What’s a Chaplain To Do?
Hospice’s regulations are mandated by Medicare. Thankfully, Medicare recognizes that end-of-life issues revolve around more than simply a physical condition; emotional and spiritual concerns may be at least as important as what’s going on with the body. To that end, Medicare requires that a social worker and a chaplain , as well as a medical clinicians, be involved in the care of each of our hospice patients.
For Medicare’s perceptiveness, I am truly thankful.
Perhaps, when you hear the word “chaplain,” something specific comes to mind. It may be the picture of a pastor, or of a counselor. It could also be a picture of someone that makes you nervous to be around.
If that’s the case, it’s okay; you’re not alone.
There are misunderstandings of what chaplains actually do. Some think our goal is to try to convert the patient to some faith, or to find out if the patient has (or has not) been attending some church or other house of worship in order to judge the patient.
But that’s not what we do. Here’s some of what our chaplains actually do: we visit with the patient and family, typically listening more than talking. We find out if the patient has any fears (if you were dying, would you?), and then walking with them and working through those fears.
Our goal is to help the patient, and the family, find peace…in whatever way they are seeking peace.
Peace may be found in restoring relationships with other family members or friends.
Or in connecting the patient with a spiritual leader from a particular faith.
Or in talking through what the patient believes.
Or in making funeral plans.
Or in specific rituals or traditions.
Or in looking back at the patient’s life, both the good and the not-so-good.
Or in confession and assurance.
Or in preparing the patient and the family for what comes next…whatever “next” looks like.
In all of these, and many more, chaplains can help.
How hospice chaplaincy could be even better:
- Build better relationships with clergy and other spiritual leaders around town so we can give even better spiritual care to our patients/parishioners
- Use clergy as volunteers for our patients
- Use the churches to better educate present and future patients regarding spiritual care and hospice
- More professionals trained in Bereavement so we could have more bereavement groups
- More professionals trained in Grief Recovery (cost is about $2500 per person and five days to be trained as a Grief Recovery Specialist)