Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spiritual Support in Hospice

Meaning of Life

When a patient may be facing the end of life, spiritual issues often begin to surface—people begin to ponder the meaning of their lives. Hospice is intended to care for not only the physical wellbeing of the patient, but the emotional and spiritual aspects as well. Toward that holistic end, Medicare mandates that hospices provide spiritual support (as they do in the military, another place where death is a possibility).

Spirituality is about those aspects of life that are not material; it is about relationships and finding meaning. Each of us has a spiritual side; some express it through religion, some in other ways.

But when faced with life-threatening illness, many experience feelings of fear, powerlessness, helplessness and despair, which are often expressions of spiritual distress.  Hospice spiritual care counselors are knowledgeable about a wide range of religious and spiritual traditions. They may be a presence in the home, or they may be the connection to the patient’s own faith tradition.

A Pathways Hospice Spiritual Care Story

Years ago, Pathways had a Vietnamese patient who had emigrated after the Viet Name war, in which he was an army colonel. His cancer pain was never seemed completely managed, despite multiple approaches.

One day he mentioned he wished he had not stopped practicing his Buddhism and wanted to pray with priest, however he was too weak to leave home. A hospice spiritual care counselor began networking until he found a Vietnamese Buddhist nun who came to pray with the patient.

Interestingly, not only did the patient’s anxiety decrease dramatically, but his pain was gone after these visits.

How Spiritual Support Can Help

Some of the many ways that hospice spiritual care counselors can help as requested by the patient or family are by:

  • Giving unbiased spiritual or religious support for patients or family members
  • Helping to identify and resolve spiritual concerns affecting the patient or family
  • Exploring the “meaning of life” questions
  • Administering sacraments
  • Caring listening
  • Contacting clergy or a spiritual leader of a specific faith community for the patient
  • Exploring ways to prepare for “letting go” of this life in preparation for another
  • Being another caring presence in times of need or distress

For more information about Pathways Hospice Services, please visit our website at or email:


  1. People who are dealing with life-threatening diseases should undergo hospice care. Through this, they can take control of their lives and decide how they want to spend the rest of their days.

  2. Thank you for your comments. The goals and philosophy of hospice care can be incredibly empowering for those nearing the end of life. Hospice can help to provide support and care that can free the patient and family to focus on reflection of what is important to them and make their time more meaningful.

  3. Thanks for such a nice blog and useful information. I need to share with my friends..