The current number of South Africans who are 60 or older sits at over 4,000 million people, but this number is set to double over the next few decades. This highlights a clear need for palliative care in South Africa – but palliative care is more than just assisting the elderly and the ill. It also relies on spirituality. Spirituality is an important factor in hospice care; research has found that many people experience spiritual distress at the end of their life, and spiritual guidance can vastly improve their outlook and mentality.
Spirituality and healthcare
Many people don’t think that spirituality can be a part of healthcare, but, it can be an essential form of healthcare for people who are near the end of their lives. Lots of people believe that religion and spirituality are intertwined, and studies have found that religious people tend to have better health outcomes if spirituality is included in their treatment.
For instance, a recent study found that patient satisfaction and happiness rates were significantly higher when for those supported their own spiritual health. This is especially relevant in South Africa; Africa is already the largest Christian continent in the world, and the percentage of Christians in South Africa is increasing.
How can you help?
If you provide palliative care for someone and you want to make sure that spirituality is included, one of the easiest things that you can do is listen to your patient without being dismissive or judgmental. Once your patient has told you about their beliefs you can try your best to accommodate those beliefs; for instance, you could bring religious artefacts to them, or you can counsel them on problems that make them feel nervous or afraid. It can also be useful to encourage your patients to find their own coping techniques, such as writing, reading or meditation, as this means that they have coping mechanisms for when you are not present.
Spirituality is very important to lots of people, and it can become even more important when people realize that the end is near. For this reason, it is very important for palliative care providers to deliver their patients with adequate spiritual care, even if they are not spiritual themselves. This can make the patient’s experience much more pleasant and relaxing.