COLUMN: Hospice chaplains are a sacred gift

Published 7:30 am Saturday, October 21, 2023

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October is “National Clergy Appreciation Month.” Therefore, on behalf of all hospices, I want to recognize the significant role hospice chaplains have in being part of the end-of-life hospice interdisciplinary team.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

Hospice Chaplains realize that being able to walk with someone as they face the end of life’s journey is a sacred gift. They understand this gift and respect life in all its stages and transitions. They hope to provide spiritual healing, purpose, and meaning to hospice care patients. While spiritual care is covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, it is an optional service for each patient.

Hospice Chaplains offer an open, sensitive, and non-judgmental acceptance of all patients. They assist in connecting patients with clergy of their faith, beliefs, cultures, and values. The chaplain aims to support every patient and family with compassion and care. When our patients are no longer with us, our chaplains are willing to assist in making final arrangements and coordinating with families and funeral directors. Many times, they are asked to officiate the funeral or memorial services as they have gotten to know the patient and their families in their final days. As part of hospice’s bereavement program, they follow up with families and caregivers to offer support to those who are grieving.

The following is a statement from a local hospice chaplain. “I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity to serve our patients, their families, and our community through the ministry of hospice chaplaincy. What a privilege it is to come alongside those at the end of life, to support and uplift them, and to be a small part of their spiritual journey. My role as a hospice chaplain has been one of the most rewarding opportunities of my time in ministry. I count it an honor to pour joy, peace, and encouragement into the lives of so many. Thank you for allowing us to provide spiritual care to you and those you love!”

Also, in addition to the critical support hospice chaplains provide for patients and families, the hospice chaplain assists members of the patient’s hospice care team. Chaplains understand the spiritual needs of their fellow team members and recognize the heart-rendering circumstances they address and manage every day.

In speaking of the hospice chaplain’s role with family and team members, I think it is worth noting once a month, Aveanna Hospice facilitates a Grief and Bereavement Support Group. This support group is held the 3rd Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. at the Covington County Baptist Association, located at 18350 US Highway – Andalusia, AL. You do not have to be affiliated with any hospice or the Covington County Baptist Association to attend. This service is open to everyone in our community.

I truly believe as Ram Dass has written, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Vickie C. Wacaster, Aveanna Hospice Patient and Hospice Advocate