Archive for Hospice Team

Why Do Patients Refuse to Meet the Hospice Chaplain?

My boss and I had a brief, pleasant disagreement about the title of “chaplain.” She (I hope this is a fair summation) worries that certain hospice patients refuse a chaplain’s visit because of the title.

Could introducing someone as a “chaplain” lead to a closed door?

I think my boss is right. And . . . wrong.

Even though she’s correct 98.3% of the time (please tell her I said that), I wonder if the stumbling block is what a chaplain is perceived to represent. Wasn’t Shakespeare correct in “Romeo and Juliet:” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet? Whether the chaplain is Jewish or Buddhist, a layperson or professional clergy, volunteer or paid, they all carry the fragrance (or stink) of . . .

Religion.

Since ordination in 1977, I’ve had various titles: deacon, elder, minister, pastor, associate pastor, senior minister, lead minister, new church start pastor, campus minister, hospice chaplain, and currently a bereavement support specialist. When a new hospice staff member or a grieving family member asks about my background, I’ll mention I’m a United Methodist clergy.

Religious.

Not good? Good? An open door? A closed door? Read More →

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Entering a Home in the Wee Small Hours

Had it been that long since they were able to take a walk?

The phone rang at one in the morning.

I sleep deeply and wake fast. Moments after the call, I was dressed. In less than fifteen minutes, I arrived at their home and stood beside their bed.

The husband wept. I’d never seen him cry before.

She lay beneath the sheets. In repose, eyes closed, and you could (almost) pretend she was blissfully slumbering through the night. But she was dead.

Later I’d recall Charles Dickens’ familiar opening in his Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .” Aren’t those extremes how you react to the after-midnight calls? Why else would the phone ring in the wee small hours, except to convey the best news about a child’s birth or a beloved’s safe arrival from a far-flung war zone?

Or to share the worst news.

The odds of a jangling phone conveying the “worst” message was high. Back then, I was the on-call chaplain for a hospice. Most nights remained calm, but all could be disrupted.

And death always seems a disruption. Read More →

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Please Say “Yes!” to a Home Health Aide!

Why would hospice patients say no to a home health aide?

At our weekly hospice team meetings, we review every patient’s current situation. This includes the various staff assigned to a patient’s care. It goes something like this:

What about Juan Lopez?

  • Nurse . . . two to three times a week
  • Social Worker . . . one to two times a month
  • Chaplain . . . phone contact only
  • Home Health Aide . . . declined
  • Volunteer . . . one to two times a month

What about Mary Jones?

  • Nurse . . . one time a week
  • Social Worker . . . two to three times a month
  • Chaplain . . . two to three times a month
  • Home Health Aide . . . declined
  • Volunteer . . . declined

Of course, the above names are fictional. In a typical meeting, the hospice where I work will talk in detail about scores of patients. We discuss the recent deaths and new admissions, along with all of the ongoing patients served in their homes or facilities. Every patient has a choice about which of their “team” provides direct support to them. However, every patient must be seen by a nurse, from as little as several times a month to (though rare) every day. It depends on the needs. Read More →

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