can also spur your loved one to recite them along with you, too.

“Caring for the spirit as well as the body and mind are important aspects for a well-rounded memory care approach,” says Andrea. “As the disease progresses, it becomes harder for them to participate spiritually in the same way they always have, which is why we look for ways to help connect with them and find ways to experience some kind of spiritual activity that is meaningful and genuine. At The Reutlinger Community, we provide so many opportunities for our residents to practice spirituality in their own way, from our religious services to music and pet therapy to mindfulness and yoga. We allow residents and families to connect in the ways that matter to them, whatever that may be.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

 

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.