Lakeland, Fla. – Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care Spiritual Care Manager Rich Behers, DMin, BCC, CFHPC understands the frustration family members feel when caring for a loved one who has dementia.
As a chaplain working for another hospice organization several years ago, Behers found he had little training and little connection with patients he was assigned to provide spiritual comfort.
Behers consulted with various colleagues and developed a process for connecting with patients who seem to live in a different world by using sensory tools to expose them to vivid and pleasant reminders of their past.
After spending more than five years on research, development and implementation of his approach at Cornerstone Hospice, Behers has completed a guide for chaplains to enhance communications with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
Spiritual Care for People Living with Dementia Using Multisensory Interventions was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers earlier this summer.
“The book begins with an explanation of how dementia affects a person. The reader then learns my proven process for connecting with patients using photos of familiar subjects, music, aroma and affirmations of personal worth,” said Behers. “While written as a resource for chaplains and other clergy who provide support for their congregants, the book is appropriate for anyone dealing with a dementia patient.”
“Chaplain Richard Behers provides a deep understanding of the challenges of communicating with Alzheimer’s patients, particularly in the late stage of the disease. His ability to recognize their limits and develop a method for effectively reaching deep into their being, and extracting their excitement and interactions is extraordinary,” said Kathleen Winters, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Family Organization, based in Spring Hill, Fla.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers has posted many of the images that Behers has used to engage dementia patients on their website which can be downloaded and printed for use. They include pictures of flowers, animals, the beach, religious objects and other images that may be familiar.
All Cornerstone Hospice chaplains are trained in the dementia care protocol that Behers developed.
“It has happened several times that one of our chaplains is showing photos to a patient who is unresponsive, and it sparks something familiar that makes the patient speak just as a family member walks into the room,” explained Behers. “The caregivers often cry hearing their loved one’s voice for the first time in a while.”
Behers says his goal is for the book to be in the hands of every chaplain in the U.S. so that wherever there may be someone with dementia, there will be someone who can care for the patient and their family.
About Cornerstone Hospice
Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc., a not-for-profit, community organization since 1984, provides comfort and care to Central Florida families experiencing life-limiting illnesses.
Cornerstone is Joint Commission accredited for hospice care, a national symbol of quality that reflects the organization’s commitment to meeting high-performance standards. Over 7,000 people in Lake, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties benefit from Cornerstone programs each year. Enhanced patient and family care are made possible through the generous support of individuals and groups. For more information, to donate, or to volunteer, call 866-742-6655 or visit www.cornerstonehospice.org.