Saturday, February 15, 2014

Godly Play with Alzheimer's Patients

I recently became aware of Lois Howard's work with Alzheimer's patients and Godly Play in Lexington, Kentucky. In a fascinating article on the Key Resources website, Lois tells about her experiences and offers advice to those who wish to work with seniors. Lois has been a Godly Play storyteller for 25 years, and you can tell this by the wisdom and love that radiates from her writing. 

Here Lois tells the Parable of the Good Shepherd using
3-D figures to make it easier for her audience to see.
(All photos used with permission from Lois Howard.)

Part 1 of the article describes the path that led Lois to working with Alzheimer's patients after years of working with children. Be sure to read Part 2 of the article (which I missed the first time!), because it is a treasure chest of information on how to actually start working with seniors:

  • a list of the Godly Play stories that she tells annually and that seem particularly effective
  • adaptations to the stories
  • advice for getting started
  • ideas for Response Time

Bingo is a beloved activity for Response Time.
I find some of the adaptations that Lois makes particularly helpful. If you are familiar with Godly Play, you know that one of the hallmarks of the methodology is for the storyteller to keep his/her eyes on the story materials rather than making eye contact with the listeners. Lois wrote me, however, that she intentionally makes eye contact with her seniors, and started doing so after telling a story and looking up to find that all of her listeners had fallen asleep!

She also uses three-dimensional figures for the parables (rather than the traditional flat wooden figures) to make it easier for the seniors to see them. Also, she suggests using colored figures for the desert stories, so that there is a contrast with the sand. 

Response Time can also be rather untraditional with seniors. Because of difficulties with fine motor skills and taking into account the interest of the seniors themselves, Lois often sings or plays bingo with them. I have not yet had the opportunity to have a Response Time with my seniors, so this gives me some ideas.  

The most important part of any Godly Play ministry, connecting with others and sharing God's love. 
My favorite part of the article is when Lois lists the reasons and motivation for ministry with Alzheimer's patients, which can be applicable to all seniors living in care facilities, whether they suffer from dementia or not. At the top of the list is "to be a loving, accepting presence to people who are often forgotten".  Sounds a lot like Jesus to me. 


  1. Sheila,
    I love the idea of extending this wonderful work to senior citizens with Alzheimers!

  2. I do, too , Cheryl. I'm so glad that word if Lois' work is getting out, so we can learn from her experience.