Spiritual Care in Practice

Spiritual Care

What we know

For many people, spirituality is important throughout life. Spiritual care may be especially important for older people at the end of life. Spiritual care is part of a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care. Spiritual care may help individuals to feel positive and to cope in a time of stress. All staff can participate in a whole-of-organisation approach to spiritual care.

What can I do?

Recognise that spiritual care is part of everyone’s role.

Sometimes people (older people in particular) do not have the language to know who to talk to or even to ask for help. Ask the person if perhaps they would like to speak to someone / a chaplain.

Use the ConnecTo Tool which can be useful but requires some training.

Other tools you can use:

Record life histories and make them accessible to help meaningful engagement between a person living with dementia and those who care for them.

Spiritual care is a shift to meaningful experiences and to connection. Remember:

  • to use appropriate touch, eye contact, and a welcoming and unhurried approach to conversation
  • to ask about spirituality and religious beliefs as the older person may not want to initiate the conversation
  • to be sensitive to and respectful of the spiritual and religious needs of people in your care and their families; these will vary from person to person
  • that spiritual and religious needs may still exist in people with cognitive decline
  • to offer opportunities for a connection to nature, to music, to conversation, to art, to memories or through expressions of self in terms of diet and clothing
  • to provide opportunities for discussion with chaplaincy staff
  • when looking for activities and roles that give people purpose at end of life, it may be appropriate to offer a therapeutic life review or dignity therapy.

What can I learn?

Access the:

Watch the 5 short animations from Meaningful Australia for assessment and planning; personal carers; boards, CEOs and senior staff; and care co-ordinators and team leaders.

Check out the Fact Sheets and Resources from Meaningful Ageing Australia.

Read the Joint Position Statement (466kb pdf) from Meaningful Ageing Australia and Palliative Care Australia about the importance of spiritual care in palliative and end-of-life care (May 2017).

Read this piece in The Conversation (May 2016) Spiritual care at the end of life can add purpose and help maintain identity.

Watch these short videos:

What can my organisation do?

Watch the short animations from Meaningful Australia for boards, CEOs and senior staff; and care co-ordinators and team leaders.

Consider implementing the nine principles from Holyoke P, Stephenson B. Organization-level principles and practices to support spiritual care at the end of life: a qualitative study. BMC Palliat Care. 2017 Apr 11;16(1):24.

Encourage all staff to think about spiritual care as part of daily care.

Remember that the physical environment can be an important source of spiritual comfort.

Support and/or provide opportunities for spiritual reflection, education and training.

The quality and extent of spiritual care should be in line with the training provided to staff and the development of competencies.

Consider introducing spiritual screening and spiritual assessment.

Review the implementation documents from the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

Develop and keep current a list of people who provide spiritual care (e.g. chaplains, spiritual care practitioners). Consider fostering links with community religious groups so that residents/clients with dementia can maintain or re-establish meaning and connection.

Ensure that the practice of spiritual care practitioners within the organisation respects the Spiritual Care Australia Standards of Practice (2013) (1.23MB pdf).

In staff recruitment processes, consider including spiritual competencies in role descriptions.

Page updated 24 June 2021