Spiritual Care for Hospice Patients
It is very common in the U.S. that hospice patients rely on religion or spirituality to help them deal with their terminal illness. The goal of providing Spiritual Care is to provide the patient a sense of purpose so they can heal spiritually before passing on.
Spiritual Care as part of hospice care is usually conducted by the patient’s religious leader, member of clergy or hospice chaplain. This is an important time of hospice care and ongoing spiritual support is needed, even when spiritual care provider is not available or the patient is reluctant to accept a referral for spiritual care.
Hospice care providers focus on facilitating patient comfort at the end of life, and providing spiritual support can be one aspect of this.
Even though some people that face death will have their dormant spirit awakened, for most of them their spiritual needs are still not addressed enough at the end of life. These spiritual needs usually include having a meaning of life, receiving forgiveness, finding hope in their earthly life and life beyond death, dying peacefully and completing some unfinished tasks.
These spiritual needs might also include religion, companionship, family, decision making and some alone time to reflect on the past and reconnect.
It’s not uncommon that patients, that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, start questioning their beliefs. These questions can often lead to spiritual distress and it’s important to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms in order to better assist. The most common signs or symptoms of spiritual distress include:
- Feeling of anger or hopelessness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Questioning the meaning of life
- Depression or anxiety
- Feeling abandoned by God
- Sudden doubts in religious beliefs
- Asking why is this happening
- Seeking spiritual help or guidance
The best thing you can do to help someone who is in spiritual distress is to be there as an active listener and to provide a supportive and calm environment. If they request, you can also reach out to a spiritual leader to answer some of their questions. And if expressing feelings, thoughts or questions are difficult, keeping a journal where they can keep track of their thoughts and better articulate them.
Spiritual distress is common with terminally ill patients. Make sure that you are available to support your loved ones with the spiritual needs, either in person or to find someone who can help them.