Serenity Spirituality Sessions: A Descriptive Qualitative Exploration of a Christian Resource Designed to Foster Spiritual Well-Being among Older People in Nursing Homes in Ireland
2. Providing Spiritual Support to Older People
- Many patients are religious, and the majority would like their faith to be considered in their health care.
- Religion influences patients’ ability to cope with illness.
- Religious beliefs and practices may influence medical outcomes.
- Patients are often isolated from other sources of religious help.
- Religious beliefs and rituals may conflict with or otherwise influence the medical decisions that patients make, particularly when they are seriously ill.
- Religious beliefs and commitments influence the type of health care and monitoring that a patient receives in the community.
- Medical, nursing and psychiatric training programs are now required to ensure that all graduates provide culturally sensitive health care, which includes care that is sensitive to deeply held religious beliefs.
Creating a spiritual life that provides a sense of ultimate meaning gives a resource for putting life events, both positive and negative, in to context, transcending losses and disabilities, creating a sustaining sense of connection with the sacred, and developing the capacity for deep inner peace.(, p. 116)
Spiritual development gradually and steadily increases from middle age onward and results in a shift from materialistic, role-oriented life philosophy to a transcendent, spiritual perspective in late old age.(, p. 33)
- Finding ultimate meaning for themselves—through relationship, reconciliation with family and/or God, dealing with guilt//loss, etc.
- Assisting a person in moving from self-centredness to self-transcendence—through acceptance of self, of ageing, of chronic conditions, of anger/grief, etc.
- Responding to ultimate meaning with spiritual strategies—through worship, prayer, sacred reading, music, art, etc.
- Being “with” the older person, developing intimacy in relationship—though listening, connecting, trusting, caring, honouring, etc.
- Moving from provisional life meanings to final meanings—through reminiscence, life-review, finding meaning in growing older, in suffering, in death, etc.
- Giving hope—through genuine care, affirmation, support in the dying process, etc.
3. The Study
- To oversee the delivery of the Serenity Spirituality Sessions programme to a sample of older nursing home residents.
- To explore the value of using the Serenity Spirituality Sessions programme with older nursing home residents from the perspective of the facilitators.
3.4. The Serenity Spirituality Sessions
- Let’s begin,
- Praying with Scripture,
- Prayers and Reflections for Others,
- God’s Presence in Nature,
- Personal Prayers,
- Final Blessing and Hymn.
- Track 1
- Track 2
- Church bells ring
- Track 3
- Hymn—Be Thou My Vision
- Track 4
- Track 5
- Scripture Reading
- Track 6
- Psalm—The Lord’s My Shepard
- Track 7
- Track 8
- Hymn—Amazing Grace
- Track 9
- Scripture reading
- Track 10
3.5. Data Collection Measures
3.6. Ethical Considerations
3.7. Data Analysis
4. The Findings
4.1. Benefits and Challenges of the Sessions
The package is very good. It’s very helpful because if I need to do a spiritual session, like praying, I wouldn’t know where to start…it’s a very good tool to do it.
It was very easy to follow…because everything is already prepared for you, it cuts out on your preparation time and [having] everything under the one roof is great in an environment like this…it’s good to have everything and you can just lift the case and go with it. Put it in your CD player and you know that you’ve got all the ingredients for a successful group.
…easy to manage and to run and it’s all there and it explains how to run it. If it wasn’t for that, I think it would be quite difficult to kind of come up with something like that yourself, that would be effective and that would have the same impact on older people really.(, p. 39)
Two ladies actually on two occasions were very agitated. One of them was looking for home and she wanted her daughter and this, that and the other, and when I brought her up, she sat and she had her hands clasped like this (hands clasped as in prayer) and she tapped in time with the hymns and music and she sang along and she prayed and she became completely, (pause) her whole countenance just changed once she was away from that busy environment, she was just completely calm and relaxed.(, p. 38)
The same with another lady, she would pull herself along in the wheelchair, and she was totally out of sorts and when I brought her in here, and just, I think the quiet room, the environment, and she got a lot of joy from it, definitely did and she sang along. She has very poor communication. Now she would have had a stroke and that, and she could only repeat the same words over and over again…and she can sing every word of the hymns, and she can sing along with them, so it just taps in to a different part of her memory or her brain…very effective for her, particularly her, like I could see just the benefit she got out of that and the other lady that was very restless as well, do you know, it had a great calming effect on them.(, p. 38)
In our nursing home, with the good work of the care assistants…that man is going to have his meals downstairs in the dining room. He comes to Serenity and to Mass. But when you see that he never got out you know, for these things before, it’s a great achievement. And he has really enjoyed it.(, p. 40)
she was at home, for a couple of years, she had dementia, she was sitting alone looking at the wall, from day to day…When she came here she couldn’t participate in anything…then Serenity brought her out and then Sonas…now she’s communicating, she’s taking part in all activities, which she would never before. It’s just amazing!...she’s so happy doing something and not just sitting.
Another facilitator felt “the benefit was the comfort”, while a third saw “real benefits in terms of two ladies that were agitated, that were stressed. They calmed down, they were able to sit through the session, they didn’t look to leave, which, in other sessions they quite often would look to leave, or still remain agitated. But this they didn’t. They stayed calm and remained calm afterwards.”(, p. 41)
You don’t know what effect it has on somebody deep down, really you don’t know. It could be subtle…it could be something you don’t even realise, but tomorrow somebody might notice a change in the person, or that the person is calmer or what have you, so you know, still waters run deep (, p. 41). Other direct feedback from the residents given by two more facilitators included comments such as, “That was just beautiful!”, “That was lovely”, and “When can we do it again?”, “Can we do it every evening?”
We’ve a woman in here, she’s blind, but she has her hearing and if you go up to her and sing with her, she’ll rock with you, you know, which is brilliant...that’s where you need the songs.” Another reported that “I think it’s nicer because you’re giving them more attention, it’s more close [sic], there’s more closeness, there’s more intimacy in it definitely, yeah.”(, p. 48)
I think as a group we all feel very connected, at that time, so allowing myself to connect with the residents in that time, at that level. So including myself as a member of that group, offering my prayers with the residents and sharing something of myself within that group as well, I think that, for me, that is important, that I feel and that the residents feel that we are connected.(, p. 48)
4.2. The Use of Rituals to Support Existent Faith
I think a lot of our residents have got very strong faith and they like to practise…they like to come together as a group to pray, it means so much more if you’re praying with other people.
And I think all of the people…feel very connected when they’re together and practising their faith together. So something like this really supports this…it isn’t like an organised religious ceremony or anything, it’s kind of quite informal…and we’re coming together to pray because we want to and because they enjoy it.(, p. 43)
And they’re expressing their spirituality…it’s a ritual they are doing and they need that. They do…coz religion is very important in peoples’ lives you know….Like say for example a resident goes to church every morning at 10 o’ clock, and you know maybe did the rosary every morning and stuff like that. When they come into a residential home, that option should be there…that they get that. It’s very important, because it was part of their life…they were doing this ritual all their lives…You don’t come into a residential home and next of all it all stops!(, p. 43)
4.3. Sense of Community and Belonging
“what we really liked about the Serenity actually is sharing. Learning a little bit more about each other and sharing something of ourselves, maybe about our family, you know. When we wanted to pray for a family member or friend, we were able to share that with the group and that was, the residents really enjoyed that. Somebody this morning prayed for a sick relative…and obviously that was on their mind, so we learned a little bit more about that resident today and their family and where they lived… and we really learned different things about each other which was nice.”(, p. 47)
The external aspects of worship—ceremony, music, and religious symbols—all can provide satisfying continuity. It is a repetition that can produce a feeling of comfort and security.
Ritual is important because it provides a sense of continuity, a link not just with our individual past, but with that of our culture and our faith…The enactment of ancient ritual brings renewed awareness of where we have come from and who we are. It can help us establish profound emotional connections in terms of our identities as individuals and members of families. In this way we capture the feeling of an old self or a partial self. Ritual is one of the paths to integrity as we age.
Conflicts of Interest
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Timmins, F.; Kelly, S.; Threadgold, M.; O'Sullivan, M.; Flanagan, B. Serenity Spirituality Sessions: A Descriptive Qualitative Exploration of a Christian Resource Designed to Foster Spiritual Well-Being among Older People in Nursing Homes in Ireland. Religions 2015, 6, 299-316. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel6020299
Timmins F, Kelly S, Threadgold M, O'Sullivan M, Flanagan B. Serenity Spirituality Sessions: A Descriptive Qualitative Exploration of a Christian Resource Designed to Foster Spiritual Well-Being among Older People in Nursing Homes in Ireland. Religions. 2015; 6(2):299-316. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel6020299Chicago/Turabian Style
Timmins, Fiona, Suzanne Kelly, Mary Threadgold, Michael O'Sullivan, and Bernadette Flanagan. 2015. "Serenity Spirituality Sessions: A Descriptive Qualitative Exploration of a Christian Resource Designed to Foster Spiritual Well-Being among Older People in Nursing Homes in Ireland" Religions 6, no. 2: 299-316. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel6020299