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Spirituality in residential care for people living with dementia: implementing reflective tools for care workers of people living with dementia (SpiritDem)


The needs of older people with a ‘diverse’ cultural or faith background are not well represented in social care research in general, particularly in care homes where an estimated 70% of residents are living with dementia. There is evidence that spirituality and religion can help reduce or stabilise cognitive disorders or enable people to develop coping strategies to help accept a cognitive disorder, maintain relationships, hope, and find meaning in their lives, thus improving their sense of wellbeing. Several research studies have brought to the fore that tools to understand the spiritual needs of people living with dementia are needed.

Aims and objectives

The project’s main aim is to better understand how people living with dementia in care homes from different cultural and faith backgrounds can be best supported with their spiritual needs, and whether previously developed reflective toolkits can aid in improving spiritual care for people living with dementia in care homes.

Secondary objectives are:

  1. To gather perspectives of care home staff, people living with dementia, and their family and friends about the beliefs of, and understandings about, the spiritual needs of residents living with dementia.
  2. To determine the relevance and congruence of the Reflective Spirituality Tool (RST) and Gallery of Spiritualities (GoS) in dementia care through a series of stakeholder workshops and interviews.
  3. To understand and address the challenges and facilitators in use and implementation of the RST and GoS to support care home staff in meeting the spiritual needs of residents living with dementia.
  4. To investigate what spirituality work means to care home staff and the guidance or policies they feel would help spiritual care be supported.


October 2022 – March 2026


This project is part of the Dem-Comm capacity building fellowship, awarded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (host organisation is Applied Research Collaboration South London) and Alzheimer’s Society.


This study comprises 3 phases. Phase 1 will comprise interviews to inform the Reflective Spirituality Tool (RST) and the Gallery of Spiritualities (GoS) by talking with residents living with dementia, their relatives, and care workers. In phase 2, workshops will be held to re-develop the RST and GoS as implementable tools inclusive of care home residents with dementia to be ready for the re-developed tools to be tested in practice. Phase 3 will facilitate reflection on the project through discussions with stakeholders.

Expected outcome and impact

This project will aid in reflecting on what spirituality looks like for people living with dementia in care homes and how their spiritual needs can be attended to by care workers. The dissemination strategy is to share findings through peer-reviewed publications, photograph exhibitions, presentations and reports. The study findings will therefore be shared with care home practitioners, service users, academic and wider audiences to improve the spiritual care provision in care homes for people living with dementia.

Project status: Ongoing