Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflections on the National Institute for Jewish Hospice Annual Conference

For the last four years I have had the privilege to attend this vital conference. This year’s conference was wonderful for two reasons: the content of the program and the fellowship with other conferees. I was particularly inspired by the presentation by David Kessler. His topic was “How Judaism Heals Grief: How do we heal grief? What works and what doesn’t?” Kessler has five best-selling books on grief and is an experienced hospice bereavement expert. What struck me most about him was the fact that he is an excellent communicator whose humility makes his presentation extremely compelling. Kessler posed the provocative question, “Are we destined to die as failures?” Think about it. What is said about patients who died of cancer: “It’s sad she lost her battle with cancer.” “It’s sad he/she lost …” Is that the language we as hospice spiritual care providers want to perpetuate about our patients? Let’s change the language from “she was a great painter/a stellar actress/a fantastic friend”, to “she IS a great painter/a stellar actress/a fantastic friend”. Let’s keep the present tense when talking about patients. They are not a “was” until they die. There was so much more Kessler had to say… For more information, please go to his website, Rabbi Young spoke with passion and energy as he presented “From Dying Until Burial”. No one should die alone was made crystal clear. That is one of the goals at Cornerstone Hospice. Humility is the value most important to a funeral. The casket is made of wood. The wealthy and the poor are buried in the same type of casket. The money not spent on the funeral may be given to a worthy charity that helps the poor. The fellowship around the lunch table was particularly energizing. Hearing from Rabbi’s, Chaplains, and hospice administrators dealing with such topics as Medicare requirements/reimbursements, programs for and methods of care for patients, and other things hospice made the conversation instructive and inspirational. Of the four annual conferences that I’ve attended, this one was the best. I want to thank the leadership of Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. for making it possible for me to attend. By making this possible we remain an “Accredited Jewish Hospice.” This sends a strong message to our Jewish patients, their families, and the Jewish community as a whole.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Chaplain and Social Courtesies

Chaplains have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive impact and impression upon patients and their families. To do so, it takes more than skill in spiritual support or in counseling or in providing encouragement. The Chaplain that excels in social skills and common courtesy will find his or her spiritual care greatly enhanced. I had a bit different upbringing than some as from the age of 10 my Mother educated me on manners and social skills as my Father died and could not add to my Mother’s advice. Opening doors, be they to buildings or vehicles, saying “Please” and “Thank you” were just the basics. Through my career I have learned that those basics can carry one a good way, but there are many other social courtesies to learn and apply to solidify great relationships with those we serve in hospice. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive nor given in any order of importance as they are all important. Key Courtesy Tips for Chaplains  Smile! It takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile.  Pause for a moment before answering the telephone. This will allow you to shift gears and focus on the caller.  Sitting down and making eye contact while talking to patients leaves a more favorable impression than standing and you are perceived to spend more time with the patient.  Eye contact should be made 40-60% of the time in conversation. Less than that suggests you’re not paying attention… more than 60 % makes people feel uncomfortable.  “Imagine yourself in the patient’s position… how would you feel?”  “Never let a patient hear you complain.”  Show compassion.  Never blame another Team Member for something that went wrong. Apologize right away and say,” I will try to correct that for you or I will get someone who can. I’m sorry that happened to you and it will not happen again.”  Anticipate patient needs. For example, if a patient is nauseous and looks like he will vomit, either hand him a plastic basin or hold the basin for him. Another example: If a family member is carrying patient clothing or other item, hold the exterior open so they may enter the building without fumbling to get a free hand to open the door. Perhaps assist with carrying a heavy item.  Introduce yourself to the family that is entering the Hospice House and walk with them to the patient’s room.  Be friendly. Be warm. Be approachable.  Use common courtesy that you learned early in life.  Saying, “Yes/No, Ma’am” and “Yes/No Sir” is not just Southern in it origin, it is just plain good communication and courteous.  Make people feel like they matter  Go the extra mile with the patients and their families. What this looks like has many faces and facets. Being kind is fundamental to this one.  Show appreciation that the patient and family chose Cornerstone Hospice. Say something like: “Thank you for the privilege of serving you and your (loved one) here at Cornerstone.” Every time I’ve said that, the family member reflects that they are the ones grateful that we are serving them. It goes a long way to building a great relationship.  Never be too busy to meet a need. I am sure that we could make a list twice as long as this, but please accept this as a good start. Whether you visit in a patient’s home, or LTC facility, hospital or hospice house it is always proper to be mannerly. When you read the Best Practices for Chaplains in each of those localities, you will come across Chaplain Etiquette. Please be mindful and apply these guidelines for great patient and family care.