Turn to Houses of Worship for Information about Memory Care

Eric J. Hall Health Guide
  • Who do people turn to when they need comfort or are in crisis? Houses of worship often come to the top of the list.

     

    This is no different when families are facing Alzheimer's disease.

     

    A survey of caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, which was conducted by Harris Interactive for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, found that religion and spirituality are a significant part of the caregiving journey. These caregivers-religious respondents more so than non-religious participants-look to religious leaders for support. Their religion also influences their healthcare decisions. And many said they would welcome more support from clergy.

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    In recent years, the role of religion and spirituality when coping with life-threatening diseases has increasingly come into the spotlight-and there has been ongoing debate about the health benefits of this connection. While some skeptics suggest that many studies are flawed, mounting research suggests links between better health and religious devotion and/or participation in religious functions, including such outcomes as less stress and anxiety, better immune systems, faster recovery and longer life. An increasing number of medical schools in the United States now teach courses on spirituality.

     

    Regardless of whether people are religious, houses of worship are a vital community resource-the venue for social gatherings, chorus groups, Girl Scout troops, age-related activities from nursery schools to senior programs, and support groups for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Community is the key word.

     

    These sites are a logical choice, then, to spread education about health issues. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is inviting houses of worship across the country to collaborate with us and participate in "Memory Care Connection" on April 12 and/or 13, 2008. These houses of worships of all religious denominations will open their doors to the public, with the goal of providing education about critical issues related to memory care: how to age successfully, warning signs of dementia, the importance of early diagnosis, caregiving challenges and strategies, and community resources. Participating sites will be listed on AFA's Memory Care Connection Web pages.

     

    By bringing this initiative to community-based venues, we hope to "bring communities together for awareness." We hope to position the issue of memory care in the forefront of people's thinking, remove the stigma and denial that continue to surround Alzheimer's disease, and better prepare the public for issues they are coping with now or might face in the future.

    Yes, the sites are houses of worship. But being religious, obviously, isn't a requirement in order to attend. All that's needed is an interest in getting informed.

Published On: January 18, 2008