Placing Spiritual Care Providers in Long-Term Care Facilities in Israel

The past decade has seen the development of services of spiritual care in Israel’s health and welfare systems. In 2006, at the initiative and with the support of the Jewish Federation of New York, a process was initiated to develop a model of spiritual care and a training program for spiritual care providers (SCPs). Until then, there virtually was no such service in Israel.

In 2010, JDC-ESHEL (the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged), the Byspirit spiritual-support NGO, and the NY Federation launched an experimental program to introduce SCPs into long-term care facilities (LTCs). In the first stage, a course was held for key LTC personnel to acquaint them with the topic. In the second, SCPs were placed at six LTCs for some 15 hours weekly. The evaluation study was designed to examine the development and implementation of the program and the integration of SCPs into LTCs as well as its impact on the residents and staff, and to identify challenges and conditions for expanding spiritual care to other services for the elderly.

As part of the study, open in-depth interviews were held with 24 LTC directors and staff, 16 residents and families receiving spiritual care, and six SCPs. In addition quantitative data were collected from 130 residents who had received spiritual care, and an online log documented two months of SCP activity.

Key findings:

  • The documentation of SCP activity showed that varied tools were employed in the encounter with the residents, such as discussions, texts, touch. The interactions focused on diverse topics including past memories, the feelings of the elderly about their deteriorated functioning, and existential questions related to death and diagnosis.
  • According to LTC directors, liaisons and staff, the integration of SCPs contributed significantly to the residents. The main benefits cited were: relating to the elderly as whole people with their own history and memories, offering them support as they approached death, raising the subject of death to the consciousness of the staff, and soothing residents who made repeated complaints and appeals. They also said that one of the most important contributions of the program was creating an understanding of the need for SCPs; creating a situation in which staff felt they could no longer do without the service.
  • One factor that facilitated the integration of the SCPs was the appointment of a professional from within the LTC to serve as a liaison.
  • Given the primacy of the topic, an additional factor that contributed to the success of the program was the harnessing of internal resources; for example, involving the LTCs in choosing their SCPs and investing effort in integrating them into the staff.

The findings were extensively presented to the management of ESHEL and Ashalim, and to LTC directors and senior staff of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services, which helped to identify the necessary activities for broader incorporation of the new profession into the social services. On the basis of the findings, the program was expanded to additional LTC facilities. Moreover, new experimental programs of spiritual care have been implemented at daycare centers for the elderly and in Ashalim services for at-risk children and youth.

The study was commissioned and funded by ESHEL.

Citing suggestion :Resnizky, S., & Bentur, N. (2014). Placing Spiritual Care Providers in Long-Term Care Facilities in Israel. RR-655-14. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)