In the health care system today, there is a gap between physical care for the elderly patient and consideration of their and their families spiritual and emotional needs. This especially applies to individuals suffering a non-oncological terminal condition. Today, there is no all-inclusive program which can provide the appropriate treatment, including all aspects of the patient - physical, mental, social and spiritual, both in the community and during hospitalization, by staff who know the patient over a long period of time, escorting him to the very end.
Spirituality and religion are very important, especially in people’s later years. More than 1,500 scientific studies have investigated the link between spiritual and religious well-being and medical status. Most studies have shown that higher levels of spirituality/religiosity are associated with better health outcomes measured by objective standardized tests. The World Health Organization definition of health is that "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". Mental well-being is perceived as psychological and spiritual well-being. This is especially relevant for our patients and their families and caregivers who go through difficult challenges as they face the hardships of disease, infirmity and end-of-life issues. Advanced age faces individuals with various personal losses, many work or domestic pressures have passed, and time allows us now to consider the meaning of life, time to make peace in our family and with old enemies, and to grow in our own spiritual rite. Many of the elderly use religious services, pray and maintain social connections around the place of worship. The religious connections protect them from social solitude. Research has also shown that there is a connection between religiousness or spirituality and depression and anxiety. Research conducted by Herzog’s Director of Neurological Services, Dr. Yakir Kaufman indicated that an individual’s level of spirituality can slow the advance of Alzheimer’s Disease. Religious beliefs also play a significant role in the decisions patients make regarding their medical care. During crises and serious illness, people turn to spiritual and religious support. In geriatrics, when dealing with serious illnesses and death, there is a need to provide mental security and support. Suffering is not only physical, but also social, psychological and spiritual.
Herzog Hospital maintains a hospital chaplaincy program. This program was recently presented to the Israel National Geriatric Board, in the presence of the Geriatric representative from the Ministry of Health, HMO’s (Kupot Cholim) and other Israeli senior geriatricians. It’s English version was also published in the journal of the Israeli Medical Association (Histadrut Refu’it LeIsrael). Article’s name: Planning Care of for Non-Oncological Geriatric Patients (written by Dr. E. Jaul and Prof. Rozin). This plan specifies a collaboration between the initial community staff (family physician, nurse, social worker) and the staff of the nursing department (doctors, nurses, social worker and spiritual guide). The program will combine treatment of the physical health care needs of the patient while relating to their spiritual needs.
The Hospital's Chaplaincy Program receives funding from UJA- Federation of New York.
The supportive spiritual care focuses on two main aspects: the first – the staff’s knowledge of the spiritual and religious preferences and background of the individual, so that there is a continuum between his home and the hospital. The second aspect is providing health care within the hospital, while relating to the spiritual needs of the patient and his family on a continuing and long term basis, as needed.
The Spiritual Support Service includes:
• Responding to ethical & halachic questions from the medical staff and the families;
• Talking with patients and families, as referred by the social worker, the doctor, the nurse, or approaching patients and their families in coordination with the staff. This includes taking an interest in the patient’s condition, encouraging him and/or his family;
• Coordination and follow up of patients who have left the hospital to go home or to another hospital, and visiting the family during Shiva;
• Education of the hospital staff in matters relating to halachic-geriatric issues and in being attentive, understanding and respectful of diverse spiritual and religious needs of patients of different religions and denominations;
• Educating medical staff in assessment of spiritual/religious needs in patients as part of the medical intake;
• Educating medical staff in cooperation with the chaplain as an integrative part of the medical team;
• Establishing a medical chaplaincy curriculum for education and training of medical chaplains in the Israel medical system;
• Raising the awareness of the community and medical and para-medical staff about the connection between spirituality and health and medicine, and the role of chaplaincy in the medical system in Israel.
This program is aimed at developing and establishing a formal model of spiritual support in the Department of Complex Nursing at Herzog Hospital. The model delineates the details of the service, staff training and the organizational aspects of a systematic change in how medical staff relates to the spiritual needs of patients. The aim is to develop a successful model, which will be accompanied by an evaluating research project, and to contribute to the creation of the practical and academic knowledge in the spiritual support field in Israel.
The program aims at:
• Providing a service of spiritual support in the framework of the health services given by the hospital.
• Training and professional escorting of professionals who will work at spiritual supporters
• Introduction of spiritual support as an integral part of the hospital’s work
• Development of knowledge in the field of spiritual support and medical chaplaincy within the hospital, other medical facilities in and the community.
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