Hospice of St. Lawrence Valley explains the role of the hospice chaplain
Editor’s Note: This story recently appeared in a special Spotlight section of North Country This Week.
Hospice treats the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. While other skilled care professionals tend to a patient’s physical and psychosocial needs, the care of the soul rests with another compassionate and highly-skilled member of the hospice team — the hospice chaplain.The role of a hospice chaplain is crucial, as many people have existential fears at the end of their life. Often, a terminally ill patient may experience powerful and complex emotions as they approach the end of life such as anger, depression, and guilt.
Patients may also begin to question the meaning of life, their purpose, and whether their life was of any value. It is the chaplain’s job to help guide these patients to a place of existential peace. While they may not be able to provide all the answers a patient may seek, the expert care and counsel of a hospice chaplain can help pave a path toward healing and acceptance.
A healthy spiritual outlook has an overall effect on a patient’s well-being. Multiple studies show patients who reported having a balanced, positive sense of spirituality had lower levels of pain and a generally higher level of comfort at the end of life.
Regardless of religion, creed, or culture, a chaplain’s purpose is to provide patients with compassionate spiritual support and counsel, and to better help the rest of the hospice team understand their cultural and emotional needs.
Currently, our Chaplain is making both in-person visits and telephone visits, based on the patient and family’s level of comfort.
It’s important to note, if a patient does not wish to engage with a hospice chaplain, they do not have to. It is entirely optional, and the patient can change their mind at any time. Hospice chaplains do not seek to convert patients or bring them into the fold of a specific religion, but to instead meet them where they are on their end-of-life journey.