The book is based on presentations made at The Third International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality held in Australia in 2003. Like most compilations, it covers a wide range of topics. Despite the diversity of starting points, however, and their uneven quality, each paper provides helpful openings for further academic research, as well as for practitioner discussions. Several contributors bring to life, from the perspective of the dying and their caregivers, the deep need to face the reality of death and make meaning out of it in the face of frustrating and dangerous cultural tendencies to ignore this process.
The notion of spiritual care (distinguished from pastoral care) appears throughout the book. This raises a question whether chaplains, rather than being denominationally based, religious workers, assume the role of spiritual specialists, working with patients, families, and other care providers to recognize and respond to the spiritual desires of the suffering and dying. The book offers helpful examples of caring for the dying, including two papers on spiritual care of patients with dementia (one by J. Killick, the other by C. Trevitt and E. MacKinlay).
This collection brings together examples of an ever-widening recognition of the need in our society to deal with the loss of health, the pain of suffering, and of reality of death. While not suitable as a textbook or for course readings, some of the articles may be helpful for particular topics in courses or workshops on pastoral care or health care ethics.