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Aging, Spirituality and Palliative Care

Elizabeth MacKinlay PhD, RN (Editor)

Many of us now find  ourselves in what is sometimes called the ‘sandwich generation’—poised between our children and our parents with the looming needs of the elderly fast becoming a major concern to us.

This is a collection of studies done in the field of aged care with specific reference to the spiritual needs of the elderly in their latter years.  For anyone with a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent in this stage of life—or anyone working with a seniors’ ministry-- who is looking for some insights this book may give some helpful pointers to make our expression of love and commitment at this stage of life more meaningful to our loved ones.  As it is compiled from the work of different authors on differing aspects of spirituality and aged care and dying, one can pick and choose those papers which touch on one’s own family needs and challenges.

While there are no easy answers to some of the difficulties of aging, this book can help us face the reality that in order to help our elderly loved ones, there may be questions and fears we need to deal within ourselves which would then better equip us to encourage, appreciate and even learn from them and their journey through the aging process.  The quote from one dementia sufferer tells the poignant truth that those we don’t understand, and can’t readily communicate with, we find easy to ignore-- to our shame and their sorrow.  She said:  “As I travel towards the dissolution of my self, my personality, my very ‘essence,’ my relationship with God needs increasing support from you, my other in the body of Christ.  Don’t abandon me at any stage, for the Holy Spirit connects us.  It links our souls, our spirits—not our minds or brains.  I need you to minister to me, to sing with me, pray with me, to be my memory for me.”

As the book is from a conference which represented people of many faiths, and is presented in a somewhat academic form -- spirituality is not addressed from a solely Christian perspective, but is recognized as a universal human need.  That said, however, the editor is a Christian and many of the studies were done in Christian based aged care facilities.  If your congregation has a seniors’ ministry whether formal or informal, or you have an aged family member this book might be a valuable addition to your library.  As the editor Dr. MacKinlay comments:  “All people should have the opportunity to share their final journey with others.  In a death denying society this final career needs to be reclaimed.”

Haworth Pastoral Press, Binghamton, NY  USA

Available in Australia through www.fishpond.com.au         

Submitted by Ruth Matthews