Within the hospice care setting, spirituality is typically not defined within a specific religion or belief system. Instead, care providers understand spirituality as an awareness of someone’s relationship with the world and their sense of what their life ultimately has meant to it. To help people in hospice care cope with these ideas and find peace during the last days of their lives, many hospice care providers keep chaplains on staff as part of patients’ care teams. Chaplains can provide spiritual support for patients, family members, and caregivers, making them an important member of the hospice team.
The Role of a Hospice Chaplain
The services of a hospice chaplain are entirely optional. If a patient chooses to work with a chaplain, however, they may find the chaplain acts as a valuable and compassionate support person. Patients may begin experiencing intense, complex emotions and even question the meaning of their lives. A chaplain can help your loved one see the value of their lives and positive impact they had on the world. If nothing else, sometimes having the chance to talk to someone about their concerns or fears is enough for patients to begin healing.
Chaplains ensure a loved one’s comfort up until the very end of their lives. Studies have shown that a healthy spiritual outlook can improve someone’s sense of well being, positivity, and comfort while reducing pain levels, making a chaplain an important resource. Hospice care providers feel that no one should be alone when they pass. A hospice chaplain can also be critical in ensuring that your loved one is constantly with a friend, family member, hospice care team member, or volunteer, ensuring that they are surrounded with compassion and care at this major transition point.
In addition to ensuring comfort, chaplains can provide rituals, prayers, and other spiritually-based coping skills that help your loved one find peace during a confusing and difficult time. Thanks to their understanding of how religion, spirituality, and culture influence each other, they are better equipped to help hospice care patients find coping methods that work best for them. These methods can ground them in the present moment and provide reassurance and comfort when it seems like everything is out of their control.
Support for Families and Caregivers
Chaplains also provide spiritual support for the people surrounding a person in hospice care. Families may be strongly affected by the news of their loved one’s diagnosis and with the realities of their day to day care. Just like their loved one, they may be feeling angry, guilty, or unsure of what life is all about. Chaplains can act as compassionate listeners and offer spiritual guidance in navigating these emotions. In some cases, family members may even begin questioning their spiritual beliefs. With the help of a chaplain, they may be able to strengthen their faith and begin finding comfort in it once again.
Family caregivers are often most impacted by their loved one’s deteriorating health, as they are constantly attuned to their loved one’s needs and changes and see their decline happening on a daily basis. They may feel emotionally and spiritually drained when their loved one passes away, and a chaplain can be instrumental in helping them recover and find their own spiritual and emotional identities again while processing their emotions. This processing occurs throughout the months of care preceding death as well. When caregivers feel powerless to stop their loved one’s decline, a chaplain can help them understand what’s happening and find ways to cope that are based in spirituality and provide much needed comfort during this period.
As a member of the hospice care team, chaplains can also help maintain clear communication between family members, caregivers, and other team members. They may work to help families understand their loved one’s needs and stay informed about upcoming changes to their care plan, helping them become stronger partners for the hospice care team. The chaplain can also communicate the family’s wishes and concerns with medical professionals to ensure that their loved one is receiving the best possible care with minimal conflict or stress.
Working with Harbor Light Hospice
Speak with Harbor Lights Hospice for more information about chaplains and their role in hospice care. Harbor Light’s chaplains work with medical professionals to help them understand the spiritual and cultural beliefs of a patient and their loved ones while providing each member with spiritual guidance of their own. This allows for more compassionate, comprehensive care that everyone can feel supported in as your loved one transitions. Harbor Light’s care teams will also create customized support plans that address your loved one’s emotional and physical needs as well, ensuring that they feel comfortable and cared for throughout the final chapter of their life.