Supporting Patients’ Religious Needs At The End of Life

Many faith groups have prayers and readings, traditions and practices, which are important to mark the final moments of life. It can be a huge comfort for followers of a faith to have their religious needs met as they approach the end of life.

The founder of the modern-day hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders, once wrote that “how people die remains in the memories of those who live on”. We only have one opportunity to give our patients a good death and relatives ‘peaceful’ memories. This is why it is so important to be prepared as patients approach end of life.

A patient must be asked about his / her religious needs on admission to hospital. This assessment should then be revisited during their stay, especially as the patient approaches end of life. Always document these needs in the patient’s notes.

Please remember that every patient is different and every patient will interpret his / her faith in his / her own way. Don’t make assumptions. Do talk to the patient about what is important to them.

In the case of a sudden or unexpected death, or where communication with a patient is not possible, please talk to the family or carers about any religious needs that should be met.

A useful and brief overview of the religious care of patients at the end of life can be found here.

Our Trust policy, with more detailed information, can be found here.

When and where religious support is needed you can do one of two things:

  • Contact the leader of the faith group your patient identifies with. Switchboard have contact details for local faith groups.
  • Refer the patient to the chaplaincy and spiritual care department (when urgent always contact Switchboard and ask for the appropriate on-call chaplain).