October 20 to 26 is Spiritual Care Week celebrating the care and service of pastors, ministers, chaplains and other practitioners. They lend their hearts and ears to counsel, support and uplift many people.
Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, cares for the whole wellbeing of patients – body, mind and spirit. Spiritual care coordinators or chaplains on the care teams – visit with patients, listen about their lives and feelings and create a pathway for understanding and peace.
Josh Albrecht serves as a spiritual care coordinator on Suncoast Hospice’s Orange Team. He hails from Virginia, lives with his wife and baby boy, roots for the Tampa Bay Rays and has longtime pastoral and healthcare experience.
His previous position was caring for patients moving from the hospital to hospice care.
“In the hospital, I worked with an advanced illness management team. I talked to patients about options of care, helped patients go into hospice from the hospital and help patients get focused on the end of life,” Albrecht explained.
For the past four years, he has cared for Orange Team patients at home. The familiar home surroundings help foster comfort in talking about the end of life.
“When they are in their homes, it’s a whole different element. We are working with death, dying and complex scenarios. There may be pain, complications and the family there. For the most part, the work that we do isn’t as heavy or traumatic as in a hospital setting. For people who are dying, it’s much more expected and anticipated. It seems a lot more relaxed. They can enjoy the luxury of sitting on their couches. I love being in that place with them in their homes,” he expressed.
Albrecht shares information with patients and families, brings their situations to light and gives them support.
“It’s first coming to a place of acceptance. As chaplains we say, how is a patient coping with reality? We say to the teams, give me the nuts and bolts of what’s happening with patients. We can get that information and explain it to patients and families in a language that is understood. The focus remains to help patients and families understand where they truly are as far as reality and hold their hands in their journeys. I always listen more, sit in a lot of silence and allow a space for them to process and share,” he said.
Another part of his job is supporting his team and other staff.
“One of the things I pride myself on and one of the vital roles of chaplains is the support role we play for the teams. I try to be a support for them and a team player. A shout-out to Jim Andrews, our spiritual care director. He has created a culture of spiritual care. We find ways to be there for staff emotionally and spiritually. One way we support staff is through 15-minute meditation sessions at our locations. I lead the one at our St. Petersburg service center on Friday mornings,” Albrecht noted.
Serving in hospice care has enlightened his life.
“Now is the moment. You aren’t promised another day. That’s what hospice staff get as a gift, we get to live in that moment,” he said.
Has your family been touched by Suncoast Hospice? Please share your story.