1. Hale, Deborah MSN, RN, ACNS-BC
  2. Marshall, Katherine DNP, NP, PMHCNS-BC, CNE

Article Content

Spiritual care is an important factor in patient care, however, it is often overlooked in the home healthcare setting for various reasons, the main one being clinician discomfort (Peteet et al., 2019). Limited time also constrains the clinician's ability to address spirituality. Perhaps though, we should not be so quick to overlook the spiritual aspect of an individual's life, as the benefits may make it worth the time invested. Spiritual care can be important for an older adult's physical and mental wellness, and can have a significant impact on quality of life (Lepherd et al., 2019).


There are a wide variety of religious and spiritual beliefs. Spirituality is individually defined, and is not always expressed via religion, although an individual may want religion to be incorporated into their spiritual care. Religion and religious practices such as praying, attending services, meditating, reading Scripture, and engaging in rituals or ceremonies may play a role in a person's spirituality, but are not necessary components.


Incorporating spirituality into patient care is important for everyone. When you inquire about a patient's religious/spiritual belief system, you establish a better therapeutic relationship and can increase compliance with treatment modalities (Peteet et al., 2019). Understanding a patient's religious/spiritual beliefs can help inform the plan of care as well as the willingness of the patient to follow the plan of care. Failure to address spiritual needs toward the end of life can decrease patient satisfaction and increase healthcare costs (Peteet et al.). Older adults are the most religious of any group, and their personal beliefs and practices are often used to cope with loss and changes that occur later in life, such as declining health or death of a loved one. Clinicians who incorporate spiritual care in their practice can see benefits even when patients have cognitive impairments (including advanced dementia patients), as they are more likely to connect and have a better therapeutic relationship when utilizing familiar spiritual beliefs, practices, prayers, or hymns during care.


To provide spiritual care, first take a spiritual history to see how important religion and spirituality are to the patient (Peteet et al., 2019). Spiritual integration into the plan of care starts with identifying both religious and broader spiritual needs of the patient during the episode of care. As spirituality is individually defined, this will look different for each patient. A thorough spiritual history may not occur in one session, but may take some time to fully complete. It is important to understand that you do not need to be an expert in the patient's spiritual or religious preferences. You do not need to initiate prayer, Scripture reading, or any other practices-those requests should come from the patient. Sometimes you will need to refer spiritual care practices to an expert, that is, pastoral care. Simply allowing the patient to express their needs and fulfilling them appropriately (most likely a referral to pastoral care specialists or knowledgeable religious professionals for specific religious requests) is an important practice.


Clearly, spiritual and religious care are important aspects of holistic home care. Addressing these needs will help to improve patient involvement and satisfaction with their care.




Lepherd L., Rogers C., Egan R., Towler H., Graham C., Nagle A., Hampton I. (2019). Exploring spirituality with older people: (1) rich experiences. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, 32(4), 306-340.[Context Link]


Peteet J. R., Zaben F. A., Koenig H. G. (2019). Integrating spirituality into the care of older adults. International Psychogeriatrics, 31(1), 31-38.[Context Link]