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Spiritual care

Spirituality is defined to include both religious and non-religious elements. Spirituality can be considered as a resource for coping, as a potential source of conflict and suffering, and as an arena to explore finding meaning. We need clinically based, non-denominational spiritual care and it is important for all clinicians to be aware of their patients' spiritual values (Lambert 2006).

McLeod and Clarke 2007

Reference to spirituality frequently occurs in the MND literature in relation to the maintenance of health and wellbeing. The meaning of life and death may be questioned when faced with a terminal illness and spirituality may be sought for comfort. Spiritual well-being has been described as having two dimensions: one being religious, referring to a person's relationship with God or a higher being; and the second being an existential domain involving a sense of purpose and meaning in life and a connection to the world. In the study of Dal Bello-Hass et al., the majority of patients reported a religious practice and there was a positive correlation between religious well-being and QoL.

Patients who attended worship and prayed regularly used these experiences to cope with their illness. Religious ideas were used to interpret aspects of the illness experience and its meaning, and as a source of comfort for dying patients. Those who were more religious and more spiritual emanated more hope. Ganzini et al. reported that the patients with MND who expressed a desire for physician assisted suicide scored lower on measures of religious conviction than people expressing no such desire. Moreover, religious faith seems to be protective against distress or depression.

Mitsumoto and others 2005

Recent reports suggest that addressing spiritual issues is beneficial for ALS patients and caregivers.

Recommendations to the field for development

Use an interdisciplinary team approach, including chaplains, spiritual counselors, or pastoral workers to address the spiritual needs of patients, caregivers, and family members.

Research recommendations:

  • Examine the spiritual needs of ALS patients and caregivers, and develop methods and programs for addressing their spiritual needs.
  • Examine spiritual needs of ALS patients and caregivers from different ethnic/religious backgrounds and identify how to improve spiritual care for different populations.

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