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Purpose of review: This review discusses the developments in spiritual needs assessments and measurements in end-of-life care. The review considers spiritual needs assessments from the perspective of palliative care patients, their families and caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

Recent findings: Spiritual needs assessments vary significantly along the dimensions of content and domains. These needs assessments have the potential to deepen our insight and to identify those who are most at risk for spiritual distress, but few are practical and simple enough to use in everyday clinical practice, and for the research, few are cross-culturally validated. Spirituality is a complex construct, although 'relatedness' was recognized as a core dimension of spirituality in addition to existential beliefs and values related to meaning and purpose. Little is known about the spiritual needs in elderly patients, in the cognitively impaired, and during the dying process. The spiritual needs of family caregivers need more support and attention.

Summary: Spirituality is considered to be one of the patient's vital signs and should be routinely screened and assessed. Research in spiritual care should be ongoing for all palliative care patients as well as for those with specific needs such as mental, neurological, or cognitive impairment. There is also a knowledge gap concerning how spiritual needs change during the progression of the disease trajectory. More work must be done on the spiritual concerns of family caregivers.

(C) 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.