Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014
End of Life Care and Religious Beliefs: Thoughts for Care Providers

In order to provide sensitive care, it is important that a care provider learn how to respect the religious beliefs and practices of their clients and the families with which they work.

Differing religious beliefs can at time cause awkward or difficult situations for senior caregivers - in particular during end of life care. In this article, we want to provide a few tips to best approach this aspect of care.

Understanding Religious Diversity

In many cases, you will have experienced a different upbringing than that of your client. He or she may practice certain rituals that are completely foreign to you. Quality of life is often culturally determined, and you may not therefore understand choices of the family.

It’s important to realize that religious beliefs will play a role in day to day life. Because of this, it’s always helpful to take some time to learn about your client’s beliefs and the practical implications of those beliefs.

There are many resources you can utilize to learn about various belief systems. A good starting point is this guide from Penn Medicine.

Respecting Religious Practices

In a professional, working relationship, it’s important for you to respect the religious practices of your client - whether they are performed alone or with the family. At the same time, the family should respect your requests to not be involved if you so choose.

In many of our cases, we have found that our professional caregivers truly enjoy going to church with their clients. However, this obviously does not work for every case. At times, you will need to draw parameters concerning what you will and will not do, as discussed in the following section.

Clearly Defining Roles

When beginning a new case, you as the care provider should have a very clear discussion with the family concerning decision making and who will be involved in day to day events.

This is your chance to clearly set guidelines concerning what you will and will not do. It’s also important to realize that while you can give suggestions concerning treatments and best care practices, these may go against the cultural beliefs of the family with whom you are working. In this case, you ultimately need to leave decisions to them.

As is true for any point of conflict in caregiving work, you should always be honest with the family if you feel there is a true point of conflict for you within the case. In most cases, the issue can be resolved by working together with the family or by bringing in other necessary parties.

Is there a time when open conversation is appropriate?

If a client asks about your personal beliefs, it is appropriate to share what you believe. However, you should stay away from unsolicited conversation concerning these topics during working hours.

If you choose to spend time with the client outside of working hours and the time is understood by the family as non-paid, then there are obviously less guidelines concerning conversation.

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