Spirituality as it relates to health behavior

Overview of Spirituality for Case Managers

Spirituality is a broad concept with many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. For some people spirituality is synonymous with religion, but a person does not have to have a religious belief to be spiritual. 

It is important to have an understanding of the clients spiritual and religious views as this often impacts choices they make in regards to healthcare. For example, if a patient believes that they have no control of their destiny, they may feel that lifestyle changes or medical intervention will not change the inevitable, and therefore decline treatment or lifestyle changes. On the other hand, if they believe that life is precious and all means should be exhausted in prolonging it, they may be unwilling to accept the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment even when death is inevitable. 

Assessing a patient’s spiritual needs is an important part of the initial assessment with the client. With this information the Case Manager can refer the patient to resources for spiritual counseling. 

During times of illness, patients often rely on their spiritual beliefs to cope. Spiritual practices tend to improve coping skills, provide optimism and hope, promote healthy behavior, decrease feelings of depression and anxiety, and encourage a sense of relaxation. By relieving stressful feelings and promoting healing ones, spirituality can positively influence immune, cardiovascular, hormonal, and nervous systems.Studies have shown that terminally ill patients with a higher spiritual well being were less likely to have depression and thoughts of suicide. 

Case Managers should avoid being judgmental of the patients healthcare decisions made based on spiritual beliefs. When possible the Case Manager can offer alternatives that are within the patients beliefs.