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Spiritual support, part of hospice [HOS-pis] and palliative [PAL-ee-ey-tiv] care, may help people cope better with the hard, spiritual questions that come up at the end of life. Spiritual support is not the same for everyone. To be most effective, it should match a person’s beliefs. Learn more about spiritual support.

What is Spiritual Support?

Spiritual support is typically the work of hospital chaplains, who work with local religious and spiritual leaders to help provide spiritual support for patients near the end of their lives. The goal is to help the person feel peace and comfort.

There are as many kinds of spiritual support as there are kinds of spirituality. People have different ideas about the afterlife, death, miracles, or other topics. It’s important to find the right spiritual support strategy that matches each person’s ideas about life.

Diagnosis of serious illness may cause someone a loss of faith or hope. Spiritual distress can lead to other conditions, including:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sense of isolation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Loss of inner peace
  • A hard time dealing with illness symptoms

Spiritual support can help deal with and prevent these issues.

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

Spiritual support is a low- to no-risk treatment option for terminally ill patients who have trouble with spiritual distress near the end of life. Spiritual support should be given with careful thought to the patient. The wrong kind of spiritual support could do more damage than good. A spiritual assessment can help a chaplain or other spiritual support professional make the right choices for the patient.

What are the Benefits?

Difficult illness or the end of life brings up many hard questions. Spiritual support may help in many ways, including:

  • Finding peace
  • Finding comfort
  • Freedom from regret
  • Less fear about death
  • More hopeful outlook
  • Improved quality of life during illness

How Do I Prepare?

Before you meet with your chaplain or spiritual advisor, think about what kind of spiritual support would help you the most. Think about any requests you may have or local spiritual leaders you would like to meet with. Think about ways you have found peace and comfort in the past.

How is it Done or Administered?

The chaplain of the hospice or hospital may ask questions to find out the best way that they can help with a person’s spiritual pain. They may ask about:

  • Religion
  • Beliefs about life
  • Practices or rituals
  • Prayer or meditation
  • Loss of faith
  • Spiritual conflicts
  • Worries about death or the afterlife

Spiritual concerns should be taken into account when planning treatment for the illness. A spiritual support plan might include:

  • Ways to honor your beliefs during treatment
  • Ways to support spiritual
  • Meeting with a spiritual leader
  • Help with finding a support group with others who have similar beliefs
  • Planning other types of therapy, like meditation or exercise

When Will I Know the Results?

Spiritual support may help you right away, or it may take more time. Talk to your chaplain about what is working and what is not.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Spiritual support is meant to help with the spiritual distress that comes with the end of life. It should go on as long as the support continues to provide needed peace and comfort.