MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Chaplain Marvin Allison with Kindred Hospice joins us to talk about spiritual issues for a person facing their own mortality and ministering to families. Here’s a look at our conversation.
Anchor: We wanted to talk about hospice and end of life issues. How do you as a chaplain comfort people in hospice care?
Guest: By being a listening ear. Many times patients and or families want to talk about who the patient is, tell their life story and have someone celebrate their life with them. As a Hospice Chaplain I have the unique opportunity to do such. I get to hear the heart of people. To hear not just their story, but why their story is being told and to listen for validating points to celebrate along with them.
So mostly my comforting comes in the form of active compassionate listening, affirming the patient and validating the love the family member has for the patient. Hospice families are just like everyone else, they need love, validation and affirmation.
Furthermore they need to know there is peace for their expected end. Regardless of ones spiritual connection, all want to know they will have peace, and so I help facilitate in their thinking, their being, the peace they are looking for.
Anchor: What are spiritual end of life issues people deal with?
Guest: Are they connected with God, are they saved, will there be an afterlife, what does the afterlife look like; things along that nature. Some patients have unresolved issues or guilt that they want to release themselves from. But for the most part patient want spiritual peace.
Anchor: How do you approach family members of those in hospice care? How can they be helped to know the end is near for a loved one?
Guest: If I understand your question correctly, how do I as a Chaplain minister to a family. First the Chaplain discipline is an optional service for a family, they are not obligated to have a Chaplain, so when I come usually they have requested a chaplain during the intake process and if they are not sure, I go and do a spiritual assessment. My approach to this is to be me, to make the family feel comfortable with my being there. Now, as far as helping them know the end is near, that’s a combined effort. The medical staff keeps them abreast as to how soon the time is estimated, as for me, I assure them that only God knows the day and the hour, and they can rest in the assurance that God has their loved one in His care.
Anchor: What challenges to you see with families utilizing hospice care?
Guest: Unfortunately many people think hospice means you have given up on a loved one, now you send them to hospice to die. But that is far from the case, hospice merely works with the family, community agencies, and faith groups to help a dying patient transition from life to death be as peaceful for the patient and family as can be. Its a holistic approach to providing a dignified death, if death can be dignified. But not everyone takes advantage of such an important ministry. Sadly only 6% of the African American community utilizes this all-important service. And I think it’s due to cultural factors. Historically we have been forced to take care of ourselves, that services such as hospice was not offered to the black community, so we have not really learned that we too can benefit, that there a service to help relieve the burden and stress of the caregivers and the patient. And this is important, not just in the black community but in all communities, the chaplain does not take the place of the patients’ pastor or spiritual leader, we are here to help facilitate the spiritual care of the patient, by working in conjunction with the patient’s family’s spiritual leader.
Anchor: How do people get “their spiritual house in order” so-to-speak before death?
Guest: In the scriptures, King Hezekiah was on his death bed, when the prophet Isaiah came to him and told him to get his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah then began to reflect on his life, and prayed. When one gets their house in order, they pray. Like King David they ask the Lord to search their hearts and see if anything is still in them, cleanse them, and then led them in the way of righteousness. God wants all to be saved and none loss and He will answer that prayer.