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Esther Heerema, MSW

Holistic Care Includes Recognizing Spiritual Needs in People with Dementia

By December 23, 2012

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As we move toward increasing our knowledge and improving the techniques of caring for people with Alzheimer's disease, one perspective that comes up frequently is holistic care. The holistic approach considers the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs as people cope with dementia.

Holistic care also suggests that we look beyond using only medications, which can be effective in slowing the progression of the disease, to additional approaches that might also improve the person's quality of life.

As caregivers, one area of holistic care that can be very important for our loved ones with Alzheimer's and related disorders is the spiritual aspect. I've seen this repeatedly in my professional work. For example, someone with memory loss might be still be greatly encouraged by praying with a caregiver or friend. Others might benefit from singing a familiar hymn while doing physical therapy. Still others have unresolved issues from years ago that need to be processed, and sometimes repeatedly.

If you're the caregiver, it's important to remember that what matters here is not your own perspective or spiritual view, but that of the person for whom you're caring. Your role is to care for her needs, and to recognize that needs can include spiritual ones.

In light of those thoughts, here are two articles that I've written recently about the spiritual needs of people with dementia:

Holistic Care: Spirituality and Alzheimer's- A look at the importance of, and barriers to, spiritual care in dementia.

Spiritual Activities for People with Dementia- Suggestions of faith-based activities for people with dementia.

If you have any ideas to add, I welcome your thoughts!

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