End of life care

8. Psychological, cultural, religious and spiritual needs

A person in the later stages of dementia will still have needs based on how they are feeling, and any cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs and practices.

Through advance care planning or their knowledge of the person, all those supporting the person (including care professionals) should try to meet their needs as best they can. For example, if the person becomes distressed or depressed, doing small things can help a lot – for example, talking to the person, brushing their hair or holding their hand. Meaningful connections like this can help you to meet emotional needs and be close to the person.

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 (such as lavender) and hand massages.

The person’s cultural needs should be acknowledged and respected. Cultural needs can be influenced by a range of factors such as where the person lives, their gender and their language. They can include how soon the person would like their funeral, whether they would like to be buried or cremated, and any rituals or ceremonies that are important to them. Talk to care staff about these needs.

The person’s spiritual needs will be individual to them, and may include questions about meaning, faith and belief. These needs should be addressed and respected as much as the medical aspects of care. Personal or religious objects, symbols or rituals (including prayer or readings) may be used. People with dementia usually keep older memories for longer, so they may respond to things they recall from earlier in their life such as religious readings or hymns.

As a carer you may have your own spiritual and cultural 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.