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Spiritual Care and Hope at the End of Life

Steven, a man facing end of life, in VNSNY hospice care.At VNSNY Hospice, one of the main goals is to make sure each patient’s last months are as comfortable and meaningful as possible. Every member of the hospice care team is part of ensuring comfort, and comfort can take many forms.

For Steven, comfort was getting his 19-year-old cat, Jenny, back. Jenny had crawled out a window in the fall and remained missing for many months, making Steven anxious and sad. Then, one spring day, she reappeared at the front door of his apartment building.

“Steven’s eyes just shine when he’s with Jenny,” says Bette, a spiritual care counselor with VNSNY Hospice. “He’s so happy to have her back. It really is a miracle.”

Steven is one of more than 1,400 patients in VNSNY Hospice care on any given day, receiving services that bring quality of life at the end of life. Our multi-disciplinary care teams offer medical, nursing, emotional, and spiritual care, as well as family support, to help patients remain home and as comfortable as possible in their final months. For Steven, the care—and the company—are particularly meaningful, because he does not have regular visits or support from family.

Steven cannot speak due to his illness, so he communicates with his hospice team through writing. He jots down every medical incident and question he has, so he can participate in his care with his hospice nurse. Spiritual care counselors like Bette also help patients and family members with goals at end of life. These goals could include being pain-free, gathering family around, or attending a particular event. Counselors help patients and family find hope and peace.

Since her return, Jenny the cat has been a great source of comfort for Steven. “When I saw Steven yesterday with Jenny, I thanked him for teaching me the power of hope,” says Bette.

* The patient’s name has been changed for privacy.