Spirituality at the end of life

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Abstract

Purpose of review

There is increasing emphasis on medical care of the whole patient. This holistic approach encompasses supporting the spiritual or religious needs of the patient. Particularly at the end of life, spiritual concerns may come to the fore as patients recognize and accept their impending death. Physicians may also recognize this spiritual distress but may not be clear on how to provide spiritual support.

Recent findings

Tools to screen for spiritual concerns are available for physicians to use. Some physicians wish to go further, supporting patients at the end of life in their spiritual quest. Other physicians express concern about causing more distress to patients in a time of significant need. Descriptions of educational tools, as well as the difference between spiritual generalists and spiritual specialists have emerged. Integration of chaplains into the medical team caring for patients at the end of life will also enhance care of the whole patient.

Summary

The increasing emphasis on whole patient care is leading to increasing focus on spiritual concerns of patients. Although not every patient has an interest in spiritual conversation, most do and medical teams will need to become more educated about appropriate spiritual engagement.

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