Monday, August 31, 2015

Assuming the Burden…

What burden is the hospice Chaplain to assume? There are many burdens hospice Chaplains like every other type of Chaplain assumes. Most are personal and independent of chaplaincy. The topic to which I am referring is hospice oriented only. What burdens do patients carry when they are in hospice care? If they are lucid and able to communicate, we may learn they carry burdens related to relationships, the need for reconciliation, fear of dying, the afterlife, and concerns for the welfare of their loved one after they die, to name just a few. They come to us with these burdens. Best practice in chaplaincy means the Chaplain is able to listen and identify these burdens and be a part of the healing ministry that supports the patient through the hospice journey. What burdens do the patients’ loved ones bear? Their burdens can relate to anger with God, wrestling with the “why” of it all, the need for reconciliation with their loved one, it might mean reconciliation with a clergy person or faith community as a funeral looms in the immediate future. How do these burdens find relief and lifting and what role does the Chaplain play in all of this? Let me answer this question by providing a bulleted list that hopefully gives a starting point for the Chaplain to begin. • When providing care for a patient who is lucid, the Chaplain uses the power of active and reflective listening. Giving the patient a Safe Haven, as Bowlby suggests, is a great starting place. It may be that the patient before the Chaplain has never unburdened his or her soul to anyone and now that death is near, the time may be ripe for this to occur. • When providing care for a patient who is minimally or non-responsive, the Chaplain may find him/herself in a quandary as to what to do next. Best practice answers the quandary. After the Chaplain provides spiritual care for the patient, the Primary Caregiver is contacted by phone and a brief summary of the Chaplain’s visit is provided. The Chaplain always thanks the PCG for the privilege they have given said hospice organization to provide care for this patient. Leaving a business card and not contacting the PCG after the visit adds an additional burden to the PCG to contact the Chaplain. If you think about it, why would you even think for a moment of adding an additional burden to an already burdened person? Is that not a form of arrogance rather than servant-hood that suggests that if they want to speak to me, then they can just call me? The Chaplain is to exude a servant-mindedness. Expecting a burdened family member to contact him or her is just not a good mindset. And, really, that is the point of this article. The Chaplain communicates his or her attitude with body language and tone of voice. The Chaplain’s attitude conveys all the family member(s) need to hear. If you leave a card, great. But, make the phone call. It’s just Best Practice, plain and simple.

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