An Article: What do we mean by Spiritual Care?
Written by Liza Waller, former Hospice in the Weald Chaplain
Spiritual care is an important part of the holistic care that we offer to patients, their families and carers. All of us at Hospice in the Weald share the same commitment and recognise it as an essential way of caring for the whole person. It is central to our Core Values and expressed in our Mission Statement: ‘Hospice in the Weald strives to ensure that the community it serves has access to: Compassionate, Individualised, Holistic and Supportive Care for all patients with a terminal illness, their carers and families’. I work as part of the multi disciplinary team and with a small team of volunteers.
Spiritual Care is Compassionate
Compassion for patients their carers and families lies at the very heart of spiritual care and is a way of listening, supporting, encouraging, befriending and attending to each unique person. Whether as a volunteer at reception, a home care visitor, a nurse, housekeeper, doctor, or even chaplain, we each in our own way seek to bring a heartfelt compassion and presence to our work. Together we aim to provide a safe space for all to feel heard, cared for and respected.
Some of the primary concerns of a patient or their families can be questions relating to a sense of meaning, purpose and hopes for the future, especially when faced with illness. Some people may have a religious faith to support them, while for others questions of faith and belief feel more difficult and complex. We take time to be with all, whoever they are, and to listen.
Our compassion also extends to those who are bereaved. Our In Memoriam Books are kept in the Quiet Room where all the names of those who have died under the care of the hospice over the years are kept and recorded. Some relatives or friends like to return, weeks, months, even years after someone has died to spend some time reading these and just quietly remembering. For those around the first anniversary of loss we hold Remembrance Gatherings during the year.
"I was nervous about coming but am really glad I did with the support of my family – the poems and readings really helped. This year has been a painful time and it is good to know I am not alone." A relative of a Hospice in the Weald patient.
Spiritual Care is Individualised
Everyone is unique and everyone’s experience is different. Likewise everyone’s notion of spiritual care and of spiritual need is different. It is as much about the quality of living and life, and what can make the difference to that, as it is about preparing for dying and death. For one it may be the inspiration that comes from enjoying the garden, listening to the birds sing, it may be painting, it may be the need to wrestle and rage about why God allows suffering, or struggle with issues of forgiveness. It may be the desire to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild, to pray and read Scriptures, explore beliefs about death and an afterlife, to have help in planning a funeral service, or for another to enjoy the delights of rice pudding!
"Spiritual care to me is about comfort and it’s about finding out what is of comfort for each individual person. Each person is different, each person matters, each person’s needs are different. We need to take time to find out, and never assume." - A staff nurse who works on the In-Patient Unit
Spiritual Care is Holistic and Supportive
Spiritual care comes in many forms. We try and appeal to the whole person offering creative expression through music and art as well as pleasure and relaxation through our various complementary therapies. Spiritual care is here for all our patients, families, carers, volunteers and staff. Whoever you are you are welcome.