A Practical Guide to the Spiritual Care of the Dying Person

A guide to assist front-line healthcare staff to identify spiritual need in patients approaching the end of their life and to feel confident in their ability to provide it.

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Illness is a time when, regardless of one’s religious belief or lack of it, questions of a spiritual nature rise to the surface. This is especially the case when someone is approaching the end of their life.

The purpose of this guide is to assist front-line staff in identifying spiritual need in their patients and to feel confident in their ability to provide it.

Traditionally the work of spiritual and religious care in a hospital has been the domain of the chaplain and the chaplaincy team. This still holds true, and the presence of a chaplain and the team to provide such care should be routinely included in holistic multi-disciplinary care.

But providing spiritual care is not the exclusive domain of chaplains or chaplaincy teams. In some way, everyone who is involved in the care of a patient has something to give. But many staff working with patients approaching the end of their life might feel ill-equipped to respond to such spiritual needs, indeed, they might not always recognise them.

This guide focuses primarily on the care of patients who are expected to die in the near future, however much of the content is relevant to other situations such as sudden death.

The first section of the Guide offers practical advice on how to provide good spiritual care, making no assumptions about whether or not the dying person or the healthcare professional has a particular religious faith. The second section looks at some of the common ethical questions that might arise at this time, for example, withdrawing or withholding medical treatment. And the third offers a reflection on the experience of dying, its personal and mysterious dimension and offers with a view to stimulating a more sensitive and attentive approach to the subject.

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A Practical Guide to the Spiritual Care of the Dying Person

Art of Dying Well

There is a very good resource-based website you can use that offers practical and spiritual support to those faced with the prospect of death and dying. It’s a site for everyone – not just Catholics.

Visit The Art of Dying Well website.

Sacraments for the dying

The Catholic Medical Association has created a guide for accessing the sacraments in hospital. It can be found here.