As part of Hospice care we offer spiritual care to our patients.  Like our medical care it is offered to people of all faiths and none and is free of charge.  When faced with illness people often have questions relating to a sense of meaning or purpose and if asked to do so we take time to consider these issues with our patients and their families.

Sometimes spiritual care can also be of a practical nature where the patient and family members receive support through acts of kindness and company. Our spiritual coordinator in Romania talks about her work with a patient called Gabi and her family.

I was asked to visit Gabi, who was just 42 and who wanted spiritual counselling. She had had two colostomies, was unable to walk and was living with her parents. Her mother was 72 and was suffering from dementia and her father had special needs and also could not walk. Gabi did not want to be hospitalised so we offered her home care.

When I visited her at home I was shocked to see the poor living conditions. There was dirt everywhere, unclean clothes and leftover food all over the place and an army of cockroaches enjoying the feast. 

The minute we arrived Gabi started crying for food. She believed that if she had plenty of food her condition would improve and she would be able to walk again. She used to be a very independent woman, an engineer with a very strong personality, and she just couldn't accept the situation that she was in. She desperately wanted to have a normal life again.

Although my role is as spiritual coordinator, sometimes this can include more practical concerns and I felt the most pressing issue was to persuade Gabi to accept in-patient care. After a week she agreed to be admitted to the Hospice and she received the care that she so urgently needed. 

Shortly after Gabi was hospitalised we gathered a group of volunteers to go and help clean the family's flat. After 10 hours of hard work the place was clean again and we helped Gabi's father shave and gave him a haircut. 

A week later we decided to visit and see how Gabi's parents were doing and we were shocked to see that the place was in a total mess again. We felt that the parents also needed special care as they couldn't look after themselves but they refused to leave their home. 

Two weeks later Gabi was released from the Hospice but she continued to receive home care visits. Her mother was very reluctant to welcome visitors even though the medical team and the volunteers were there to help Gabi. 

Gabi's condition deteriorated to a level where nothing further could be done other than for us to make the end as comfortable as possible. Gabi wanted to spend her last days at home and so we did what we could to make this possible. 

I did my best to support Gabi's parents who were overwhelmed by the situation. We helped Gabi's father move into Gabi's room so he could say goodbye to her and be at her side during the last hours of her life.

I helped Gabi's parents organise the funeral as they were in no condition to do so. I have stayed in contact with them and they are pleased to see me when I visit.