It can be argued that all people who are looking after someone have some kind of faith, faith that things might turn out OK that day, faith in their own ability to cope….

Some people have religious beliefs, in that they practise an organised faith and are part of that community for their faith.  They will have help and support from their faith community and can share their practises and traditions of that faith.

Sometimes the faith that the person with dementia follows is not the same faith as lots of people within their community, so that they are at risk of people not understanding their faith or the requirements of that faith.  The carer might know some of the information regarding a faith that is not their own, but they will probably not know all that needs to be known in order to follow a devout lifestyle.

Some people of faith like their organised faith, but don’t necessarily follow all of the practises and traditions of that faith, they pick the ones that work for them or the ones that they like and they ignore the rest.  Not everyone who identifies as belonging to a particular faith is devout, but some people are.  If this is the case, the carer should talk to the person to find out what they want to observe or how their faith requirements can be adapted to fit their health circumstances.

Some people have a strong sense of spirituality, but do not conform to any particular mainstream religion.  However they might have strong faith beliefs about how they want to live their life, who they want to see, what they want to eat or wear…….  So a conversation about what is important to them will be helpful, so that the carer can support the person with dementia to live the lifestyle of their choosing.

For anyone with dementia who is observant of their faith, then the carer should seek help and support from the faith community to ensure that the traditions and symbols are incorporated into the life of the person with dementia.

In my work as a lawyer, I was involved in a case of getting the right support for a person of faith, where the faith was not one of the dominant faiths of the society in which they lived.  There are some specialist faith homes, where the traditions of the faith are practised regularly, so that the residents can feel part of a shared community of people of that faith.  And ensuring that an elderly and frail person, who would have been marginalised during their lifetime for their faith and cultural background was finally able to be supported in an environment that was consistent to their needs, was a very proud moment in my professional career.

So if the person you know with dementia has faith needs, then you might need to seek help to ensure that these needs are met.  These kinds of non-medical needs are nevertheless really important to their quality of life.  And for a person with deep spiritual beliefs that are not part of an organised religion, it is worth having a chat with them about their needs and what they want to have around them, which is important to them.  It is likely to be a very connecting experience having their faith needs met, as they will feel seen, heard and valued.  This is something that is important for all humans, including people with dementia.