Whose God is He Anyway?

Resident A: I am looking for God. Can you help me?

C: Would you like to schedule an appointment with the Chaplain?

Resident B: She doesn’t need no chaplain. I am God.

Resident A (Pointing at Resident C): Oh, there he is.

Resident B: Wait! I am God. Don’t walk away, you woman of little faith!

***

I don’t know if statistics are available out there but “religious delusions” have to be top 3 in most psychiatric settings. As mental health professionals, we know better than to support delusional beliefs, even if circumstances do not permit or encourage us to challenge them. But there were times when a resident would throw a fit if we did not call him God.

From time to time, we have God, Jesus, Buddha, or the Devil. As much as we can censor ourselves as providers, how much control do we really have over our residents’ beliefs and behaviors? What if it sooths Mrs. A to believe that Mr. C is God and Mr. D is a prophet; and for the latter two to somehow believe that’s who they are?

When we try to redirect or curb these beliefs and behaviors, is it always out of clinical necessicity or our own values and beliefs? How about someone with dementia who believe she is a physician and refuses to cooperate during personal care unless you call her Dr. Jones? Do you try to correct her? Where do you draw the line?

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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