【April 2016】2- Promoting Spiritual Care in Community-based Palliative Care

by Tsung-Tueng Bhikkhuni; translated by HFT Secretariat

Who do you turn to when you face sudden loss and great agony in your life? Wouldn’t it be great if there is a place in your community that is able to provide spiritual care counseling? A place to assist in the communication between end-of-life patients and their families, so that everyone can have peace of mind knowing things are well taken care of? This is the vision of the Great Compassion Academy (“GCA”, also known as Dabei Xue Yuan) since it was first established to promote community-based palliative care.

After 20 years of serving in palliative care, I have observed the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families. I know that terminally ill patients are often troubled by things and wishes that remain undone; and I know that family members are also anxious for not knowing what to do to help.

In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, it says, “There is no greater gift of charity you can give than helping a person to die well.”

In response to the desperate needs of spiritual guidance, we at GCA wish to provide the support and companionship needed by end-of-life patients and their families as they return home from the hospitals. As this is a need that we see too often in many end-of-life patients, we would like to approach them as someone who has actually been in their shoes before and understand what they need. This is the purpose we have established GCA.

GCA is run by a group of clinical experts, Buddhist masters and disciples, who started this place together from scratch. They desired to provide community-based spiritual care and therefore set up an excellent spiritual care team formed by volunteers. GCA is not just a mere Bodhimaṇḍa with Righteous Belief, but has been authorized by the Public Health Department of New Taipei City to provide Palliative Care Education and Training since 2015.

The education and training is provided mainly through the community’s palliative professional continuous education courses. Among the total 80 hours of clinical certification courses this year, GCA is responsible for lecturing Communication skills with end-of-life patients, assessing their spiritual care needs, and implementing 

case studies. All of these are supported by exchanges of clinical experience.

Additionally, GCA provides spiritual care courses for volunteers and clinical staff. This includes basic, advanced, on-the-job, and internship courses. More than 200 people have already completed this course, and we continue to provide regular monthly classes for clinical staff.

For community-based palliative care, we offer counseling services of medical resources to Taipei City and New Taipei City citizens, and we also offer palliative related counseling to the general public as well as referrals–both residence and nursing home–under governmental supervision.

Furthermore, GCA has set up Dabei Homeland for all end-of-life patients and their families to visit and relax. It offers various classes from Monday to Friday, and everyone can participate. This offers a small paradise and getaway for patients and families to take a breath and rest during their intense daily routine.

GCA has been putting increased focus on communities rather than on hospitals. With support from experts, we are focusing on the education of palliative care, hoping to assist and ease patients and their families through this difficult time.

Hopefully, GCA will be a significant starting point for Taiwan’s palliative spiritual care development, and ensure that all patients and families in need will find comfort for their souls through palliative care.