Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Living with dementia: using spiritual reminiscence to help find meaning in the experience of dementia

04 May 2023 - by Liz Jakimow

Living with dementia: using spiritual reminiscence to help find meaning in the experience of dementia.

Life review, or reminiscence, can open new possibilities for people who have dementia. After being diagnoses with younger onset dementia, Christine Bryden said one of the greatest challenges was finding meaning in her life with this new diagnosis.

A process of spiritual reminiscence, either one-on-one or in small groups, can be a valuable means of learning to live with a diagnosis of dementia. This method does not just work with facts and historical memories, but awakens stories that lie, perhaps unexplored, still open to share. The process that MacKinlay & Trevitt (2012 & 2015) have developed is summed up as:

Spiritual reminiscence is a special way of communication that acknowledges the person as a spiritual being and seeks to engage the person in a more meaningful and personal way. It focuses on the person with dementia and their emotional and spiritual being rather than on cognitive losses. (MacKinlay & Trevitt, 2015).

The Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies (CAPS) has resources for teaching the skills needed to engage in the process of spiritual reminiscence. Too often it is thought that people with dementia cannot enter into meaningful conversation due to their cognitive deficits, and word problems. However, learning skills of communication in this method of working with ‘meaning’, provides new openings for connecting effectively with people who have dementia.

CAPS provide two ways to equip people to engage in spiritual reminiscence:

  1. A two-day train-the-trainer workshop to prepare staff to teach the skills to others, after becoming proficient in the skills themselves.
  2. A one-day workshop for people who want to learn how to guide others in the process of spiritual reminiscence, as effective listeners and guides.

New training resources

Those who do either of these workshops with receive a link to the introductory video on spiritual reminiscence. Those who take the two-day train-the-trainer workshop will be offered the two training videos under licence, for an additional fee. (Please contact CAPS for further details).

CAPS have a two-day workshop planned for 25-26 May on ‘Spiritual reminiscence for older people’. There is the option to purchase the two training videos for an addition fee. To register for this event, please go to Eventbrite.