Spiritual Care for People with Dementia: Ignatian meditation

Robyn Wrigley-Carr

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Interest in both the spirituality of people with dementia and the necessity to provide for their ‘spiritual care’ has expanded dramatically in recent years. Given the significant role of sensory stimulation in the nurture of the spirituality of people with dementia, Ignatian meditation is one way forward in ‘soul care’ for the aged.

Ignatius of Loyola was a sixteenth century, Spanish monk who emphasised the importance of engaging the senses and imagination when reading a short narrative from Scripture. In Ignatian meditation we become a participant in a narrative from the Gospels, and imagine we're there in the scene with Jesus - observing, listening, smelling, hearing, touching.

In this paper I present my findings from being a weekly participant-observer, leading small groups of people with dementia in Ignatian meditation, at a Christian Aged Care home for people with dementia in Sydney, Australia in 2019.

The theoretical framework undergirding my research is Friedrich von Hügel’s three Elements of Religion (the Intellectual, Mystical and Institutional Elements). I argue that with the decline of the Intellectual Element of religion (head knowledge about God), one way to nurture the spirituality of people with dementia is via a strategy of compensation, by increasing the attention we give to the Institutional Element of religion (the senses, bodily and communal) and the Mystical Element of religion (mystical experiences of God). Ignatian meditation engages residents in stimulation of their senses and imagination in a communal setting and has the potential to nurture the spirituality of people with dementia.

This paper provides evocative descriptions of people with dementia engaging in Ignatian meditation and reflectively considers the usefulness of this approach for spiritual care for Christian residents. It also considers the principle of sensory stimulation for people with dementia from other faith traditions and secular spiritualities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationYork St John University, UK Conference (zoom)
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Network for the Study of Spirituality conference, 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2021


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