Spiritual care is an oft misunderstood service of the hospice team. To help unpack what our spiritual care team brings to patients and families I ask new staff and volunteers to reflect on what feelings and interpretations rise up for them when hearing the word or title ‘chaplain’ mentioned. Some say “pastor or priest or rabbi”, some think of military chaplains. Most who are unfamiliar with the role of chaplains and spiritual care will talk of expressly religious aspects of spiritual care. The point is that how we understand spiritual care is often interpreted by our past associations with things spiritual or religious and by our current spiritual or religious practices.
To help widen our understanding of the scope of spiritual care I like to suggest to folks that we flip the phrase around. It can help to think of our service as “care of the spirit” rather than as “spiritual care”. We all have a spirit. Human beings are more than the biophysical flesh and blood of our bodies. Our spirit is the essence of who we are and what affects our body affects our spirit and what affects our spirit affects our body.
Living into a terminal diagnosis of our own or of our loved one has impact upon every dimension of our being — the physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual. Consequently the care of all of these human dimensions is important to help insure the greatest level of comfort, peace, and security that can be attained as death approaches.
Gilchrist Hospice Care prides itself on care and attention to our patient’s and family members “whole selves” by trained and compassionate professionals and volunteers. Caring for the spirit of those in our service is accomplished through compassionate supportive presence, non-judgmental reflective listening to feelings and concerns, and assistance with patient/family requested spiritual/religious rites, rituals, and practices. These ways and means are at the heart of how we care for the spirit of those in our service.