Spirituality and religion are important to many older people and are strong predictors of quality of life. They are part of the person’s identity, their life story and present enjoyment of life.

Aged care services have a responsibility to provide spiritual support to promote quality of life. Some facilities have formal processes for religious input, and accept individual needs for spiritual care for people who are dying.

Spiritual and religious involvement can yield positive health outcomes and help people cope with many issues as they age and their health declines. Providing for people’s spiritual and religious needs can reduce psychological morbidity related to chronic and terminal illness.

Spiritual needs

  • Find out people’s spiritual preferences when they first enter a facility, not as they near death.
  • Find out whether a person practises particular beliefs.
  • Word your inquiries about spiritual and religious beliefs carefully.
  • Hold any discussion of spiritual needs in a trusting environment with someone whose interpersonal skills may obtain information using a conversational style.
  • Respect the privacy of those who either publicly or privately practise their beliefs and support opportunities for these practices.
  • Use experienced and knowledgeable spiritual and religious leaders and pastoral care workers.
  • People receiving care commonly ask staff members about spiritual matters. Address such questions in an open, non-judgemental manner.

Ask the following questions:

  • Do you know the spiritual and religious beliefs of the people in your care?
  • Does your facility or service have a policy of finding out people’s spiritual and religious needs?
  • Are staff trained in this area? Do they understand the importance of a person’s spiritual and religious needs and how to address them?
  • Do you provide spiritual/religious services, for example visits by priests, pastors or others from appropriate groups and denominations?