Pastoral Care at Christian Health: Nurturing the Spirit
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At Christian Health, we prioritize the importance of spiritual wellness as strongly as we do physical wellness. As an organization that strives to serve as the hands of Christ, we believe that we should nurture every person’s individual faith and spiritual identity, and we aim to ensure our residents and patients are supported spiritually through every step of their journey.
That’s why we offer compassionate spiritual support services through our Pastoral Care Department, which consists of five ordained ministers who serve as full-time chaplains for all of our programs and communities. Our chaplains provide one-on-one spiritual counseling and prayer as well as community-wide worship and small-group meetings to explore issues of faith, grief, and spirituality. They also meet with family members of residents and patients to offer comfort and consultation.
The Pastoral Care Department offers the following services on Christian Health’s campuses:
- Individual and small-group spiritual care and counseling
- Regular worship services
- Daily Bible study
- Overhead devotions
- Monthly Communion service
A Constant Presence
A pivotal role our Pastoral Care team plays in supporting and guiding those we serve is helping them cope with grief and loss. Rev. Dawn Rivers, Chaplain at Heritage Manor, our skilled nursing community, recalled a meaningful connection she shared with two sisters who arrived after living for quite some time as the last two surviving members of their family. The two had a difficult time adjusting to their new environment and stage in life, particularly the elder sister, who had been the caregiver for her father and older siblings before they passed away and now felt unsure of her role in the world.
After about a year in our community, the younger of the two passed away as well. “It was devastating for the older sister,” said Rev. Dawn. “I found my relationship with her shifting. I’d always been a spiritual presence with them, spending time with them in worship services and talking to them about their life and journey, but after the younger sister died, the older sister felt she had no purpose in life.”
Rev. Dawn committed herself to guiding the grieving resident through this new and foreign experience – as a lifetime caregiver of her family, who had never worked or married, she felt lost. “Life got a bit more complicated for her,” said Rev. Dawn. “I found myself being available to her more. I asked her about her day and talked to her about her loss.”
The day the resident lost her sister, Rev. Dawn sat with her the entire morning and listened intently to her story of how she had spent her whole life caring for others. “She could not comprehend the loss – so much so that she tried to take care of the other patients in the unit,” said Rev. Dawn. “I found myself sitting with her more and trying to be a constant. I could never replace her relationship with her sister, but she needed to have something that was familiar on her grief journey.”
Rev. Dawn continued checking in on and spending one-on-one time with the resident to ensure that she felt spiritually supported, comforted, and valued. “Even when she was not responsive at the end of her life, I would sit with her and hold her hand to let her know that someone cared about her.”
“I think what gave her the most comfort was telling her that she spent her life doing the same things God does for us – nurturing us as we continue along life’s journey.” She continued. “We are never alone – God keeps his promises to never leave us or forsake us. I encouraged her that she was not alone either.”
“We Always See Them as God’s Children”
Our Pastoral Care team treats every person we serve as an individual and supports all residents, patients, and clients regardless of faith. “We are respectful of everyone’s faith traditions,” said Rev. Dawn. “We are here to support, not to proselytize or convert.”
Our chaplains work closely with local clergy of various denominations and faiths to help them remain involved with their congregants who are staying at Christian Health. And while ecumenical worship services are offered several times each week, Christian Health also hosts services of other faiths, including Catholic Mass and sacraments, rabbinical visits, and visits from other spiritual leaders.
No matter the stage of care our residents, patients, and clients are receiving or the level of cognitive decline they are experiencing, our chaplains serve them with an open heart. One of the most important goals of our Pastoral Care team is to ensure each and every individual in our care is always reminded of their worth and the important role they play in God’s plan for all of us.
“We see our residents just as they are. We don’t see their illness; we see their humanity,” said Rev. Dawn. “We always see them as God’s children, remind them that they matter, and present a compassionate and loving environment in a safe place for them to be themselves.”