Summer is in full swing. It’s time for cannonballs off the high board, frozen yogurt soft-serve on a waffle cone, and barbequed chicken picnics at the beach. While many are enjoying their vacations it is easy to forget that there are people, particularly the elderly, who are either confined to a hospital bed or need to make frequent trips to the hospital.
Carole Johannsen never forgets. As Chaplain of Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, she has made pastoral care her life’s work. In particular, Carole focuses on spirituality and aging. She provides pastoral care for adults from various faith traditions (or no faith tradition) and finds that most of her patients are over 65. “I spend time every day talking to elderly people in my work as a hospital chaplain. “Some are obviously pleased… most, however, are skeptical, and my first task is to convince them that I am not trying to sell my religion to them, or to pronounce last rites because they are more seriously ill than their doctor indicated.” She offers to contact their own clergy member or someone from their congregation if they have one, and perhaps most importantly, she listens to them tell her about their lives. She considers it a privilege to listen. She says that she can’t describe the spiritual satisfaction that many of the patients feel after they have shared something of who they are, what they care about, and how they feel about the life they’ve led. “All I do is lean toward them, smile and nod, meet their eyes, and ask an occasional question to prompt them. They do all the work.” Her sense of humor reveals itself when she quotes, of all people, Hugh Hefner, “We can’t know where we are unless we know where we have been.” More.