Ensuring Spiritual Well-Being of Loved Ones in Long-Term Care

If you have a loved one that is in a long-term care facility, addressing their spiritual needs may be very important for them, as well as for you. Many facilities have spiritual/religious services available.

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Ensuring Spiritual Well-Being of Loved Ones in Long-Term Care
3 Min Read March 4th, 2018 Updated:October 20th, 2022

As people get older, their personal faith, spirituality, and religion help improve emotional health, physical well-being, and overall quality of life. People are living longer, but their quality of life starts to diminish due to the consequences of aging. 

Due to memory loss, declining health, mobility issues, dementia, and frailty, people often require help with daily living activities or supervision. Needing long-term health care can be emotionally challenging for many people.

Research shows that prayer is the most common religious practice for coping. Prayer can help care recipients to find strength. Since so many people need long-term health care dealing with the spiritual part of aging becomes very important.

Deacon Doug McMannaman, writing in the Catholic Education and Resource Center, says the more someone prays, the happier they become.

The more we pray, the less anxious we become, and we are filled with a greater peace of mind and heart.

More People Needing Long-Term Health Care 

The CDC states that there are nearly 16,000 nursing homes in the United States, with 1.7 million licensed beds and 1.4 million people receiving long-term care services in those facilities. Over 30,000 assisted living facilities are in operation. Plus, many adult day care centers and hospice facilities exist to provide long-term health care services. 

While most long-term health care is provided at home, by home care providers and agencies, or untrained informal family caregivers, the number of people expected to require care in a facility is expected to rise as baby boomers age.

Many older people have a lifelong commitment and connection to their place of worship. As they age, they may need their faith community more than ever. Conversely, people often require help with daily living activities and are less mobile. Some lose the ability to participate in their faith community. When they reach a long-term care facility, they may feel even more separated and isolated from their faith, much less their family and friends. 

While physical and mental care is important in these cases, spiritual care must not be forgotten. Several faith-based facilities representing Roman Catholic, major Protestant denominations, Jewish, and other faith communities exist to serve the needs of those who belong to those faith communities. 

Non-faith-based long-term care facilities often provide a basic non-denominational church service catering to the majority religion within the facility. Priests, ministers, rabbis, and other religious leaders may visit residents who share their faith.

Transportation to area churches for those who are able can sometimes be available. However, it is, in fact, not the responsibility of long-term care facilities to ensure residents have their spiritual needs met. This is where the family must intervene and ensure that spiritual beliefs are upheld throughout the time spent within a facility. The benefits to the care recipient are worth the time to ensure that the spiritual needs of the care recipient are met, not just the physical needs.

Keep Basic Practices Going

Basic practices, such as prayer or devotion, can still be practiced in a facility. Communication with the deity or deities of the religion is easy enough to do in the privacy of the person's bedroom. Reading from a holy book or other religious scripture or even reading some power of prayer verses can be achievable in privacy.

A large volume of research shows that people who are more R/S [religious or spiritual] have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems compared to those who are less R/S. These possible benefits to mental health and well-being have physiological consequences that impact physical health, affect the risk of disease, and influence response to treatment.

Harold G. Koenig, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Associate Professor of Medicine and Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke University School of Medicine.

Religion vs. Spirituality

Religion is generally seen as a practical expression of spirituality. It includes the rituals and practices of the faith. The word "religion" is often identified as a set of institutionalized belief systems. The term "spirituality" is more neutral and much broader, suggesting our common human need to find meaning in our lives and relationships to something beyond ourselves.

Spirituality encompasses love, compassion, forgiveness, and respect for life. Spirituality gives people a source of meaning and understanding about the significance of what it is to be human. 

One of the primary commitments of any long-term health care facility is to help its residents age with dignity. This includes allowing care recipients to continue practicing their faith in a way acceptable to them.

Gathering as a family regularly to continue basic religious practices to encourage spiritual well-being is also possible. Talk to the caregivers on duty to plan the best time for these meetings. Attempting a religious reading or prayer session must be done during downtime. The long-term care facility manager can help determine the best time for private spiritual practices.

It is well-documented that spiritual growth can continue despite a decline in a person's health and body. When someone is living in a long-term care facility, they typically realize that they are on their final life journey. 

Seeking spiritual growth and thinking about the meaning of life becomes important. 

He that loseth wealth, loseth much; he that loseth friends, loseth more; but he that loseth his spirit loseth all.

Talk to the Community

If your loved one who is living in a long-term care facility belongs to a church or religious community, see if the leader of the organization will visit the person regularly. For example, ask the priest to pay a visit to Grandma once per week for prayer services or communion. Some religious organizations have specific groups for this purpose, so one can add the loved one to the list of people who receive visits. Keeping the care recipient in the religious community helps maintain the spiritual well-being he or she built over a lifetime.

Communicate

Simply talking to the care recipient can do wonders for spiritual well-being. Talking about past and present religious beliefs helps the person in care gain perspective on the experience. Talking about everything, from where people go after passing away to personalized spiritual paths, will enrich spirituality and forge a personal connection with the loved one.

Spiritual health is important at every stage of life and has the possibility of being upheld in long-term care facilities. It is not always the responsibility, or the priority, of long-term care facilities to ensure the spiritual well-being of every patient. This is why it is essential for families to help loved ones continue existing spiritual practices.

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About the Author

Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years’ experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

LTC News Contributor Sally Phillips

Sally Phillips

Contributor since November 4th, 2017

Editor's Note

Most people take for granted the religious and spiritual options we have daily. Whether attending Sunday Mass, a Wednesday night Bible study, or just the power of prayer, the ability to seek spiritual peace of mind is second nature. However, the virus crisis has limited our options. That connection is now more complicated for those who are isolated or in a long-term care facility.

Virus Crisis - COVID-19 and Spirituality 

The virus crisis has created many challenges for everyone to practice their spirituality and religious beliefs. Being connected is even more important for a person in a long-term care facility.

As the virus crisis lessens, isolation and COVID-19 protocols continue in long-term care facilities. While many facilities offer various options during "normal" times, the COVID-19 pandemic makes that more difficult. However, various radio, TV, and online options are available.

Local radio and TV broadcast various services, be it Roman Catholic and other Christian denominations, Jewish, and Muslim services. You can also find talks shows that discuss religious and spiritual issues. 

Online you will find everything from Mass from the Vatican to a small local Baptist Church. A quick online search will bring up many options.

You might want to assist a family member living in a facility or isolated at home to find the options that will bring them peace-of-mind. The power of prayer is a powerful health benefit.

Most people take for granted the religious and spiritual options we have daily. Whether attending Sunday Mass, a Wednesday night Bible study, or just the power of prayer, the ability to seek spiritual peace of mind is second nature. However, the virus crisis has limited our options. That connection is now more complicated for those who are isolated or in a long-term care facility.

Virus Crisis - COVID-19 and Spirituality 

The virus crisis has created many challenges for everyone to practice their spirituality and religious beliefs. Being connected is even more important for a person in a long-term care facility.

As the virus crisis lessens, isolation and COVID-19 protocols continue in long-term care facilities. While many facilities offer various options during "normal" times, the COVID-19 pandemic makes that more difficult. 

However, various radio, TV, and online options are available. Local radio and TV broadcast various services, be it Roman Catholic and other Christian denominations, Jewish, and Muslim services. You can also find talk shows that discuss religious and spiritual issues. 

Online you will find everything from Mass from the Vatican to a small local Baptist Church. A quick online search will bring up many options.

You might want to assist a family member living in a facility or isolated at home to find the options that will bring them peace of mind. The power of prayer is a powerful health benefit.

Have You Prepared Your Family and Finances for Future Long-Term Care?

As we age, the need for help with everyday living activities increases. The number of people inflicted with Alzheimer's or Dementia has also increased. Most long-term care is delivered in a person's home. Family caregiving is hard and creates a tremendous burden and even friction between adult children. Paid care drains savings and impacts the lifestyle of the other spouse.

The financial costs and burdens of aging impact you, your family, your savings, and your lifestyle. Longevity is why affordable Long-Term Care Insurance should be a crucial part of your retirement planning. Whether you want quality care at home or in a facility like assisted living, Long-Term Care Insurance will provide tax-free resources to ensure your needs are taken care of without burdening loved ones.

When you have a Long-Term Care policy, you get to select the providers and the types of care you desire. These decisions are always left to you or your family. The guaranteed tax-free benefits offer you control and independence, giving your family time to be family.

Faith-Based Facilities

If you wish to be in a faith-based assisted living facility, for example, that is a choice you can make and safeguard your assets at the same time. Without an advance plan, the decisions on how your future care will be delivered often are out of your hands. Your savings will be used to pay for care, and your family will be forced to manage your care.

Act before you retire and always seek the help of an experienced Long-Term Care Specialist who represents all the major companies. They will design an affordable plan and shop to find the best coverage at the best value.

Premiums and underwriting criteria vary dramatically between insurance companies. A specialist will match you with the best coverage at a lower cost.

Have Questions About Long-Term Care Planning?

You might have questions about long-term health care planning, and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions. Find all the resources available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.

Find the cost of care where you live by using the LTC Cost of Care Calculator.

Get Expert Guidance 

Long-term care is very specialized, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies, as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.

A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist.

Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history to provide accurate quotes and professional recommendations.

Loved Ones Need Help Now?

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

If your parent or parents need help, get them quality care. LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our four guides -  

Advantages of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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