End of life care

10. Psychological, social and spiritual needs

A person with later-stage dementia can still become distressed or depressed, and they will still have emotional, spiritual or religious needs. Through advance care planning or their knowledge of the person, staff and family should seek to minimise distress and meet these needs as best they can.

Little things such as talking to the person, brushing their hair or holding their hand can help considerably. Meaningful connections like this can help you to meet emotional needs and be close to the person.

Spirituality can be hard to define and it is not just about religious beliefs, although these may be a part of it. Everybody has their own unique spiritual life. Spiritual needs should be addressed and honoured just as much as the medical aspects of care.

Whenever possible, it's best to ensure the person is in a calm, familiar environment with people they are close to. The person might enjoy things that stimulate their senses, such as familiar music or aromas (eg lavender) and hand massages. Personal or religious objects, symbols or rituals (including prayer or readings) may be used. Early memories are generally retained longest in dementia so the person may respond to older recollections.

As a carer you will have your own spiritual needs and it is important that you are supported to express these and have them met. Talk to care staff about your feelings and what spiritual and faith-based support is available.