Spirituality is different from religion. Regardless of whether your senior loved one ascribes to a particular religion or not, they can benefit from talking about spiritual matters. A more universal approach to spirituality gives you an opportunity to engage your elders about things that are deeper than the everyday shopping list. You’ll be empowered to draw them out about what’s most pressing on their minds and deepest in their hearts.
Another reason you may shy away from conversations about spirituality and aging is that you are concerned that your beliefs may be different or in conflict with your elders. The goal of the conversation is not that they should convert you, or that you convert them to your way of thinking. It is about listening and understanding what they honor and what they value.
If your loved one is willing, try to involve them in spiritual or religious activities, which can provide social contact, reduce alienation and isolation, and increase a sense of belonging, of meaning, and of life purpose. These activities may also help the elderly focus on positive activities rather than on their own problems. However, some activities are appropriate only for more religious elders. If your loved one is not already involved in religious activities, suggesting activities requires sensitivity. When elders are involved they also have a stronger social network to call on for advice or help—important for both caregivers and elders.
Sometimes, your loved one may feel that they cannot be as involved in religion or spirituality due to health reasons. They may have mobility issues, not allowing them to get out of the house as easily, they may suffer from decreased mental capacities and that can make attending a service overwhelming or stressful. Research shows that people with dementia can experience too much stimulation from attending services. Many people in this situation find it less stressful to watch a service on television, or listen to the radio service.
Another way to help your elder feel or express their spirituality is by reading a spiritual or religious book with or to them. There are many good books who can inspire your elders inner happiness, all you need to do is choose the ones that align with your loved ones own interpretation of spirituality. Reading is the best trainer for maintaining a positive mind and for answering many of probing questions, and is also a perfect means for controlling negative thoughts. Being exposed to spiritual writing and passages on a daily basis is uplifting and helps you to continue to hone your sense of purpose. Look for the positive sentences and learn them by heart, or at least say them to your loved one several times. As you take care of your aging loved one, don’t neglect your own spirituality and religion, and make a deal with yourself, your loved one to start every day with a positive vision!