Enhanced diversity: culture, spirituality and religion

The 3 Wishes Demonstration Project moves us towards more informed, culturally sensitive end of life care. We respectfully explore and realize wishes as socially constructed and contextualized. We increase our familiarity with ceremonies that are unique and non-denominational, or affiliated with various social, linguistic, ethnic and/or religious groups.

There are common spiritual questions that fatal illness raises about meaning, values and relationships. Almost all persons faced with their own death, or the death of a loved one, reflect on these issues. However, particularly early in the dying process, it is often unclear what the spiritual needs of a dying patient may be, or those of the patient’s family. Importantly, spiritual needs may evolve and resolve throughout and beyond the dying process.

There is a wide spectrum of unmet needs that dying patients and their families have, ranging from none acknowledged -- to ‘being known’ in terms of one’s life journey, celebrating a life, legacy-building, or help with specific ceremonies. Religion is reflected in a set of religious beliefs, readings, rituals, and practices that a community shares regarding its relationship and service to the transcendent. For many individuals, beliefs and practices provide comfort, or help to make sense of what seems senseless. The 3 Wishes Project can also help to elicit some basic spiritual needs related to of meaning, value, and relationship.

Identifying the spiritual or religious needs of patients can be difficult.  Clinicians involved in the 3 Wishes Project seem to better understand the role of spirituality in health, appreciate various expressions and experiences of spirituality, and identify when to offer assistance from a spiritual care counsellor or someone from a specific faith community. The 3 Wishes Project offers opportunities to open the door for such discussions, without creating discomfort or expectation, as guided by clinicians or more commonly, trained and experienced spiritual care counsellors.