Spiritual care, also known as pastoral care, is an important part of hospice care—the interdisciplinary, compassionate care services that support patients and families through the end-of-life and grieving process.
Whatever an individual’s belief system or cultural tradition may be—whether they consider themselves to be religious or not—there is potential value to be found in accepting the offer of spiritual counseling.
A hospice chaplain, or spiritual counselor, is trained to assess individual needs and to meet each person they serve wherever they are in their own understanding. Spiritual counselors never proselytize or try to tell someone what to think. Rather, they are trained to be active listeners and to comfort the people they serve by guiding them through their own questions and emotions and offering insight and inspiration when needed. They also can assist patients with conceptualizing and planning a life celebration or memorial service.
The definition of spiritual care
“Spiritual” is a word that’s used to mean different things in different contexts. But what does it mean in hospice care?
Hospice services are designed to care for body, mind, and spirit—that intangible spark that makes you you—the special way you draw meaning from your existence and the important relationships in your life. For some, that involves a faith, religious practice, or cultural tradition, but it doesn’t have to.
While physicians and nurses care for one’s medical needs, a psychologist or psychiatrist supports one’s mental health, and a medical social worker directs clients to the resources they need, a spiritual counselor or hospice chaplain is specially trained to listen, guide, comfort, and support a patient and their family members through their personal experiences of illness, loss, and grief—whatever they may be.
Benefits of spiritual care
Most clients find spiritual counseling to have a calming and uplifting effect. Toward the end of life, it’s not uncommon for a patient to experience changes such as an intense concern for others, guilt, obsessive thoughts, confusion, or feelings of isolation. Emotionally, both patient and family members may feel numb, depressed, anxious, or regretful. Spiritual care can help alleviate such negative thoughts and feelings by introducing positive ideas, rituals, and experiences selected just for them to facilitate interpersonal or universal connection, gratitude, love, forgiveness, and emotional closure.
Not only can spiritual care help you work through the “big questions,” concerns, and fears that often arise in times of pain or loss, it often helps patients and families find peace, meaning, and yes, even joy in their experience.
Whenever possible, joy fulfillment is an important part of the BAYADA Hospice approach—starting with a life review that guides the patient to identify their own goals and priorities, what relationships may need attention, what makes them happy, and any final wishes. Whenever possible, our hospice care teams love to help make those wishes come true.
Above all, the aim of spiritual care in hospice is to help patients and their loved ones find their own comfort and peace and to provide the comprehensive support they need to make the most of their time together.