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Spiritual Care In Iceland

Over the past few years the role of spiritual care in medicine has been examined. Some feel like in a world of scientific and technological advances, there is no longer any role of faith in the medical field. However, while working with patients, healthcare providers see over and over again that faith and spirituality have a role in patient outcomes.

The Family Connection

The role of spiritual care came to the forefront in Iceland after healthcare professionals began to notice the effect that the family had on terminally ill patient's quality of life. It became apparent that if the psychology of the family until was not treated as a whole, the dying patient would suffer. The beliefs and reactions of the family members seemed to be more important to the patient than how healthcare professional treated the patient. These directly affected how the patient handled treatments, how comfortable they could be made and how prepared they were for the end.

Palliative Care

For many terminally ill patients. finding answers to their deepest questions can become the focus of end of life treatments. Physical interventions are no longer about a cure and care has shifted to comfort and quality of the time left for the patient. This kind of care is called palliative care and typically refers to end of life or terminal care activities.

Spiritual Care

Providing unbiased spiritual care for the whole family unit is the focus of many palliative care programs developed in Iceland. Spiritual care can mean many things. For some it is grappling with beliefs in a higher power. For others it is becoming grounded in the acceptance of themselves in relation to the world. For many the focus has to do with the balance between looking at the large picture within the scope of one's life and the focus on what is being experienced right now in the moment. When the moments become limited, the precious nature of each one if view differently by all involved.

As more spiritual care has been offered to help support the families needs during the final stages of life, both the short term outcome for the patient and the long term outcome for the family are being affected. The extra support gives family members direction and a better outlook while the family's overall acceptance helps calm and ground the patient. Other countries outside of Iceland have been studying these effects to see how to change patient care in their own communities.