My father is coming to the end of his life and for the first time ever, he has begun to talk about spirituality. As his caregiver, I’m not sure how to handle this. What would you do? Nancy in New York, 62
By all means, encourage your father to explore his spiritual thoughts and feelings. Many seniors believe there are forces at work in the universe, and many of them have tapped into some form of spirituality. It’s just not possible to understand everything that happens, and spirituality can help explain things. Even if spirituality is not discussed, it does exist in most people’s conscious life. The connectedness to a spiritual life helps people deal with hardships, face fears, and can ultimately give hope. Most of my clients get a great deal out of their religious activities. It helps them feel that their life has a meaning and a purpose.
Nearly every one of my clients experiences an inner awareness or a quiet peace before they pass on. Even if fishing is their “religion,” they know where they need to go to find that quiet space for reflection, to recharge and gain perspective. This process helps our elders find a way to let go of emotions and worldly trappings, and become ready to travel free.
Not everyone acknowledges or feels the need to have a spiritual life, and I respect that, too. We all have a right to make the decision on our own. But for those who embrace a spiritual life, it can provide a source of strength above and beyond a person’s own weak humanity. I’m not talking about spirituality in terms of the regular routine and/or regimentation of going to a house of worship. It need not be confined by four walls and icons and meeting times and rituals. Spirituality is the path each of us takes to find the quiet within ourselves.
Some people like the routine. Going to a house of worship can also provide a sense of community and companionship. Spirituality can really be whatever a person wants it to be. The crucial part is to have a quiet knowing that there’s something beyond you that can help give meaning to the peaks and valleys of life. Religion and spirituality can be a way to center oneself and find internal and external comfort.
Over the last 35 years, Marion Somers, Ph.D., (Doctor Marion) has worked with thousands of seniors and their caregivers as a geriatric care manager. It is now her goal to help caregivers everywhere through her book, “Elder Care Made Easier,” web site, public service announcements, national bus tours, and media appearances. For more information, visit DoctorMarion.com.Last Modified January 6, 2010 @ 10:49 am