Context: Spiritual care refers to practices and rituals addressing spiritual/religious concerns. It supports coping with loss and finding hope, meaning, and peace. Although integral to palliative care, its implementation is challenging.
Objective: To understand an Australian cohort of patients' and caregivers' perspectives about experiencing and optimizing spiritual care in the context of advanced illness.
Methods: Patients and caregivers of patients with ≤12 month prognosis were recruited from a broader spiritual study via criterion sampling and agreed to opt-in interviews. Participants from an Australian, metropolitan health service received a spiritual care definition and were interviewed. Transcripts were analyzed using qualitative description.
Results: 30 patients (17 male; mean age 70 years) and 10 caregivers (six male; mean age 58.9 years) participated. 27 identified as Christian, and 10 had no religion. Participants described multifaceted and contested beliefs about spirituality. Many queried the tangibility of spirituality, but all valued respectful staff who affirmed personhood, that is, each individual's worth, especially when care exceeded expectations. They also resonated with positive organizational and environmental tones that improved holistic well-being. Participants stressed the importance of the hospital's welcoming context and skilled care, which comforted and reassured.
Conclusion: Although many patients and caregivers did not resonate with the term "spiritual care," all described how the hospital's hospitality could affirm their values and strengthen coping. The phrase "spiritual care and hospitality" may optimally articulate and guide care in similar, pluralist inpatient palliative care contexts, recognizing that such care encompasses an interplay of generalist and specialist pastoral care staff and organizational and environmental qualities.
Keywords: Palliative care; caregivers; hospitality; patients; spiritual care; spirituality.
Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.