Caring for Persons of Faith: Conversations about Health and Illness with Religious and Spiritual Leaders in Marion County, Indiana

Faith leaders play foundational and diverse roles in the lives of their faith communities.They articulate a framework of belief and meaning that provides a foundation and context for their faith community members’ life experiences, values, and priorities. The goal of this study is to improve knowledge of the experiences of faith leaders in providing care to their faith community members, including those who are seriously ill. We propose to conduct a series of interviews with key leaders from across a range of faith communities represented in Marion County to improve knowledge of the challenges these leaders face in providing care, faith leader self-reported roles in providing pastoral care for their seriously ill congregants and families, and faith leader self-reported needs for enhanced education and training to foster their ability to provide care.

The specific aims for this project are:

  1. Identify a cadre of 20 key community faith leaders representing a characteristic range of religious affiliations in Marion County.
  2. Describe the perspectives, challenges, successes and needs reported by faith leaders regarding the care they offer their congregants, including those who are seriously ill.
  3. Develop recommendations for improving support for community faith leaders specific to identified health-related challenges.

Spiritual and Religious Coping for Surrogates of Hospitalized ICU Adult Patients: A Qualitative Analysis

Critically ill adult patients are often unable to make medical decisions and others must make decisions for them. People who are involved in such decision making are typically family members, friends, or legally appointed representatives. Such people act as surrogate decision makers who carry the values and treatment preferences of the patient and act in the patient’s best interests. Making medical decisions produces enormous amounts of emotional distress to the surrogates. Spirituality and religion (S/R) have been found to play a significant role in coping with the distress among medical decision makers (MDMs). This study is designed to assess the surrogate coping resources related to S/R during, and after making the medical decisions for the critically ill Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients.

Understanding Advanced Cancer Patients' Spiritual Needs: A Qualitative Inquiry

Research has found that spiritual care is rarely provided to advanced cancer patients in outpatient settings. To better address this need, we need to better understand the spiritual needs of advance cancer patients. Major questions include: Are spiritual needs for metastatic cancer patients different from the needs of patients with other illnesses, age groups, or even stages of cancer? Knowing the prognostic risks associated with stage IV cancer, what spiritual and religious distress do these patients face? The purpose of this study is to identify the spiritual needs (gaps or resources used to cope) of patients with advanced solid tumor malignancies. Findings from the interviews will guide the process of developing a research instrument which will eventually guide the development of an intervention to meet the spiritual needs of advanced cancer patients.

A Chaplain Intervention to Reduce Spiritual Distress in Family Surrogate Decision Makers

In the hospital, many seriously ill older adults face major medical decisions at a time when they are unable to make them due to coma, delirium or dementia. In such cases, family members commonly serve as surrogate decision makers for the patient. At the Daniel F. Evans Center for Spiritual and Religious Values in Healthcare, we have found that many family surrogates often rely on their own religious or spiritual beliefs when making life and death decisions, and highly value spiritual support from hospital staff. Additionally, many surrogates report spiritual distress and unmet religious and spiritual needs when a loved one is seriously ill.

To address these needs, our research team will design and conduct a pilot study of a chaplain-delivered intervention focused on the surrogate decision makers for hospitalized older adults. The specific aims of this proposed study are to:

  1. Develop a chaplain-delivered intervention to provide spiritual support to surrogate decision makers of seriously ill older adults.
  2. Pilot test the intervention in Indiana University Health Hospitals.