Spiritual Care

Coping with medical issues is stressful whether it is an injury, a diagnosis, a chronic disease, or a terminal illness. Enveloped within medical issues are spiritual issues for many people. For some people spiritual issues are overt and easily identified. For other people the experience of illness is also a spiritual issue though not explicit. It is more subtle. It may emerge through discussions about the meaning of illness in the person’s life.

Spiritual care refers to the ministry offered by men and women, both clergy and laics, committed to foster the psycho-social-spiritual growth and shalom of each human being they interact with. Whereas religion has to do with a set of belief system and rituals practiced by a determined group of individuals, spirituality is a broader concept that refer to the experience of (and the search for) peace, hope and love find in the heart of every human being, whether religious or not. Spirituality is an intangible part of human existence found in the core of a person’s being. Spirituality can be defined as a complex and multidimensional part of the human experience—our inner belief system. It helps individuals to search for the meaning and purpose of life, and it helps them experience hope, love, inner peace, comfort, and support. Spirituality encompasses people who are religious and have connection to a faith tradition, as well as people who do not perceive themselves to be religious at all.

A person does not have to be religious, but still can have spiritual concerns. Religion can help spirituality. Having no religious belief does not necessarily exclude spiritual concerns. Every person has a spiritual dimension, those non-material aspects of life represented in our relationships with family, friends or a greater power, which provide meaning in our lives. These life values guide our response to life limiting illness. Some people express their spirituality through religion, others do not. Religion and spiritual matters are a very private and sensitive topic for people. Many had terrible experiences in their youth with church, they were forced to go or they were hurt by someone in the church and lost trust. This is tragic, some people carry the anger or resentment their whole life and die having never dealt with the hurt. Spiritual intervention is designed to help the patient walk through the bad experience enabling them to create a satisfying end of life experience.

Hospice chaplain

A chaplain is a referral resource to help peoples as they address life changing experiences and the subsequent questions that emerge about the meaning of life. Chaplain is a resource person who can help those with an identified religious affiliation to cope more effectively by using their spiritual resources. Chaplain is also a resource to people who are not affiliated with a religious group. The hospice‘s chaplain is trained to help them discuss important issues and questions as well as defines their own values and life meaning. Chaplain seeks to help them access the higher human values – intelligence, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, community, consolation – and apply them to present day events, crises, and challenges.

The ultimate role of a chaplain is to provide spiritual support, and anyone who is qualified, religious person or not, can be trained to become a chaplain.

At Hospice of Frederick County, we define patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. Central to this definition is the “sum of all interactions”; it represents a perspective that is much broader than the clinical realm in which we deliver care, reaching to the fullest experience that we have as human beings in health care. It encompasses our desire to maintain health and well-being, find healing, or live our remaining days with dignity, respect and peace. Interactions are at the core of our work in hospice care and remind us that while this is a business based on science, it remains a practice grounded in our humanness, in our hopes and fears, vulnerabilities and strengths. At the heart of all we do and hope to achieve in hospice care we never overlook that we are simply human beings caring for human beings.

Our chaplains are members of the hospice interdisciplinary team, so that a picture of the patient as whole person is a part of their focus. They are professionally trained to address the spiritual needs of patients and families…they are trained to listen not only to what is said in words but also to the experience and feelings behind the story. Many issues patients want to discuss are not necessarily "religious" issues, but life concerns. How has my life had value? What has been important to me in my life? What do I have left to do before I die? Who is important to me? Other issues are more related to God. Who is God? What do I believe about what happens after I die? Do I need forgiveness? How can I deal with my fears about dying? … Trained to listen to the story of pain…this pain may arise from unresolved relationships with one perception of a higher power or with individuals in a person’s life. It also may be the result of an inability to find and celebrate one’s life’s accomplishments; to know that it matters that he/she walked this earth. There may be some unrest as to what happens at the end of one’s life. These issues and more can be explored with the support and resources of the chaplain. They are listeners. Our hospice chaplains also interface with the community clergy members to ensure that our patients’ religious rituals and other needs are met. We actually have a “community liaison team” including a Catholic priest, a Rabbi, an Imam, a Buddhist, a Christian minister who provides various religious rituals to our hospice community.

For more information or to reach out to our staff directly, please contact our offices by calling (240) 566-3030.

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