Spirituality and Faith

Spirituality and Faith

Spiritual care as a component of palliative care can be important to both the patient and for those near to the patient. Approaching death can evoke spiritual questions as well as delicate end-of-life issues in secular and/or multi-cultural society.

Practice Issues

Bassett L, Bingley AF, Brearley SG. Silence as an element of care: A meta-ethnographic review of professional caregivers' experience in clinical and pastoral settings. Palliat Med. 2018 Jan;32(1):185-194. doi: 10.1177/0269216317722444. Epub 2017 Aug 8.
This review explores ‘silence’ as an element of care, and based on 18 published studies reinforces its relevance in spiritual care while highlighting the need for training among professional caregivers.

Chen J, Lin Y, Yan J, Wu Y, Hu R. The effects of spiritual care on quality of life and spiritual well-being among patients with terminal illness: A systematic review. Palliat Med. 2018 Apr 1:269216318772267. doi: 10.1177/0269216318772267. [Epub ahead of print] This review of controlled, randomised  studies provides insights into approaches to spirituality in the palliative care context and shows the positive  impact of this on quality of life.

Daly L, Fahey-McCarthy E, Timmins F. The experience of spirituality from the perspective of people living with dementia: A systematic review and meta-synthesis. Dementia (London). 2019 Feb;18(2):448-470.

Gijsberts MJ, Echteld MA, van der Steen JT, Muller MT, Otten RH, Ribbe MW, Deliens L. Spirituality at the end-of-life: Conceptualization of measurable aspects-a systematic review. J Palliat Med. 2011 Jul;14(7):852-63.
The aim of this study was to conceptualize spirituality by identifying dimensions, based on instruments measuring spirituality in end-of-life populations. A systematic literature review was conducted. Literature published between 1980 and 2009, focussing on instruments measuring spirituality at the end of life was collected from the PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and PsycINFO databases. Outcomes identified nine instruments which defined a new model which distinguishes the dimensions of spiritual well-being, spiritual cognitive behavioural context and spiritual coping.

Holloway M, Adamson S, McSherry W, Swinton J (University of Hull, Staffordshire and Aberdeen). Spiritual care at the end-of-life: A systematic review of the literature. 2011. (freely accessible 1.6MB pdf)
This report sets out the findings of a literature review on spiritual care at the end-of-life conducted by the Universities of Hull, Staffordshire and Aberdeen. The review was commissioned to inform future work on spiritual care at the end-of-life, as part of the implementation of the End-of-Life Care Strategy. This analysis draws on international studies including Australian. Includes disciplinary and professional contexts, concepts and definitions, spiritual assessment, spiritual interventions, education and training, tools and models.

Rumbold BD. A review of spiritual assessment in health care practice. Med J Aust. 2007 May 21;186(10 Suppl):S60-2.
The recent surge of interest in links between spirituality and health has generated many assessment approaches that seek to identify spiritual need and suggest strategic responses for health care practitioners. The interpretations of spirituality made within health frameworks do not do justice to the way spirituality is understood in society in general. Spiritual assessment should not impose a view or definition of spirituality, but should seek to elicit the thoughts, memories and experiences that give coherence to a person's life. Spiritual assessment tools should not be used without adequate exploration of the assumptions made. Assessment processes need to be adequately conceptualised and practically relevant.

Sulmasy DP. A biopsychosocial-spiritual model for the care of patients at the end-of-life. Gerontologist. 2002 Oct;42 Spec No 3:24-33.
This article presents a model for research and practice that expands on the biopsychosocial model to include the spiritual concerns of patients. Four general domains for measuring various aspects of spirituality are distinguished: religiosity, religious coping and support, spiritual well-being, and spiritual need. A framework for understanding the interactions between these domains is presented. Available instruments are reviewed and critiqued. An agenda for research in the spiritual aspects of illness and care at the end-of-life is proposed.

Policy Issues

Spiritual Care Integral To Palliative Care (466kb pdf)
A joint position statement developed by Palliative Care Australia and Meaningful Ageing Australia calls for the universal acceptance of the importance of spirituality and spiritual care for people receiving palliative and end-of-life care in aged care.

Associated materials

Buddhist Council of Victoria. Buddhist Care for the Dying (422kb pdf). 2004. (freely accessible)
This resource provides practical advice on how to support Buddhists at the time of death. Information on understanding the Buddhist customs, traditions and rituals at the time of death. Information is provided for Chinese, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Japanese Buddhists and has different answers to the same questions according to the two categories of Buddhists - Mahayana and Theravada. There are also contact details for Buddhist organisations.

palliAGED. Practice Tip Sheets. Current (freely accessible website)
palliAGED Practice tip sheets. Providing easy to understand evidence-based information for nurses and careworkers in aged care, this collection of printable factsheets includes the topic of spirituality.

Loddon Mallee Regional Palliative Care Consortium. An outline of different cultural beliefs at the time of death (435kb pdf). 2011.
This document is provided as a brief resource which may assist healthcare workers to understand the different cultural or religious approaches to death and dying. It should not be seen as prescriptive or fully detailing all the intricacies of a given religion or culture, nor is intended to be a definitive statement indicating how individuals may wish to be treated during or after their death. The majority of religions are listed including Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Maori, Muslim, scientologist, Seventh Day Adventist and Sikh.

Spiritual Health Association. Professional development program. Current (registration and payment required)
The Spirituality in Aged Care Professional Development Program is an innovative education resource designed to assist aged care providers to better understand what is meant by spirituality and spiritual care, and to identify and respond to the spiritual needs of ageing residents and clients as part of their everyday practice. The program is comprised of 6 modules suitable for all staff and volunteers involved in aged care, including ancillary staff, plus an additional 3 modules for participants who wish to take on the role of Spiritual Care Liaison in their facility. The program can be facilitated by a spiritual care professional from your facility or a Spiritual Health Association accredited facilitator. The six core modules can be delivered one at a time, over two half days, or over a whole day (recommended format). The final three modules are designed for staff who wishes to become a Spiritual Care Liaison and provide support to other staff and volunteers by being available to have conversations regarding residents’ spiritual needs, and by helping other staff members and volunteers to decide what to do next.

Page updated 17 May 2022