The role of a hospice chaplain is multi-faceted and every visit is different; however, it always involves meeting people where they are both spiritually and emotionally. When there is opportunity for a conversation, it involves helping patients and/or families process their beliefs and feelings through active and empathetic listening.
Resonating with emotions is important as well as giving someone permission to lament and cry. When patients and/or families are in a safe place, where they can freely express their emotions, it can be helpful on the journey toward healing. Life review is helpful for a person because it helps them become more aware of the value their life has had. Looking back and seeing what a person has contributed to their family and community is important. So, a chaplain listens and helps patients remember.
At other times a chaplain helps patients and families connect or reconnect with their faith. A chaplain doesn’t try to lead a person toward any one faith but is there to support the patient in their own beliefs. Sometimes a chaplain will involve a patient’s own spiritual leader or pastor in providing spiritual care. Many times, the chaplain will call a priest if a patient wishes to receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Chaplains are also available to offer a final blessing for a dying patient which often brings peace for loved ones as they say good-bye.
In all situations, and most importantly, a chaplain is a caring person with whom both patients and families can feel safe and accepted for exactly who they are and what they are dealing with at this difficult time in their life.