Chaplains at Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) are engaged every day in caring for seniors – during difficult times, celebrating the happy moments, and then often again at the end of life. We are called upon by staff when more hands are needed on deck during a patient crisis, and also when staff themselves are suffering and need someone to listen.
At HSL, we have a very special and caring team of chaplains. Two years ago, Dignity Memorial (Stanetsky and Levine Chapels) recognized our work and the individuals on our team with a gift to support learning and self-care. Each year we now hold two half-day retreats and two full-day retreats with learning and reflection, sponsored by Dignity Memorial.
At times we have found that we need to learn more about areas that are particularly challenging to us such as helping families face complex end-of-life decisions. Dr. Muriel Gillick, former physician-in-chief at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC) and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, presented a “Beyond Choice and Autonomy” seminar to help us process some of the difficult patient cases where we have supported patients and family members. There are no easy answers when there are highly challenging decisions to be made toward the end of life.
That same day we learned with Professor Jane Kanarek about a portion of the Talmud related to Passover, helping us reflect on the meaning of the holiday for ourselves.
Next month we will have a morning with Reverend Jennie Gould to help us learn more about working with patients and family members who struggle with addiction. In March we are pleased that the poet and liturgist Alden Solovy will be spending an afternoon teaching us about creating prayers to help people through trauma and tragedy and to build resilience.
As chaplains dedicated to helping seniors and their families cope with life’s challenges and decisions, we know that the more we learn, the better equipped we are to provide effective, meaningful spiritual care. It has been amazing to be able to grow together as a team, addressing the immediate learning needs we face in our work, and sustaining our spirits as spiritual care providers.