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Facilitating Spiritual Reminiscence for People with Dementia

Spiritual reminiscence is a way of communicating that acknowledges the person as a spiritual being and seeks to engage the person in a more meaningful and personal way. This practical guide teaches carers how to facilitate engaging and stimulating spiritual reminiscence sessions with older people, and particularly with people with dementia. After reading the guide, carers will understand the many and varied benefits of spiritual reminiscence, and will have developed the skills, confidence and communication techniques needed to support people with dementia in this activity. The authors present in accessible terms the evidence-base to support the benefits of the approach and provide clear, step-by-step instructions for facilitating spiritual reminiscence sessions, including useful suggestions for ideas and questions to stimulate discussion. Intended to be used either as a self-learning tool or as the basis for staff training sessions, this will be a valuable resource for staff in care homes and day centres, activity coordinators, pastoral and spiritual care professionals, clergy and spiritual leaders.
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Table of Contents

Preface. Part 1. Learning about working with people who have dementia: communicating, story, spirituality and spiritual reminiscence. 1. Spiritual care. 2. Dementia. 3. Communication. 4. Reminiscence work. 5. Spiritual reminiscence. 6. The process of small group spiritual reminiscence. Part 2. The weekly sessions of spiritual reminiscence. 7. Week 1 Life-meaning. 8. Week 2 Relationship, isolation and connecting. 9. Week 3 Hopes, fears and worries. 10. Week 4 Growing older and transcendence. 11. Week 5 Spiritual and religious beliefs. 12. Week 6 Spiritual and religious practice. Appendix 1. Group topics for spiritual reminiscence. Appendix 2. Spiritual reminiscence and older people, a small group process: Information for intending participants, staff and families. References.

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Learn how to facilitate meaningful spiritual reminiscence sessions with people with dementia

About the Author

Elizabeth MacKinlay is a registered nurse and an Anglican priest. She was the inaugural Director of the Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies at St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra, and is a Professor in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University. Elizabeth was Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing ending her term in 2008 and the ACT Senior Australian of the Year for 2009. Corinne Trevitt is a registered nurse and Academic Associate at the Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, Australia. Corinne has worked in Australia and the United Kingdom and has a background in nursing, research and teaching with an emphasis on issues of ageing. Corinne has published in the areas of spirituality for older adults with dementia and clinical teaching strategies. Elizabeth and Corinne are co-authors of Finding Meaning in the Experience of Dementia: The Place of Spiritual Reminiscence Work, also published by JKP.


We are the stories we tell and the stories that others tell about us. One of the great fears that surrounds dementia is that in forgetting our stories we somehow forget ourselves. This of course is not the case. God holds our stories even when we no longer can. But it does, at times, feel as if our stories are somehow slipping away. MacKinlay and Trevitt recognise that this is not the case. In this engaging and deeply practical book, they seek to explore creative ways in which the stories of people with dementia can be discovered and narrated well even in the midst of very difficult circumstances. This is a wonderful resource. -- Rev. Professor John Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care, King's College, University of Aberdeen This practical follow-up to the authors' earlier work on finding meaning in dementia through spiritual reminiscence is most welcome. It encourages small group leaders to develop and employ the requisite empathetic and communication skills and offers a course based on six topics that have proved fruitful in helping those attending to feel that they have really been listened to. -- Revd Dr Albert Jewell, editor of Spirituality and Personhood in Dementia and of the Christian Council on Ageing's Dementia Newsletter, Visiting Research Fellow at Glyndwyr University This helpful handbook shows that spirituality is not the province of experts. Carers can ask: 'who is this person?' Step by step strategies prompt discussion of grief, guilt, fears, regrets, joys; also uncovering the dreaded issues of death and dying. The author's central message is that symbols may be more important than words and engaging with life's meaning better than medication. -- Rosalie Hudson, Associate Professor (honorary), School of Nursing, University of Melbourne and Adjunct Associate Professor, Charles Sturt University An outstanding book that demonstrates spiritual reminiscence can be highly successful in giving meaning, hope and perspective to people living with dementia in ways not traditionally thought possible. This is an invaluable resource for facilitators, providing guidance for each session. It challenges the facilitator to explore their own spirituality to ensure they are able to journey with others. -- Elizabeth Pringle, former General Manager Operations Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA), and consultant, Improvement Matters

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