Spiritual boxes providing support to patients at the end of life

Patients and staff in Lincolnshire’s hospitals are benefitting from an innovation that supports people’s spiritual needs at the end of life.

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Patients and staff in Lincolnshire’s hospitals are benefitting from an innovation that supports people’s spiritual needs at the end of life.

A chaplain who works for both United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and St Barnabas Hospice has come up with the idea of spiritual boxes, which are being used across the hospice, and are now being rolled out to hospital wards.

These boxes contain a number of items that are aimed at helping staff to communicate with end of life patients, bring families together and provide some comfort and support.

At any one time, approximately 30% of patients in Lincolnshire hospital beds are in their last year of life.

Lead Chaplain Yve White-Smith said: “The boxes are tools that staff can use to help care for the spiritual needs of their patients, to begin conversations and build relationships with patients. They can be used by nursing staff, volunteers or chaplains.

“We often neglect the spiritual care of patients, and think only of their physical and mental health. But spiritual health can impact on both of these things. We know if you care for people’s spiritual needs then they respond better to treatment, to each other, to our staff and to management of their pain,” she said.

“The spiritual wellbeing boxes have been developed to make vital interaction between patients, their loved ones, our staff and volunteers a little easier.”

The boxes contain a range of items including:

  • Rosary rings and other religious items, including information about pilgrimage and holding crosses.
  • Laminated images of countryside views familiar to those in our county- introducing the concept of place and space beyond the hospital, travel and life events.
  • A labyrinth to trace with the fingers. Labyrinth represent our personal journeys past, present and future. Some boxes also have modelling clay so that patients can make their own 3D labyrinth to keep with them.
  • Mindfulness colouring books and sheets.
  • A kit to make thumbprint trees, showing loved ones thumb prints as leaves, giving comfort by reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness through being part of a family or group.
  • Brightly painted stones which appeal to the senses. They are visual and tactile and are especially good for patients who may have lost other ways of interacting and communicating .
  • Rosewood malas which can be used as worry beads or just for the pleasure of handling the wood and beads in the hands.
  • Silk flowers for discussion and to invoke memories.
  • LED candles- for prayer, reflection, focus and the comfort of light.
  • Comfort poems and prayers book.
  • Lavender bags and oils.
  • Small sand-based Zen gardens that can be created and then dismantled.

The boxes were recently recognised as an innovation that benefits patients at the Fab Awards 2016. These awards are run by the Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff, celebrating all the fab people, best practice and innovation happening across the NHS and social care.

Deputy Chief Nurse at ULHT, Jennie Negus, said: “The concept behind the spiritual boxes is one of compassion and kindness, they recognise that just beginning a conversation can be a hurdle and provide a gentle step up; or if someone simply wishes to be quiet and thoughtful the objects can help this too.”

Director of Service Innovation and Integration at St Barnabas Hospice, Jane Bake, said: “Hospice care has long recognised the importance of spiritual care and we are privileged to support patients in their spiritual distress. The boxes afford staff and volunteers the opportunity to respond in new ways to individual patients and to their families. Patients are able to choose to talk about, or just hold, items that are meaningful to them. This together with care and compassion can support patients’ spiritual wellbeing.”