Item Details

Supporting Spiritual Engagement for People Living with Dementia

Issue: Vol 4 No. 2 (2016)

Journal: Health and Social Care Chaplaincy

Subject Areas: Healthcare Communication

DOI: 10.1558/hscc.v4i2.31340


The article lays out the results from an extensive literature review exploring the spiritual and religious lives of people living with dementia. The ways in which informal spiritual practices such as prayer, praise and worship can enhance people’s spiritual lives are outlined. Alongside formal spiritual practices the article highlights that more generically spiritual things such as finding meaning, forgiveness, acceptance, reminiscence and value are crucial dimensions of the spiritual lives of people living with dementia. It concludes by noting the importance of using a multi-sensory approach which enables individuals to connect with their spirituality in more concrete, tangible ways.

Author: Emily Smeaton, Craig Maher

View Original Web Page

References :

Abramowitz, L. (1992) “Prayer as Therapy Among the Frail Jewish Elderly”. Journal of Gerontological Social Work 19(3-4): 69–75.

Agli, O., N. Bailly and C. Ferrand (2015) “Spirituality and Religion in Older Adults with Dementia: a Systematic Review”. International Psychogeriatrics 27(5): 715–25.

Bailey, L. M. (1983) “The Effects of Live Music versus Tape-Recorded Music on Hospitalized Cancer Patients”. Music Therapy 3(1): 17–28.

Bell, V. M. S. W., and D. M. P. H. Troxel (2001) “Spirituality and the Person with Dementia – A View from the Field”. Alzheimer’s Care Quarterly 2(2): 31–45.

Beuscher, L., and V. T. Grando (2009) “Using Spirituality to Cope with Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease”. Western Journal of Nursing Research 31(5): 583–98.

Byrne, L., and E. MacKinlay (2012) “Seeking Meaning: Making Art and the Experience of Spirituality in Dementia Care”. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 24(1-2): 105–119.

Carnes, V. (2001) “Walking the Labyrinth of Peace”. Nursing Homes Long Term Care Management 50(10): 41–42.

Carr, T. J., S. Hicks-Moore and P. Montgomery (2011) “What’s So Big about the ‘Little Things’: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Meaning of Spiritual Care in Dementia”. Dementia 10(3): 399–414.

Christener, A. M. (1997) Alzheimer’s Care Guide. Reno, NV: Eymann Pub. Inc.

Dalby, P., D. J. Sperlinger and S. Boddington (2011) “The Lived Experience of Spirituality and Dementia in Older People Living with Mild to Moderate Dementia”. Dementia 11(1): 75–94.

Daly, L., and E. Fahey-McCarthy (2014) “Attending to the Spiritual in Dementia Care Nursing”. British Journal of Nursing 23(14)

Eliade, M. (1959) The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. London: Harcourt, Brace and Co.

Ennis Jr, E. M., and M. W. Kazer (2013) “The Role of Spiritual Nursing Interventions on Improved Outcomes in Older Adults with Dementia”. Holistic Nursing Practice 27(2): 106–113.

Everett, D. (1998) “Forget Me Not: The Spiritual Care of People with Alzheimer’s Disease”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 8(1-2): 77–88.

Fleming, R. (2003) “Depression and Spirituality in Australian Aged Care Homes”. Journal of Religious Gerontology 13(3-4): 107–116.

Goodall, D., and L. Etters (2005) “The Therapeutic Use of Music on Agitated Behavior in Those with Dementia”. Holistic Nursing Practice 19(6): 258–62.

Goodall, M. A. (2009) “The Evaluation of Spiritual Care in a Dementia Care Setting”. Dementia 8(2): 167–83.

Keast, K., C. Leskovar and R. Brohm (2010) “A Systematic Review of Spirituality and Dementia in LTC”. Annals of Long-Term Care 18: 41–47.

Khouzam, H., C. Smith and B. Bissett (1994) “Bible Therapy: A Treatment of Agitation in Elderly Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease”. Clinical Gerontologist 15(2): 71–74.

Koenig, H. G. (2002) “A Commentary: The Role of Religion and Spirituality at the End of Life”. The Gerontologist 42(suppl 3): 20–23.

Koenig, H. G., L. S. Berk, N. S. Daher, M. J. Pearce, D. L. Bellinger, C. J. Robins and M. B. King (2014) “Religious Involvement is Associated with Greater Purpose, Optimism, Generosity and Gratitude in Persons with Major Depression and Chronic Medical Illness”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 77(2): 135–43.

Lenshyn, J. (2005) “Reaching the Living Echo: Maintaining and Promoting the Spiritual in Persons Living with Alzheimer’s Disease”. Alzheimer’s Care Today 6(1): 20–28.

Lindberg, D. A. (2005) “Integrative Review of Research Related to Meditation, Spirituality, and the Elderly”. Geriatric Nursing 26(6): 372–77.

MacKinlay, E. (2001) The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

—(2002a) “The Spiritual Dimension of Caring: Applying a Model for Spiritual Tasks of Ageing”. Journal of Religious Gerontology 12(3–4): 151–66.

—(2002b) “Understanding the Ageing Process: A Developmental Perspective of the Psychosocial and Spiritual Dimensions”. Journal of Religious Gerontology 12(34): 111–22.

MacKinlay, E., and C. Trevitt (2006) Facilitating Spiritual Reminiscence for Older People with Dementia: A Learning Package. Barton, A.C.T.: Center for Ageing and Pastoral Studies, St Mark’s Theological Centre.

—(2010) “Living in Aged Care: Using Spiritual Reminiscence to Enhance Meaning in Life for Those with Dementia”. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 19(6): 394–401.

—(2012) Finding Meaning in the Experience of Dementia: The Place of Spiritual Reminiscence Work. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Mooney, S. F. (2006) “When Memory Fails: Helping Dementia Patients Remember God”. Journal of Christian Nursing 23(1): 6-14.

Narayanasamy, A., and M. Narayanasamy (2008) “The Healing Power of Prayer and Its Implications for Nursing”. British Journal of Nursing 17(6): 394-404.

O’Brien, M. E. (2013) Spirituality in Nursing. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Perkins, C., R. Egan, R. Llewellyn and B. Peterken (2015) “Still Living, Loving, and Laughing: Spiritual Life in the Dementia Unit”. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 27(4): 270–87.

Power, J. (2006) “Spiritual Assessment: Developing an Assessment Tool”. Nursing Older People 18(2): 16–18.

Powers, B. A., and N. M. Watson (2011) “Spiritual Nurturance and Support for Nursing Home Residents with Dementia”. Dementia 10(1): 59–80.

Richards, M., and R. S. Seicol (1991) “The Challenge of Maintaining Spiritual Connectedness for Persons Institutionalized with Dementia”. Journal of Religious Gerontology 7(3): 27–40.

Roff, L. L., and M. W. Parker (2003) “Spirituality and Alzheimer’s Disease Care”. Alzheimer’s Care Today 4(4),: 267–70.

Rousseau, P. (2000) “Spirituality and the Dying Patient”. Journal of Clinical Oncology 18(9): 2000–2002.

Ryan, E. B., L. S. Martin and A. Beaman (2005) “Communication Strategies to Promote Spiritual Well-being among People with Dementia”. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 59(1-2): 43–55.

Shamy, E. (2003) A Guide to the Spiritual Dimension of Care for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia: More than Body, Brain and Breath. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Smith, S. (2013) “Dementia Palliative Care Needs Assessment: A Focus on Spiritual Care”. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy 8(1): 13–19.

Snyder, L. (2003) “Satisfactions and Challenges in Spiritual Faith and Practice for Persons with Dementia”. Dementia 2(3): 299313.

Stolley, J. M., H. Koenig and K. C. Buckwalter (1998) “Pastoral Care for the Person with Dementia”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 8(12): 7–23.

Stoter, D. J. (2008) Spiritual Aspects of Health Care. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Sulmasy, D. P. (2006) “Spiritual Issues in the Care of Dying Patients: ‘…It’s Okay Between Me and God’”. Jama 296(11): 1385–392.

Swinton, J., and A. Jewell (2011) “Being in the Moment: Developing a Contemplative Approach to Spiritual Care with People Who Have Dementia”. In Spirituality and Personhood in Dementia, ed. Albert Jewell, 175–85. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Toivonen, K., M. Stolt and R. Suhonen (2015) “Nursing Support of the Spiritual Needs of Older Adults Living With Dementia: A Narrative Literature Review”. Holistic Nursing Practice 29(5): 303–312.

Trivedi, S. C., A. A. Subramanyam, R. M. Kamath and C. Pinto (2015) “Study of Spirituality in Elderly with Subjective Memory Complaints”. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology 29(1): 38–46

Vance, D. E. (2005) “Procedural and Emotional Religious Activity Therapy: Connecting Cognition and Affective Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Activities, Adaptation & Aging 29(1): 27–45.

Vance, D. E., B. S. Moore, K. F. Farr and T. Struzick (2008) “Procedural Memory and Emotional Attachment in Alzheimer Disease: Implications for Meaningful and Engaging Activities”. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing 40(2): 96–102.

Walters, D. (2007) “The Effect of Multi-sensory Ministry on the Affect and Engagement of Women with Dementia”. Dementia 6(2): 233–43.

Wentroble, D. P. (1998) “Pastoral Care of Problematic Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Affected Residents in a Long-term Care Setting”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 8(1-2): 59–76.

Witzke, J., R. A. Rhone, D. Backhaus and N. A. Shaver (2008) “How Sweet the Sound: Research Evidence for the Use of Music in Alzheimer’s Dementia”. Journal of Gerontological Nursing 34(10): 45–52.

Wu, L. F., and M. Koo, (2016) “Randomized Controlled Trial of a Six‐week Spiritual Reminiscence Intervention on Hope, Life Satisfaction, and Spiritual Well‐being in Elderly with Mild and Moderate Dementia”. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 31(2): 120–27.