Hospice Basics, Cultural Competency
October 19, 2017

How to Spiritually Care for Your Patients Near the End of Life

Two women smiling and embracing one another

As a healthcare professional, you know that spiritual care is valuable at any time, for any patient. At VITAS, we've found it's particularly essential for hospice patients as they struggle with apprehensions about their own death.

Social workers make a big difference by bringing psychosocial and emotional support to patients and families, but they can look after their patients’ spiritual well-being as well by assessing their spiritual needs and connecting them to people, literature and other resources that can help.

3 Ways to Help Your Patients with Spiritual Guidance

  • Ask about their faith, or lack thereof. If they belong to a church or synagogue, encourage them to connect with fellow congregants and their pastor or rabbi. Patients and families sometimes “don’t want to be a bother” to others and need encouragement to reach out.
  • Look in the bookstore or online for patient-oriented books on death and dying. Learn a little bit about your patient’s (or their loved one’s) beliefs and interests before you buy or recommend. There is a plethora of books on death and dying, from the humorous (“Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant” by Roz Chast) to the deeply philosophical (“Advice on Dying” by the Dalai Lama) and many others in between.
  • Ask the VITAS care team manager for a referral. Most VITAS care teams include numerous spiritual leaders and volunteers who can lend spiritual support.

VITAS Chaplains and Bereavement Specialists Provide Spiritual Care

Specialized spiritual care is built into the interdisciplinary VITAS care team. VITAS chaplains are always available to support patients and grieving families with counseling appropriate to any faiths—and no faith.

Our bereavement specialists help patients and families cope with grief and loss. They are there for families for months after a death, and can provide one-on-one support, support groups and grief education.