The Role of Social Workers in Spiritual Care to Facilitate Coping with Chronic Illness and Self-Determination in Advance Care Planning
Spiritual values and beliefs of patients and families influence resilience during chronic illness and shape patient choices during advance care planning. The spiritual needs of Baby Boomers will be more diverse than previous generations, in connection with the questioning, experimental mind-set of this group and the fact that it includes a higher proportion of immigrant populations outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Social workers are trained explicitly to intervene with diverse populations and are well positioned to offer spiritual support in ways that do not necessarily conform to traditional religions. To the extent of their individual expertise and competence, social workers should assess and provide spiritual care to clients, including those who either are underserved or prefer not to seek assistance from clergy or chaplains because they feel alienated from religious institutions and representatives. They should also be aware of ethical dilemmas in consulting with spiritual care professionals in developing spiritual interventions. Social work education should address clients’ humanistic and existential concerns, beliefs and behaviors of the major religions, and forms of nontraditional religious and spiritual experiences; it should also provide experiential opportunities for engaging with grief and earlier advance care planning. There should be attention to different theodical perspectives of the major religions regarding the problem of good and evil, which may preoccupy even clients who no longer participate in organized religion, because these unresolved existential issues may weaken client coping with chronic conditions and may diminish clarity and self-awareness for engaging authentically and effectively in advance care planning.
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