The Importance of Treating the Spirit

This year with the Athena Hospice program has given me invaluable experiences and life lessons that I plan to take with me for the future. Over the course of this program, I have been able to create genuine relationships with my patients  and it opened my eyes to care in a way that I have not really thought of before. Although I wasn’t able to medically treat the patient as a volunteer, I was able to provide care to them through the form of personal connection and lift their spirits up in a hard time.
I learned that while these patients are nearing the end of their lives with no treatment available, that there is still so much that we as care providers can do to make their transition as easy as possible. I have always thought of medical care as giving the patient medicine and cure them of their illness, but this was not the case here. There is an emphasis on caring for their spirit. While this isn’t a medical cure, I have seen firsthand how providing company and putting a smile on the patient’s faces is just as important as anything else.
I think that while this is obviously a point of emphasis in hospice care, I recognize that this approach to all other aspects of medicine should not be left unattended. The spiritual well-being of the patient in times of ailment is impacted as well as the physical. So, when treating the patient, just like the physical issue this should be cared for as well. When this happens, I think that the patient is able to recover better, have a better experience, and overall be better off in the long run because of it.
Also, my time with Athena has shown me the beauty in life. The patients I was fortunate enough to interact with would reflect on their life, and always at the center of this reflection was their family. They showed me the importance of close relationships and how through everything else these are the things that stay with you. My patients would tell me stories about their kids and grandkids, and when they did they couldn’t help but have a smile on their face. Even some of the patients in worse conditions would muster up a smile reliving these amazing memories.
I find this amazing, and it’s very telling how important the mental state of patients is when contributing to their overall wellbeing. In dire times the greatness of these memories even just for a second overtook the tough situation they were in and allowed them joy. I know that from now on I will have a altered approach to care, and make sure to always emphasize the mental wellbeing of those I care for as well as treating their illness medically.