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The University of Michigan ran a survey that found that most elderly prefer to separate their health from spiritual life. The National Poll on Healthy Aging indicated that older adults also believed that healthcare specialists could provide them hope in the event of serious illnesses by helping them search for hope or the meaning of life.

The researchers found that 84% of study respondents aged 50 to 80 have religious or spiritual beliefs that were vital to them. Furthermore, 80% stated they had spiritual beliefs, while 71% had religious beliefs. Another 40% indicated that they valued their opinions more with age.

Patients want healthcare providers to ask about their beliefs

About 19% of respondents with religious or spiritual beliefs said these had determined their healthcare decisions. Another 28% said they wanted healthcare providers to ask about their thoughts. However, 77% of the study group didn’t want doctors to share their religious views.

According to Dr. Adam Marks, a palliative and hospice care physician from Michigan Medicine, while a large portion of the group had strong spiritual and religious beliefs, they still wanted to separate them from their healthcare. Furthermore, regardless of their beliefs, most participants wanted their doctors to give them a deeper meaning in their illness. Another 78% said that healthcare workers gave them hope when struggling with their health.

Healthcare providers should know their patients’ religious views

L.J Brazier, a chaplain for the Department of Spiritual Care at Michigan University, adds that many hospitals add the patients’ spiritual convictions in their electronic records. Furthermore, medical students in training are learning to ask their patients about their beliefs, as that might affect their care.

Knowing the religious conditions of elderly patients is important as it enables healthcare providers to meet their needs. These needs could include regular visits from a chaplain of a similar faith or food restrictions. However, it is also important to note patients who are not religious or spiritual.

About 65% of older adults with strong spiritual or religious beliefs said they had a community that shared them. Knowing this could mean that healthcare providers can reach out to these communities during a health crisis as they can provide emotional support.