Archive for Chaplain

A Hospice Patient’s Hand-Me-Down Gifts

We can never experience what another touched, heard, smelled, tasted, or saw.

For example, I’ve been with friends that ordered a favorite dish at a restaurant and asked me to give it a try. Just a bite!

“Delicious, right?” my table companion gushed.

Not really, I concluded after a nibble. If I’m polite, I’ll mumble thanks for the, for me, underwhelming cuisine. My taste buds are different than yours; yours different than mine. It’s the same with all of our senses and sensibilities. Variety, don’t they say, is the spice of life?

Or can we experience another’s perspective? Even in hospice? Read More →

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A Hospice Chaplain is Quantifiably Wrong

(*Photo by John Rothwell.)

“The nurses do things that can be quantified,” one of our hospice chaplains announced, “which is not like what us chaplains or the social workers do.”

With hospice, a patient is supported by a “team” of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides, and volunteers.

Was the chaplain, a person and a professional I respect, correct?

What is quantified? It’s a word describing precision, numbers, and comparisons.

A nurse may ask a patient what her or his pain is like on a scale of 1-to-10 or (especially if a patient can no longer talk) to choose from a range of emoji faces depicting happy smiles to grim anguish. Nurses increase or decrease the precise dosages of medications based on experience, information, and established guidelines.

The medical staff in hospice—and this is one of the tough parts of patient care—needs to regularly report how a patient is declining. If a hospice patient demonstrates consistent improvement in their physical health, they certainly still have an illness (and can’t stop the aging process), but they may no longer be eligible for the hospice benefit.

  • Is the patient losing weight?
  • Does he require stronger doses of pain medication?
  • Is she eating less, or only liquids, compared to last week or month?

Yes, nurses quantify, with specifics, to discern a patient’s changes. Read More →

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To Know or Say No to a Chaplain?

buscagliaYears ago, I was a hospice chaplain.

I remember rejection.

Every new patient that entered into hospice care was assigned a team that included a nurse, social worker, home health aide, and chaplain. Different hospices might have other staff available to a patient. For example, one hospice where I worked had someone that did light housecleaning. (And she was really popular with families!)

With the exception of a nurse, a patient could decline or limit visits from the team. Though biased, I always thought I was the most declined.

Sometimes it would be the case manager nurse who’d tell me the patient didn’t want a chaplain to visit. Sometimes I’d phone to introduce myself and see if there was a good time to swing by to meet the family. “No thanks,” they’d say. Most refusals were polite. A few were less polite. (“We don’t want you around Gramps talking death and hell.” Before I could offer a second opinion, the line—much more so than Gramps—was dead.)

There are many reasons patients and families decline a chaplain’s visit:

  • They had no interest in religion, faith, church, God, the afterlife, or any other holy whatever.
  • They were already involved in a synagogue, parish, mosque, or church, with regular visits from their clergy and members of their faith community.
  • The only reason for a pastor/priest was saying a final prayer near death and/or to comfort the family after the last breath. In other words, they’d welcome the chaplain when the patient was knocking on heaven’s door.
  • They didn’t want a religious professional scheming to change their hearts and minds about their current lousy or lovely beliefs about God, or to remind them of all their real and imagined lifetime of mistakes, regrets, and sins.

Please, bring on the nurse with the drugs that will ease the pain, but keep the chaplain and the happy words or guilty prayers as far away as possible!

What’s a chaplain good for anyway? Read More →

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