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Respecting Religious Tradition

A loved one's faith is an important factor in caregiving

En español | Caregivers should make sure that the religious traditions of their loved ones are upheld by everyone providing care.

These are the kinds of situations you may encounter:

  • While a doctor might tell a patient not to drink alcohol, the physician — if asked — may allow the mouthful of wine that is a part of the Eucharist.
  • A Christian Scientist might want to avoid all or most medical intervention, but he or she may be open to help from a Christian Science Nurse, who can attend the sick without challenging the patient's desire for healing through prayer only.
  • A meal delivery program may not be prepared to provide only kosher meals.

When conflict arises

Remember to respect your loved one's cultural and religious practices — regardless of his or her cognitive ability — as you coordinate all aspects of the loved one's care. Some negotiations and compromise may be necessary. If you and the care recipient cannot work through these differences, you might want to seek advice from an experienced mediator, such as a hospital chaplain; the chaplain might even meet with both of you, if necessary.

Another option is to hire a geriatric care manager for an assessment and recommendations on how to deal with differences.

Faith communities

Some religious organizations offer caregiving-related services for older people. If your loved one is connected to such a community, inquire with others in that community about their programs for seniors. For example, Faith in Action is a nondenominational network of volunteers who help homebound people without moving them to a nursing home or assisted living facility. For more on this program, visit the Faith in Action website.

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