The Role of a Hospice Spiritual Caregiver: Putting Others Ahead of Self

Written by WMCN Editor on . Posted in Local

vernbPastor Vern BaremanWhen Pastor Vern Bareman attends to his patients, he's not toting a blood pressure cuff or sporting a stethoscope about his neck.

Instead, he ministers mostly in a spiritual way, embracing the special role that a spiritual caregiver provides as part of the Emmanuel Hospice team.

Rather than leaning on a medical degree, Bareman and others like him rely on key qualities that spiritual caregivers bring to the table – what he says includes "compassion, empathy, a servant's heart, the ability to wrestle with life's biggest questions and the ability to listen."

Bareman is one of eight spiritual caregivers on board with Emmanuel Hospice, whose mission is to serve not only its patients' physical needs, but a spiritual component that may or may not include attention to a formal religion.

A married father of two who was brought up in the Christian Reformed faith, Bareman has been with Emmanuel since its inception nearly six and a half years ago. In that time, he's ministered to hundreds of patients who benefit from the organization's "interfaith" collaboration with area retirement communities.

That arrangement recognizes and respects all faiths, Christian and non-Christian as well, and even those with no specific beliefs.


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"Everyone has something that brings them meaning in life," Bareman asserts. "They have some kind of world view. And even if they don't believe in God or a higher power, if they slow down and quiet themselves, they tend to have a reflection on life and its meaning, and their own purpose, and I minister to that.

"It's a very patient-centered approach."

In a typical day, Bareman may see as few as three or as many as eight patients. He visits them mostly in their traditional homes or at assisted living centers. He keeps close tabs on their condition and makes himself available to family members to share information and offer counsel.

He's as much a part of the team as those with medical credentials and trained to check for any physical needs that might prompt him to summon a doctor or nurse.

"As spiritual caregivers, we participate closely with the rest of the team on assessments and interventions. And because we rely on an interdisciplinary approach, we're able to involve the whole team in creating a meaningful care plan for each patient."

The job has its rigors. "Some of our patients are eager to go," he says softly. "Others are fighting to maintain life." That means encountering people who "are looking for a miracle, and sometimes a different diagnosis. They want to hold onto that life. We don't do anything to hasten death, but at the same time we are careful not to over-promise."

The secret to maintaining balance and working in the profession he's chosen? "I think I can trace it back to the mentoring of my mom and dad," he says, "of having a strong faith and a heart for others.

"You've got to put others ahead of yourself."
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Author Information
WMCN Editor
Author: WMCN EditorWebsite:
The West Michigan Christian News desires to glorify God while providing global, national, and local news to the West Michigan community. The West Michigan Christian News is a non-denominational, Christ-centered, advertiser-supported monthly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Manna Media Inc. It is unabashedly biased in its Christian presentation of news and views. It is also dedicated to the promotion of Christian unity by focusing on the 95 percent of the Christian faith on which all Christians agree while refusing to get drawn into controversies about the 5 percent on which we might differ.

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