Chaplains: Companions for the Journey
At twenty-eight years old, Son-Djerry Cameus might seem surprisingly young for a hospice chaplain. But his calling to this all-important role of listener and spiritual companion was clear.
It all began in 2017 with Cameus’ visits to a hospitalized relative battling cancer. Cameus’ gift for relating to the patients and families at the hospital caught the nurses’ attention. “You should talk with the volunteer department about coming more regularly,” one nurse told him. So he did. Not long after, Cameus enrolled in the seminary, earned his master’s degree in theology, and was ordained a minister. He joined Delaware Hospice’s spiritual care team in 2021 after seeing the tremendous care his own grandfather received from the Delaware Hospice staff.
Caring for the whole person and the whole family throughout serious illness is central to hospice and palliative care at Delaware Hospice. Cameus and his spiritual care colleagues play an integral role on patients’ care teams, tending to patients’ spiritual and emotional needs.
Spiritual and emotional care driven by patient goals
Receiving spiritual care from the Delaware Hospice team is entirely optional. And just like all care provided by Delaware Hospice, the spiritual care plan and goals are entirely determined by the patient. A spiritual care coordinator (commonly referred to as a chaplain) meets with each hospice or palliative patient and family interested in receiving visits. Together, they put together a plan outlining the type of spiritual or emotional support the patient is interested in.
Sometimes patients have a loved one they would like to reconcile with, family members they would like to see, or an experience they would like to have before they pass. Sometimes they want to begin a relationship with God or seek to make peace with their prognosis. Sometimes they just want someone to sit with them. The patient’s chaplain will typically visit once a month or more to talk, pray, sing, or to sit nearby, depending on the patients’ wishes and goals.
A diverse team to support people of any faith or no faith
Born in Haiti, Cameus speaks Haitian Creole, French, and Spanish, which he believes helps him better relate to individuals from different walks of life. Two women, an African-American, and an African-born chaplain also bring diverse perspectives to the spiritual care team, which includes three full-time, three part-time, and one on-call chaplain. Coming from a variety of spiritual traditions, the team is available to provide spiritual and emotional support, regardless of a patient’s particular faith background.
In fact, spiritual care doesn’t have to be about religion at all unless the patient wants it to be. As skilled listeners, the chaplains give patients the opportunity to share what’s on their heart and mind, what they’re anxious about, or what’s causing them to worry. The chaplains are also available to help connect patients with resources from their own faith traditions.
Peace and comfort for difficult times
Facing a serious or terminal illness—or taking care of a seriously ill loved on—can be a stressful and emotionally distressing process. The chaplain brings peace and comfort for the entire family, supporting taxed caregivers and listening to patients who might not have anyone else to talk to.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that during those final moments, what people would consider the little things, they become more important,” Cameus explains. “Holding their hand, sharing words of comfort and encouragement with them—to the average person, it seems small. But in that moment that death is imminent, being there and being able to accompany them is precious.”
For more information about spiritual care at Delaware Hospice, call us at 302.478.5707.