Spirituality and aging is a topic that many people shy away from. They view the topic of spirituality and religion as private, personal, or best left to professionals. If you develop the confidence to talk about spirituality and religion, you will discover many resources that could help your loved ones to cope with their increasing life challenges. Clarifying spiritual values and beliefs can also provide a foundation for many choices and decisions that must be made later in life within a family setting.
Diving in with questions about God, death, or an existence after death may seem overwhelming. But conversations about what grounds them, what is treasured, what they’ve learned, what they draw on to sustain them, and how they would like to be remembered may be essential for you to begin this journey with them. For some they say it’s almost therapeutic for a senior to explore, identify and express those beliefs and values. For others it could mean leaving behind a legacy, tradition or an honor. Being able to connect and listen to your loved ones opens the doors for a new sense of life for families. At times a new discovery or provide closure. Recognizing a family member’s beliefs and wishes can also help determine how they would like their care, end of life care or medical needs handled, in some cultures based on faith this may differ from what you would think is “normal.”
Some families may find it challenging to connect with their loved ones on this topic because they have different beliefs or values. One of the most important things to remember and easiest forget is that It’s not about you, it’s about them and honoring them by simply listening. You do not have to alter your values and beliefs in order to do so. The principle of valuing diversity means that you are accepted and valued for who you are. Encouraging them to value their own beliefs can be difficult as well due to memory or cognitive functions however there are many ways they can express themselves and by families working together to validate those “unspoken” things can be an amazing journey. Lessons learned, traditions and values passed on and a sense of belonging are just a few things that can be discovered along the way. Enjoy the ride with your loved one, they will always enjoy sharing it with you.