I have recently taken the opportunity to re-read ‘Spiritual Care Matters’ which was produced by NHS Education in 2009. It clearly sets out a vision for meeting the spiritual care needs of patients but the values and approach are just as applicable to people in residential care or receiving care at home. It is a really helpful resource for people trying to understand the breadth of spirituality and how it is interpreted by each of us individually.
Faith in Older People is fortunate to have Chris Levison, who was the Programme Director for Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in NHS Education at the time, on its Board. I found the following extract from the document to be a strong grounding in putting spiritual care in context.
Many find themselves between the religious certainties of a bygone age and the cold rationality of the opposite extreme. They have values and beliefs but they do not find it easy to say exactly where they belong.
Spirituality is a slippery word these days involving anything from monasticism to wind chimes, but I’ve never been able to resist a little tinkering under the bonnet of the soul. No longer convinced by the religious absolutes of my childhood, I nevertheless hankered after something to replace them, a working credo with which to engage life.
(Nick Thorpe (2006) ‘Adrift in Caledonia: Boat Hitching for the Unenlightened’. Little Brown UK)
Spiritual care in its broad and inclusive sense can perhaps help give us a workable credo, as we acknowledge the importance of responding to spiritual need of all kinds in the health (social) care environment. Spiritual care is that care which recognises and responds to the needs of the human spirit when faced with trauma, ill health or sadness and can include the need or meaning, self worth, to express oneself, for faith support, perhaps for rites or prayer or sacrament, or simply for a sensitive listener. Spiritual care begins with encouraging human contact in compassionate relationship, and moves in whatever direction need requires.
Perhaps we need to recognise and understand what feeds our own spirit in order to support others.
(Spiritual Care Matters: An introductory resource for all NHS Scotland Staff: (2009) NHS Education for Scotland: www.nes.scot.nhs.uk)