As hospice chaplain Andrew Fischer puts it, human beings are “holistic creatures.” We have physical needs – but our bodies are only part of who we are.
“We’re more complex,” Fischer said. “We have a spiritual side and an emotional side.”
And that’s why chaplains are such an integral part of the care that Spartanburg Regional Hospice provides.
Fischer and his colleagues – Marie Graeper, Katie Harbin, and Brian Siefert – spend time with patients and their loved ones each day.
There is no set agenda or routine. Some patients want to talk about their experiences and feelings. Patients might want to hear scripture or discuss their faith. In times of immediate crisis, chaplains provide calm and reassurance.
“A lot of what I do is listening and observing,” Fischer said.
Usually, the patient is the focus – but not always. Graeper’ s home visits include a man who has been caring for his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, for several years. Graeper sometimes reads scripture by the patient’s bedside, but she spends most of her time talking and praying with the husband.
Chaplains value the relationships they develop with the people they serve, though situations vary widely. Some patients are in the hospice program for a year or more, others for only a few days or weeks.
“For folks (who are in the program longer), you really get to know people,” Fischer said. “You make friends. You know everything that has gone on. Others are not on the service long, and I might meet with them only one time.”
Most of Harbin’s work is based at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home, though she makes home visits as well. At the hospice home, there are comings and goings, and situations arise that demand minute-by-minute attention.
“My schedule is flexible when I’m at the hospice home,” Harbin said. “Sometimes I see people three or four times during the day as they’re coming in and out. It’s a blessing to be able to be present when I’m needed.”
In addition to their work with patients in hospice care, chaplains support the grieving process for loved ones. They have an important role in services of remembrance and bereavement group sessions.
In all, Spartanburg Regional Hospice chaplains strive to provide hope, healing and understanding. This is their ministry.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘Do you have your own church?’” Harbin said. “I feel like this kind of is my church. I know people for brief periods of time – sometimes for longer – but our mission is similar: affirming that people are worthy of unconditional love and of excellent care.”
To learn more about the chaplains’ program and bereavement services at Spartanburg Regional Hospice, call 864-560-3900.