A holistic assessment of the religious and spiritual dimensions of an individual's life can facilitate existential exploration as a part of ACP. A critical aspect of integrating religion and spirituality in ACP is recognizing the individuals' ability to choose wisely based on their own faith journey and acknowledging that each person has unique attributes and conscience to discern what is right for them.
Similarly, health care professionals may have their own meaning in life challenged by their experiences of their patient's struggles and suffering, and by the stresses they encounter while providing health care. The health care professional that accompanies patients and their loved ones on their journey of discerning what is right for them within the given circumstances must recognize that his or her own decisions may have been different. Yet, the health care professional must be willing to be nonjudgmental and remain supportive—to provide compassionate care for people facing very difficult situations.
Health care professionals must be able to help patients and their families explore the religious and spiritual dimensions that guide their decision making, not to be able to convince them of a “right” way, but to be able to guide them in reviewing possible options and resources, and expressing their preferences and values to guide others who may be advocating or speaking on their behalf. Journeying with the individual in the quest to connect more deeply with what is meaningful can enable the patient to engage more fully in ACP. Knowledge of the differences in values, beliefs, and preferences, in addition to the need to partner with the individuals and families to negotiate care within the patient's religion, spirituality, and culture are critical for good health care decision making.
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