Feeding the spirit of caregivers and their loved ones living with dementia

An interview with St. John’s Dementia Resource Center Chaplain Chava.

When I am talking to caregivers, I remind them to take care of themselves. I remind them that their range of feelings is okay, and how important it is to get some time for yourself when you can, to take care of your own need for replenishment. Staying in touch with the community—if you are not already part of a church community, then whoever your safe people are. You do have to put a happy face on some of the time. But you need somebody you can tell the truth to. Even though you might tell the world that you and your loved one are fine, you need to have people you can be totally honest with. And start a journal and keep it up. You can tell the truth to your journal, and it will help.

“If there is anything spirituality ought to be about, I think it is honesty.”

On spirituality for persons living with dementia:

When I visit on our JOY floors, I find spirituality to be mostly about singing. We sing familiar songs—everyone knows Amazing Grace, but it does not have to be a hymn; any familiar tune and even the ones who seem half asleep will participate…and if they do not sing, they will clap and feel better afterwards. And Our Father, most will recognize it and pray along with me when I begin the prayer. Even when their dementia is advanced, elders who led a spiritual life will recognize the Our Father.

We do a little service every week for our dementia people. I do not preach to our dementia floors, but I tell stories—they love stories about little kids. Most of the time my sermons are reassuring—God is here, even though things are hard…and you are not forgotten.

Would you like us to email you about our online dementia chapel, and how you can participate with your loved one in online spiritual activities led by a St. John’s chaplain?

David Petherbridge talks about the support he gets from friends, family, and his faith.