When a patient is on hospice care, one of the greatest gifts they can be given is an open heart. As the emotional turmoil mounts upon physical challenges, patients and their families need someone to comfort them, to hear their stories and questions: someone they can lean on during the toughest times. Every patient should have someone like Maxine Anderson.
Called to Care
Anderson is a chaplain for Crossroads Hospice in Memphis. She is charged with the spiritual care of patients and their families, taking her role as seriously as a doctor does their responsibilities for physical health. And that’s key, as the majority of Americans now think their spiritual care is as important as their medical care when they are ill, according to the Healthcare Chaplaincy Network.
She began her path towards chaplaincy as a church minister in Memphis, working towards ordination. She was asked to facilitate the church’s counseling center, and decided to pursue a divinity Master’s degree to better serve her parish. She graduated from seminary in 2008 and moved on to complete a year-long residency in Clinical Pastoral Education. A few months later, Crossroads Hospice invited her for an interview.
“Walking in, I felt that all of my personal losses and experiences had led me there,” Anderson says of her first visit to Crossroads. “By the time they offered me the position, I knew that Crossroads was where I belonged.”
The Spirit of Hospice
Hospice chaplains are responsible for meeting the needs of patients regardless of religious beliefs or backgrounds.
“We see a growing number of people who do not affiliate with any religion,” she says. “Sometimes I just hold their hand, and offer spiritual, non-denominational readings.” She sees every patient as a unique and beautiful soul that she can comfort. “End-of-life care is personal for each patient and family,” she notes.
She starts each day making a schedule of patients to see, choosing from the roughly 35 patients under her care every month. The decisions are based on the urgency of patients’ spiritual needs and any birthdays, anniversaries or other timely celebrations. As patient needs change, she is sure to maintain flexibility and visit any that may call on her urgently.
Anderson defines a successful day as one in which she helps a patient find meaning in their life. As someone who firmly believes that every person is following a destined journey, she works tirelessly to bring comfort and acceptance to patients and families. For her, it is a calling.
“The hardest part of my job is the same as the most rewarding part. The end of life is the most difficult thing anyone will ever face in life. Though I can’t take away the pain, I can walk alongside them in such a way that allows them to process what they’re going through.”
Though it can be trying, Anderson feels her work is ordained by a higher power.
“I think I’m in the place where God has planted me,” she says. “In one profound and unexplained instance, I was visiting a patient who was actively dying. Her family couldn’t remember the words to her favorite hymn. I walked over to the bed and as I was saying goodbye to her, my iPad started playing that song. Once it stopped, the patient passed away. The daughter thought that’s what she had been waiting for. All kinds of things happen like that on a daily basis.”
And at the end of it all, she draws the strength necessary to do such an outstanding job from those she serves.
“The patients inspire me and make me want to be like them when I go through trials—to be a person of strong faith, whatever that faith is. That’s why I’m always willing to go above and beyond for them.”
Honoring Our Chaplains
We’re proud to honor Maxine Anderson as our Crossroads Hospice “Staff Spotlight” recipient of the month, and recognize our other chaplains who work to provide care for our patients each day, such as: Roger Loomis in Cleveland, Kevin O’Brien in Lenexa, Ray Haught in Kansas City and Tim Jensen in Northeast Ohio.
For more information about Crossroads Hospice, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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