chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience Archives

Staying Spiritually Connected with the Cognitively Impaired

Michael L Goldblatt


  • Historical Context of Alzheimer's Disease: Over a century ago, Alois Alzheimer identified brain pathology leading to Alzheimer's, shaping dementia understanding.
  • Spiritual Activities for Dementia Care: Caregivers can enhance connection with dementia patients using compassionate communication, storytelling, and sensory experiences.
  • Benefits of Spiritual Outreach: Spiritual activities tap into emotions and senses, fostering connection without reliance on memory for dementia patients.
Staying Spiritually Connected with the Cognitively Impaired

Jump to:

Over 100 years ago, Alois Alzheimer published research on dementia caused by amyloid plaques. Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia have been observed since ancient times by physicians, philosophers, and writers. However, Alzheimer was the first to find the brain pathology that came to be known as Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's research advanced our understanding and caring for persons with dementia.

Caregivers can use spiritual activities to stay connected to loved ones living with dementia. Although persons living with dementia lose mental abilities, they retain their spiritual sensitivity. Spirituality transcends the person and promotes a connection to one’s self, others, and the environment. Following is a list of spiritual activities and resources for implementing them into your journey with loved ones living with dementia.

Spiritual Activities

Compassion - use words that treat loved ones with respect and make them feel included.

Conversation - allow people with dementia to have moments of silence and use incomplete sentences.

Experiential - read magazines, recite poetry, show photographs, stream music, and use arts and crafts.

Environmental - take loved ones outdoors to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of nature.

Presence - sit in front, make eye contact, and empathize by smiling.

Storytelling - entertain with your stories and experiences from recent times and the past.

Touching - try touching shoulders, holding hands, massaging backs, and dancing.

Walk - walk with your loved one or push their wheelchair around a garden, park, or pond.

Worship - read scriptures, recite prayers, sing hymns, and share your religious experiences.


Spiritual outreach enables caregivers to stay connected to loved ones. Spiritual activities speak to the emotions and senses of dementia patients without pressure to remember. Use the activities mentioned above and the following resources to harness the power of spirituality on your journey with those living with dementia.



Christopher Durfrene, Spiritual Care and Dementia, Encompass Health, Oct. 5, 2019.

Debbie Dyjak, Dementia - Spirituality, Arizona Center on Aging, Feb. 15, 2022.

James Ellor, Reaching Out to the Spiritual Nature of Persons with Dementia, NOCA/ASA, Mar. 27, 2008.

Janice Hicks, Spiritual Care of the Person with Dementia, Penn Medicine, Jan. 3, 2018.

Dalby Padmaprabha, David Sperling, and Stephen Boddington, The Lived Experience of Spirituality and Dementia in Older People with Mild to Moderate Dementia, Dementia Journal, Jan 1, 2012.

Staff, 10 Spiritual Activities for People Living with Alzheimer's Disease, Golden Carers, Feb 15, 2022.

Lee Woodruff, Banish Caregiver Burnout by Keeping a Loved with Dementia Engaged, AARP, Apr. 13, 2021.


Alzheimer's Society UK, The Dementia Guide - Living Well After Your Diagnosis, Nov. 2020.

Clergy Against Alzheimer's Network, Seasons of Caring: Meditations for Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers, Create Space Independent Publishing, Dec. 6, 2012.

Lynda Everman and Don Wendorf ed., Dementia-Friendly Worship, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Jun. 21, 2019.

Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementias, Johns Hopkins University Press, Aug. 10, 2021.

Elizabeth MacKinlay, Facilitating Spiritual Reminiscence for People with Dementia: A Learning Guide, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Jul. 1, 2014.



Alzheimer's Association

Arizona Center on Aging

Mayo Clinic