Spiritual Care in Practice

Spiritual Care

What we know

For many people, spirituality is important throughout life. Spiritual care may be especially important for older people at the end of life. Spiritual care is part of a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care. Spiritual care may help individuals to feel positive and to cope in a time of stress. All staff can participate in a whole-of-organisation approach to spiritual care.

What can I do?

Recognise that spiritual care is part of everyone’s role.

Spiritual care is a shift to meaningful experiences and to connection. Remember:
  • appropriate touch, eye contact, and a welcoming and unhurried approach to conversation
  • being sensitive to and respectful of the spiritual and religious needs of people in your care and their families
  • offering opportunities for a connection to nature, to music, to conversation, to art, to memories or through expressions of self in terms of diet and clothing
  • providing opportunities for discussion with Chaplaincy staff
  • looking for activities and roles that give people purpose; at end-of-life it may be appropriate to offer a therapeutic life review or dignity therapy.
Sometimes people (older people in particular) do not have the language to know who to talk to or even to ask for help. Ask the person 'Would you like to speak to someone / a Chaplain?'

The ConnecTo Tool can be useful but requires some training.

Other tools you can use:


What can I learn?

Access the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care; some implementation tools can be accessed freely.

Watch the 5 short animations from Meaningful Australia for assessment and planning; personal carers; boards, CEOs and senior staff; and care co-ordinators and team leaders.

Check out the Fact Sheets and Resources from Meaningful Ageing Australia

Read the Joint Position Statement (466kb pdf) from Meaningful Ageing Australia and Palliative Care Australia about the importance of spiritual care in palliative and end-of-life care (May 2017)

Read this piece in The Conversation (May 2016) Spiritual care at the end of life can add purpose and help maintain identity

Watch these short videos from Palliative Care Bridge Hammond Care and Meaningful Ageing Australia.

Read Muslim Aged Care - A practical guide for service providers (2MB pdf).

Read the Meaningful Ageing Australia National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

Read the Spiritual Health Association 2020 Guidelines for Quality Spiritual Care in Health (2.41MB pdf).


What can my organisation do?

Watch the short animations from Meaningful Australia for boards, CEOs and senior staff; and care co-ordinators and team leaders.

Consider implementing the nine principles from Holyoke P, Stephenson B. Organization-level principles and practices to support spiritual care at the end of life: a qualitative study. BMC Palliat Care. 2017 Apr 11;16(1):24.

Encourage all staff to think about spiritual care as part of daily care.

Remember that the physical environment can be an important source of spiritual comfort.

Support and/or provide opportunities for spiritual reflection, education and training.

The quality and extent of spiritual care should be in line with the training provided to staff and the development of competencies.

Consider introducing spiritual screening and spiritual assessment.

Review the implementation documents from the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

Develop and keep current a list of people who provide spiritual care (eg, chaplains, spiritual care practitioners).

Ensure that the practice of spiritual care practitioners within the organisation respects the Spiritual Care Australia Standards of Practice (2013) (1.23MB pdf).

In staff recruitment processes, consider including spiritual competencies in role descriptions.

Page updated 24 April 2020