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As we navigate through life, we all need help at some point in dealing with challenging situations. During such circumstances, when someone takes care of our physical and emotional needs, its called as caregiving. Caregiving is an enriching and rewarding experience in our lives. It gives us a golden opportunity to connect with our loved ones. It allows us to shower our near and dear ones with affection, nurture them and be empathetic towards them. 

What is spiritual caregiving?

Spirituality is the process of understanding the meaning and purpose of life. It allows us to understand the importance of the things we value the most. 

Spiritual caregiving or compassionate care means to “suffer with”. It means walking with the people amidst their pain. Providing them with care, rather than giving them medicines and instructions on how to get better. 

Spiritual caregiving is attending to a person’s spiritual needs in the time of their loss, pain or grief or when they are coping with an illness. Spiritual caregiving helps the person to heal emotionally and physically. It helps us to rebuild a spiritual sense of well-being. Spiritual care often helps the patient to recover from depression, emotional distress, a tragic loss, a severe mental or physical illness. It is believed that spiritual caregiving heals the person and not the illness. The person learns the value of life. Spirituality allows the person to grow and mature from all the good and bad experiences from the past. It emphasizes on the invaluable and inevitable healing power of the human spirit.

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When facing a problem or a crisis, people often turn to spirituality. In this process people discover that spirituality helps them maintain good health. It helps them cope with all sorts of illnesses and mental stress or trauma. Studies have proven that people who are in the course of experiencing spiritual care during their difficult times have found out that it gives them a sense of joy. It gives them a new perspective towards living life. It helps them build a spiritual connection with nature and themselves. 

Spiritual caregiving is seen as an important aspect in the life of a human being and most predominantly in the times of their suffering. It involves paying attention to the person or patient’s needs and beliefs. It requires adequate skills to build a relationship between the caregiver and the patient. 

Importance of Spiritual Caregiving

Spiritual caregiving is important to unify scientific knowledge which is in practice and build a sense of deep awareness of the human being. Spiritual caregiving is done by making the patient aware of certain religious beliefs. The caregiver communicates with them and their family. They value the patient’s needs and show them utmost respect. All this has a positive impact on the mental and physical health of the patient or the person. It is vital during the process of healing. 

Patients who believe in spirituality are considered to be able to manage their mental or physical condition in a better way. They build trust with their caregivers and have an optimistic approach towards life and the surrounding people. The whole process of spiritual caregiving builds a therapeutic environment around the patient.This helps them to recover faster and become stronger.

Spiritual care is an important aspect of aged care. It motivates the elderly to live their life with a smile on their face, irrespective of the circumstances they are in. It encourages a purposeful and satisfactory life. Spiritual care also inspires them to value all they have experienced throughout their life.

How to provide spiritual caregiving?

Every individual’s spiritual needs will differ and it’s important for the caregivers to cater to all their needs with utmost care. It is also important for them to learn and understand as to how they can support the patients spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Ways to provide spiritual care are:

  • Connecting with the patients by engaging them in various activities and listening to their stories. It is important to get to know their likes and dislikes and also to respect their identity. 
  • Giving the patients the unconditional love they deserve. The caregiver must always see the best in them no matter what the patient does or says.
  • Providing the patients with a quiet outdoor space, oceans or parks. Here they can experience the healing power of nature.
  • The easiest way of providing spiritual care is by asking the patient their needs and how they are feeling.
  • Practising meditation, prayer or the access to performing other religious services. This will give them inner peace.
  • The caregivers must listen to the patient’s fears and concerns without going on with their own experiences. Sometimes all we need is to be good listeners. 
  • Uplift the patient’s mood by sharing or narrating a motivating thought or story. This will help them embrace the presence of God.
  • Provide them with the gift of presence and touch. Sometimes presence alone can provide them with a lot of care and support to their state of being.
  • Encourage the patients to discover their own coping techniques which may have worked for them in the past. Some of these techniques could be writing down their thoughts or listening to music or watching television or getting a massage. These techniques will reduce their stress.

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Barriers to Spiritual Caregiving

Spiritual caregiving is very essential for treating the patient’s illness and improving their state of well-being. It is very important that the caregivers work with a lot of care and cater to all the needs of the patient. They must support them spiritually. However, many research studies state that sometimes the caregivers are unable to perform their duties in the prescribed manner. They are unable to meet the spiritual needs of the patient. At the same time they are not able to support them emotionally and physically. 

The main barriers to spiritual caregiving are:

  • Difficulty in understanding spirituality.
  • Lack of clear instructions or regulations for the role that the caregivers need to perform.
  • Lack of time to provide spiritual care.
  • The caregivers lack proper training and education in the field of spirituality.
  • Inadequate skills and competencies.
  • Lack of spiritual and religious facilities in the hospitals.

Principles of Spiritual Caregiving

When there is so much to do in such little time, caregivers often feel helpless during the journey of spiritual caregiving. 

These principles help caregivers to take care of themselves while taking care of others. 

  • Take care of your health: Taking care of ill or anxious people can be exhausting mentally and physically. It is very important to take care of your physical and mental health while taking care of others. Caregivers must maintain a caring and neutral attitude towards the patient.
  • Focus on healing the patient: There is a difference between curing and healing. Curing refers to the banishment of the illness. Healing is the ability to strengthen the mind and the spirit. The primary role of the caregiver is to heal the patient.
  • Expressing your emotions correctly: Sometimes as a caregiver it is difficult to deal with the way the patient is behaving. At such times it is important to convey your feelings to the patient in a manner such that the patient does not feel at fault.
  • Understanding that everything happens for the good: During vexing and sad situations it is humane to feel that everything is going wrong. Although, spiritually, everything happens exactly as it must at all given times. We must always believe that everything happens for a reason. It is important to understand the real power is not having to fix or change anything.
  • Understanding the value of caregiving: The most important things to keep in mind as a caregiver is that quality of life is not determined by the circumstances that take place. It is determined by how the person towards whom you show care perceives the circumstances.

Conclusion

The impact of spirituality on health care is researched by various physicians, psychologists and professionals. The research falls under 3 major categories: mortality, coping and recovery.

  • Mortality: Studies suggest that people who believe in spirituality or perform spiritual activities regularly, live longer. Spirituality improves stress control by suggesting different techniques to cope with it. 
  • Coping: Patients who believe in spirituality may use their beliefs to reduce their pain or stress. People struggling with serious ailments have stated that they found comfort from their spiritual beliefs and were happier and in less pain. They valued their life more and believed that they had lived a meaningful life.
  • Recovery: Spiritual beliefs help the patient recover better and faster from an illness or traumatic incident. It builds a positive approach towards life. Spirituality helps the people to live their life to the fullest, stress less and to let go off unpleasant memories.

Spiritual caregiving instills positivity in the minds of the caregiver and the patient. The essence of spiritual caregiving is about enriching the quality of the patient’s life and not longevity.