“My impression was that hospice is where people go to die. And they do die, in a natural way. But it’s really about living and completing relationships in a positive way,” said Mike Jaarsma, spiritual coordinator in hospice at Pella Regional Health Center.
Mike’s official role is to support the spiritual care of patients by being a resource for pastors. Some patients, about 10 – 15 percent don’t want chaplain care. For the others, he meets with them on a regular basis to ensure their spiritual care with their pastor is satisfactory and to provide a supportive presence. “I let them know that God loves them,” said Mike.
“The whole organization appreciates and supports us in spiritual services and that is very reassuring,” said Mike. “Our CEO has said to me on numerous occasions that he wants me to pray with our patients. That it’s part of our mission and at our core.”
Mike has witnessed a variety of attitudes from patients during his time with hospice. “Some patients are fearful at first, some are relieved the constant treatments are over, some hold their emotions in, and some are ready to die and wonder why it’s taking so long. Each person is in a different situation. Many want to connect with their family and say I love you and goodbye,” shares Mike.
As for the families of the patients, Mike has observed them coming into hospice anxious and worried about their loved one’s care. Then, with time, they grow in the confidence and trust that the staff will care for the patient in the best possible way. This observation is why Mike has often shared this quote from the book The Best Care Possible by Ira Byock which says, “To state an obvious fact, I learned a long time ago that when one person gets a diagnosis, their family gets an illness. That is nobody’s fault. It is just part of human nature. It is because we love one another.”
So what is the best part of Mike’s job? “When I get to meet a hospice patient and the person looks me in the eye and says ‘I love Jesus’ and they can express their faith so clearly. Wow. That’s a powerful moment for me,” said Mike. And then with a smile, “The cookies here are pretty good too.”