Spiritual Care Services
Many times religion and spirituality are confused. Spirituality encompasses people who are religious and have connection to a faith tradition, as well as people who do not perceive themselves to be religious at all. A person can be both spiritual and religious. A person does not have to be religious, but still can have spiritual concerns. Religion can help spirituality. Having no religious belief does not necessarily exclude spiritual concerns.
Religion has to do with faith concerns, denominations, traditions, doctrines and rituals. Religious concerns can be Christian, Jewish, Hindu Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi, Kabbalistic or other expressions of religious institutions. In hospice, we are interested in the experience of the patient/family’s religious life, if that is important to them. We try to ascertain the patient’s level of participation in his/her religion, the significance of the faith community now, and if that community and clergy are meeting religious needs. If not, Hospice will be the bridge to bring the two together, or may, through spiritual counselors, try to help meet the religious needs. We offer traditional practices, such as reading scripture, prayer, rites of forgiveness and reconciliation, meditation and in Christian tradition, the Eucharist or Communion. What does the patient desire that might help them connect to God more closely? That is a question we are interested in and can help the patient experience the God they worship more fully and completely.
Spiritual care is a factor in the holistic care concept of Hospice. Some of the primary concerns of a dying patient are spiritual questions related to sense of purpose, the meaning of life, self-image and hope for the future. The knowledge that we will die soon demands us to explore our beliefs.
Consistent with all hospice concepts, spiritual care should give the patient the opportunity to assess and self-evaluate within a defined spiritual perspective; to investigate beliefs, not just take them for granted. Under no circumstances should a hospice chaplain bring his or her own salvation agenda to a patient’s bedside or in any way impose personal religious or denominational beliefs. Some of the spiritual needs we look for are:
- re-examining beliefs
- exploring beliefs of an afterlife
- reconciling life choices
- exploring one’s contributions and achievements
- examining loving relationships
- discovering meaning
- the need for fellowship and spiritual conversation
- prayer and meditation
- religious rituals, such as communion, confession scripture
The Hospice Chaplain is there to meet the spiritual needs of all hospice patients whatever their faith or belief stance. All persons have spiritual concerns when facing death. The hospice chaplain may, through encouragement, permission to express feelings, observation and feedback, and clarification of conceptual tools and meaningful symbols and images, help hospice patients explore their belief stance, personalize it and use it creatively to cope with living and dying.