Holistic | Specialties

The Importance of Spiritual Care in Healthcare for Elderly Patients

  • Spiritual care is essential in addressing the unique needs of elderly patients, improving their quality of life and fostering a better relationship between healthcare providers and residents. 
  • Spiritual interventions, such as incorporating familiar beliefs and practices, can positively impact patients with dementia by providing a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection. 
  • Nurses can address patients’ spiritual needs by creating an open, non-judgmental environment and utilizing assessment tools, while seeking guidance from specialized professionals when necessary. 

Katy Luggar-Schmit


April 26, 2023
Simmons University

Spiritual care is a vital aspect of patient care that is often overlooked in healthcare, especially for the elderly patient population. This care is particularly important for those nearing the end of life and living in long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, many nursing staff may feel uncomfortable providing spiritual care, lack knowledge, or resources to guide patients to the type of care they need.  

However, spirituality is crucial to an older adult’s physical and mental wellness and has a significant impact on their quality of life. Therefore, nurses should strive to ensure that this type of care is part of the care plan for those elderly residents who are interested in it.

spiritual care end of life care

What is Spiritual Care?

It is essential to recognize that spirituality does not always involve religion, and there are many religious and spiritual beliefs. Elderly residents may request religion be incorporated into their care, but it is not always necessary. Religion and religious practices such as praying, attending church services, meditating, reading scripture, and participating in ceremonies or rituals may play a role in their spirituality, but they are not the only components. 

What Does Spiritual Care Mean for Nurses?

Spiritual care involves addressing a patient’s spiritual or religious needs as they cope with aging, illness, dying, grief, or pain, and can help patients manage these issues. Incorporating spiritual nursing care is important because it can help establish trust and rapport between the nursing staff and the resident. It can also increase compliance with nursing treatment plans and improve the relationship between the resident and the healthcare team. 

Spiritual Care in Patients With Dementia

Spiritual care plays an essential role in improving the quality of life of elderly residents with dementia. Dementia is a disease of the memory that affects numerous individuals of older age and can lead to behavioral and psychological symptoms that affect their overall well-being. Incorporating spiritual care interventions has been shown to positively impact the mental and emotional health of patients with dementia by providing a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection.

Spiritual care can be provided to dementia patients is by incorporating familiar beliefs and practices that they may have had throughout their life. This can include listening to music, singing hymns, or praying together, as these activities can have a calming effect on patients and provide them with a sense of comfort and familiarity. Additionally, spiritual care interventions can also involve reminiscence therapy, which encourages patients to share their life stories and experiences with others, promoting a sense of connectedness and social support. 

Moreover, spiritual care interventions can be integrated into the daily routine of dementia patients, such as during meal times or before bedtime, to create a sense of structure and routine that can be comforting to patients. Spiritual care can also be provided in group settings, such as in a chapel or community room, where patients can participate in religious services or engage in spiritual activities with others. 


spiritual care importance

How Can Nurses Address The Spiritual Needs of Their Elderly Patients?

Nurses can address the spiritual needs of their patients by creating an open and non-judgmental environment where patients feel comfortable sharing their spiritual or religious beliefs. This can be achieved by actively listening to the patient’s concerns and showing empathy and understanding. 

In addition to asking about the patient’s spiritual or religious beliefs during the admission process, nurses can also use various assessment tools to evaluate their spiritual care needs. These tools can include questionnaires, observation, and conversation with family members or other caregivers. 

What If A Nurse Receives a Spiritual Request They Are Not Comfortable With?

If a nurse receives a spiritual request they are not comfortable with, it is essential to respect the patient’s wishes while adhering to facility policies and procedures. In some cases, nurses may need to seek guidance from a supervisor or consult with a pastoral care team to ensure that the patient’s spiritual needs are met appropriately. It is crucial to provide spiritual care in a way that is respectful, non-judgmental, and consistent with the patient’s beliefs and preferences.  

Nurses should not feel pressured to have all the answers when it comes to spiritual care. They can consult with other healthcare professionals, such as social workers or chaplains, who have specialized training in this area. Many long-term care facilities have a designated pastoral care team that can provide spiritual care for residents who require it. 

spiritual care for elderly

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, incorporating spiritual care into the nursing care of elderly residents is crucial in acknowledging their unique needs. By respecting their spiritual or religious beliefs, nurses can build rapport that improves the dynamic between healthcare providers and the resident. Opening the lines of communication and discussing spiritual matters with the resident allows them to feel heard and included in their nursing care plan, resulting in greater treatment compliance and positive health outcomes. 

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