Spirituality, like anything else, is dependent on age and palliative care providers have a big role to play when it comes to paediatric palliative care.
As stated by the World Health Organization (WHO), pediatric palliative care is the active total care of the child’s body, mind, and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family. It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease”.
It is therefore the responsibility of paeditatric palliative care providers to find out if a child has spiritual pain, what its cause is and find a way of easing it.
Each one of us feels connected to our maker and other people, a reason why we try to find meaning to what is happening to us as well as others.
If a paediatric palliative care giver finds it hard to deal with the spiritual needs of a child, it is advisable to find someone who can be able to handle it.
The International Information Officer at International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) Sue Boucher says it is through spirituality that a child finds hope, connectedness, transcendence, meaning and acceptance.
Boucher says that a child needs to feel that they are loved no matter what, but challenges always emerge as paediatric palliative care givers struggle to achieve this important task.
Children see the world differently compared to adults, this requires the paediatric palliative care givers to thoroughly understand a child to be able to offer quality spiritual support.
Boucher says the need for unconditional love at the time of imminent separation calls for the carer to instil confidence and hope by generating a variety of ideas.
“Children can easily express themselves through drawing and art and by engaging in such a practice, carers will be able to have an understanding of the child’s spiritual understanding and needs.” She says.
She adds that allowing children to lead in prayers and encouraging group worship will enable them (children) to open up for a paediatric palliative care giver to understand their needs.
A poem by Juliette Jones, chair of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) steering committee, says that the spiritual person is not there to be seen and to be heard, but to see and hear, to be part of a moment when eyes and ears might open.
Dr Zipporah Ali, the executive Director of Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association says there is a tendency of mixing spirituality and religion in our community. “It is not fair to preach and pray yet the child is going through pain” Dr Ali says.
She says there is need to separate spirituality and religion in order to achieve the best spirituality support to children.
Reverend Stephen Taylor, the spiritual care coordinator at Hospice of Washington County separates religion and spirituality.
Taylor says religion regards to communion, anointing, baptism, ceremonial rituals and sacred readings whereas spirituality regards relatedness, meaning, purpose,wholeness and forgiveness.