Spiritual care in palliative care: series introduction

Categories: Care.

Often we find that the aspect of care that encompasses the spirituality of the patient is sidelined in favour of those issues that we feel better equipped to address. We have medication to manage the physical symptoms associated with the patient’s condition, and well-established theory and practice to address social and psychological issues at the end of life. 

Palliative care professionals recognise a pressing need for greater attention to, and a robust evidence base to, support spiritual care in palliative care. 

The European Association for Palliative Care taskforce on spiritual care within palliative care defines spirituality as:

‘The dynamic dimension of human life that relates to the way persons (individual and community) experience, express and/or seek meaning, purpose and transcendence, and the way they connect to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, to the significant and/or the sacred.’

The taskforce goes on to discuss the multidimensionality of the spiritual field, recognising that it includes:

  • existential challenges (eg questions concerning identity, meaning, suffering and death, guilt and shame, reconciliation and forgiveness, freedom and responsibility, hope and despair, love and joy)
  • value based considerations and attitudes (what is most important for each person, such as relations to oneself, family, friends, work, things nature, art and culture, ethics and morals, and life itself)
  • religious considerations and foundations (faith, beliefs and practices, the relationship with God or the ultimate) (EAPC).

The EAPC, along with organizations such as Health Care Chaplaincy, as well as individual palliative care professionals, aims to support spiritual care in palliative care through:

  • recognition
  • research
  • education
  • implementation
  • funding/resources.

This series has the aim of increasing recognition by encouraging conversation around spiritual care in palliative care.

Authors from the EAPC, Health Care Chaplaincy, and various hospices around the world will engage with the topic in the weeks to come. 

ehospice thanks everyone who contributed to this first series on spiritual care in palliative care, and invites others to join the conversation by logging in and leaving your comments on the articles. 

-Ed.

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