First and foremost, the chaplain provides the patient with care and spiritual counsel that meets their needs and is in accordance with that patient’s wishes. If a patient does not wish to engage with a hospice chaplain or any form of spiritual care, they do not have to. It is entirely optional, and the patient can change their mind at any time. Chaplains do not seek to convert patients or bring them into the fold of a specific religion, but to instead meet the patient where they are on their spiritual journey and help the patient discover renewed meaning and spiritual peace. Regardless of religion, creed, or culture, a chaplain’s purpose is to provide patients with compassionate spiritual support and counsel.
Chaplains help patients spiritually prepare for the end of life
Often and understandably, as a terminally-ill patient approaches the end-of-life, powerful and complex emotions — such as anger, depression, guilt — can begin to take root. Patients can also begin questioning the meaning of life, their purpose, and whether their life was of any value. The hospice chaplain’s role is to help guide patients to a place of spiritual health by helping them see the value of their life and its positive impact. While the chaplain may not be able to provide all the answers a patient may seek, expressing these emotions is healthy and having these conversations can help pave the path toward healing.
Chaplains help ensure that no patient dies alone
A cornerstone of the hospice philosophy of care is that no one should be alone at the end of life. No matter the time of day or night, the hospice team, including the hospice chaplain, is dedicated to ensuring that no patient dies alone and that each patient is surrounded by comforting, compassionate friends at the end of life.
Chaplains improve a patient’s sense of overall comfort and well-being
A healthy spiritual outlook is intimately connected to a patient’s overall sense of well-being. Multiple studies show that patients who define themselves as having a more balanced and positive sense of spirituality report higher levels of positivity, lower levels of pain, and a generally higher level of comfort at the end of life. By providing compassionate spiritual support, the hospice chaplain helps patients achieve not only greater comfort spiritually, but physically, emotionally, and mentally as well.