Chaplain shares information on hospice care during COVID-19

“As we continue to add value and uplift people, we must be aware and reflect on how the pandemic affects us and our ministries to meet the needs of those we serve.”

Carmen Royster-Caldwell, MDiv, is a chaplain for Vitas Healthcare in Palm Coast. She wants her patients to have comfort and dignity near the end of life.

The chaplain recently shared the training from a webinar titled: “Hospice Foundation of America (HFA) – Providing Spiritual and Pastoral Care During COVID-19,” which offered 1.5 complimentary CE hours for the free program.

Thirteen hundred participants took part in the webinar, and a question-and-answer session followed.

HFA, headquartered in Washington, D.C. – a trusted source of information on end-of-life, hospice care and grief – provided the April 29 webinar focusing on three panelists:

Rabbi Gary S. Fink, DMin, who proudly serves as senior vice president of Counseling and Family Support at Montgomery and Prince George’s Hospices in Maryland.

The Rev. Wanda Henry-Jenkins, bereavement services manager for Vitas Healthcare in the Greater Chicago area.

Kenneth Doka, Ph.D., MDiv, senior bereavement consultant to HFA in upstate New York.

Ministry of presence gone

“The idea of ministry of presence teaches that therapeutic intervention might not be about doing something for someone, but rather being present with someone,” said Rabbi Fink. “Physically present, and also emotionally and spiritually attuned to the needs of those who are passing from this life…

“It’s truly a world turned upside down as social distancing and self-quarantines have come between spiritual caregivers and those they serve,” the rabbi noted.

“We’ve gone from high touch to no touch. From house calls to phone calls. From ministry of presence to ministry of virtual presence,” he added.

“Vigils of bedside and vigils of family members were common… And, more importantly, hospice care could be provided in the comfort of home in order to avoid the isolation of hospital confinement,” the rabbi mentioned. “It used to be when patients died, there could be family members looking on. Now, family members are on the outside looking in.”

Creating alternate practices

Rev. Henry-Jenkins said, “We need to create alternate ministry practices. Some of these practices have been around for a long time and some of us have resisted these practices out of fear of learning something new, or not being sure we can handle them by being tech savvy.

“And, many churches now are using electronic and social media, tele-technology, and we used to always talk about televangelists,” said Rev. Henry-Jenkins. “Well, we are all becoming televangelists.”

There have been people in our churches – like the sick and shut – in – who have been isolated. “And now, these people who are homebound are able to participate in worship,” Rev. Henry-Jenkins refrained.

Dr. Doka said, “We’ve now begun to talk about personal pathways of grief. Everybody grieves in their own individual way, rather than through a predicable set of stages…We experience grief on every level; some people will talk about physical ills – their stomach hurts, their head hurts, their muscles hurt.

“Certainly, all the emotions that we have will be part of our grief,” he continued. “These emotions we often commonly think of – like sadness, and anger and guilt, loneliness, yearning.

‘Series of emotions’

“But there may be a whole series of emotions that we often don’t associate with grief: Sometimes, people can experience a sense of emancipation,” Dr. Doka affirmed.

“Walk-in caregivers will talk about the fact that when somebody dies that they’ve been caring for a long time, there’s a sense of they’ve been emancipated. And, they recognize it’s hard to provide care, and often feel glad that the person’s suffering is over…

“All kinds of things: It may affect us behaviorally, Dr. Doka asserted. “We may avoid reminders of the deceased. We may seek reminders of the deceased. We may feel that we have to keep busy in order that the grief doesn’t overwhelm us.

“Some people…find it helpful to run…and certainly, we experience grief spiritually: Some people may feel closer to God. Some people may be alienated from their beliefs. Whatever it is,” he added.

To learn more about the training, log on at https://hospicefoundation.org/Education/Spiritual-Care-and-COVID-19.

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As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.

Celebrations

Birthday wishes to Donna M. Gray-Banks, Ernest G. “Toney the Barber” Robinson, May 21; Betty C. White, May 22; Dr. Lawrence Gary, Lenny Rowe, May 26; and Audrey Thorpe, May 27.

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