Providers and Types of Spiritual Care during Serious Illness

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Objective: Patients and palliative care experts endorse the importance of spiritual care for seriously ill patients and their families. However, little is known about spiritual care during serious illness, and whether it satisfies patients' and families' needs. The objective of this study was to describe spiritual care received by patients and families during serious illness, and test whether the provider and the type of care is associated with satisfaction with care.

Methods: Cross-sectional interview with 38 seriously ill patients and 65 family caregivers about spiritual care experiences.

Results: The 103 spiritual care recipients identified 237 spiritual care providers; 95 (41%) were family or friends, 38 (17%) were clergy, and 66 (29%) were health care providers. Two-thirds of spiritual care providers shared the recipient's faith tradition. Recipients identified 21 different types of spiritual care activities. The most common activity was help coping with illness (87%) and the least common intercessory prayer (4%). Half of recipients were very or somewhat satisfied with spiritual care, and half found it very helpful for facilitating inner peace and meaning making. Satisfaction with spiritual care did not differ by provider age, race, gender, role, or frequency of visits. Types of care that helped with understanding or illness coping were associated with greater satisfaction with care.

Conclusion: Seriously ill patients and family caregivers experience spiritual care from multiple sources, including health care providers. Satisfaction with this care domain is modest, but approaches that help with understanding and with coping are associated with greater satisfaction.

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Journal of Palliative Medicine, v. 11, issue 6, p. 907-914