Thursday, June 11, 2015

Prayer and Dementia: Can Disruptive Behavior Improve? (Research, Video 2:57)

Can disruptive dementia behavior improve through prayer when people pray on behalf of others? A research study that lasted 12 weeks focused on answering this question and reducing disruptive behavior of six late-stage dementia patients. A group of Catholic nuns offered the Lord's Prayer for assigned patients twice a day. A second group of nuns prayed for the entire subject group via the Perpetual Adoration religious devotion. Disruptions in behavior of patients with dementia were documented from three weeks pre-intervention to three weeks post-intervention.

What were the research results of this study on prayer and dementiaThe average effect of prayer on behavior resulted in a reduction of disruptive incidents for the group in approximately 27 behavior categories per week. This study suggests “it is feasible to improve the life quality of patients in the terminal phase of their illness through prayer reducing their need to respond to life in a disturbed manner."

Those who are skeptical about the idea of prayer influencing disruptive dementia behavior may be interested in this video featuring Larry Dossey, MD, a former skeptic himself, who explains his own research on how prayer can be a valuable spiritual healing tool for mind, body, medicine practitioners.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. This is a grasping at straws effort and it was conducted on NUNS. I think we should all remember that a good many persons with Alzheimer's are not even Christian, let alone Catholics.

  2. The video refers to 140 other studies. The patients' religion and knowledge of prayers by other people are not mentioned as factors needed for health improvement.

  3. Karen HarrisJune 15, 2015

    Prayer is known to have a calming effect and many positive emotional and spiritual benefits as well as physical. This has been proven many times over in various ways in my life and that of my family and friends.

  4. Having the security of knowing there are people out there wanting for your health to return and your quality of life to increase I think would allow you to live a more peaceful life. I think also it creates a sense of security in your community and in your personal support. Having to suffer from a disease and then having people pray for you to get better, would give a sense of hope and at ease that life is worth living and the people around you are worth remembering.

    1. Yes, there is security in knowing there are people praying and caring about improving your quality of life. However, the research in the post refers to prayers for people with late-stage dementia. Dr. Dossey, who researched numerous studies, refers to many improved patients who received prayers unknown to them.

  5. My own small study of the somatic effects of silent prayer on patients (while in their presence) did show a real and discernable effect on the HRV of both patients and sitters (the people offerring prayer). p. 10

  6. Jeanne, thank you for sharing your interesting research which contributes further to the body of knowledge regarding processes of those who are dying, as well as comfort and care of caregivers. You explained your findings well and in detail that was easy for many to read.