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Providing Hope and Healing with Spiritual Care: The Hearth’s Director of Pastoral Care Shares Her Story with Residents and Families

November 23, 2020

Portrait of the PastorPastor Ghislaine Cotnoir, otherwise known as Pastor G, provides hope, healing, and faith as she addresses the spiritual needs of residents, family members, and staff throughout The Hearth at Drexel. Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America 33 years ago, Pastor G has a wide array of pastoral and spiritual experience. Serving as a chaplain in a congregation, a general hospital trauma center, and then later moving to the retirement living industry, Pastor G has tended to the spiritual needs of numerous populations.

Now working with residents and families at The Hearth, Pastor G has enjoyed her work in various retirement communities for over 22 years. “I work as an inter-faith provider so I provide spiritual care to people of all faiths,” Pastor G explains. As Director of Pastoral Care at The Hearth, Pastor G provides resources for the rituals, prayers, and spiritual needs pertaining to various faith traditions of residents, family members, and staff throughout the community.

Pastor G says that although her interfaith work is a large part of her role, it is just one aspect in the expansive continuum of spiritual care.

Spiritual care is more than serving people of faith. This kind of work acknowledges that every person has spirit and that spirit is a component of who we are. Even if someone is not related to any specific faith-based community or doesn’t define their lives to any kind of higher being, they still have spiritual needs. They still think about the meaning of life, and forgiveness, and the giving and receiving of love.

Pastor Ghislaine Cotnoir, director of pastoral care at The Hearth at Drexel

The Importance of Spiritual Care for Older Adults

Pastor G notes that adults in their later years often experience a lot of change whether it is physically, environmentally, or spiritually. “Much of the change our residents experience is leaving the place they were before and creating a new home within our communities. As a spiritual care giver we address these transitions and encourage the discovery of this new chapter,” Pastor G affirms.

As residents at The Hearth discover the joy of engaging community life activities and compassionate care from staff, their sense of belonging continues to grow in this uplifting environment. “The Hearth is a close-knit community where residents and staff care very deeply for each other. Our residents are very social and there is a great sense of care and fun here,” Pastor G adds. With an abundance of fun, laughter, and joy present in this community, opportunities for residents to share their unique stories with friends and staff bring additional meaning and purpose to their lives.

In spiritual care at the Hearth, we create relationships with residents by listening to their stories. In that way, we are care givers of all non-clinical and non-medical things that still relate to how people heal, thrive, and live well.

–Pastor Ghislaine Cotnoir, director of pastoral care at The Hearth at Drexel

With decades of experience in chaplaincy and spiritual care, the research Pastor G has discovered throughout the years sheds light on just how important this kind of work is for adults in their later years. “We know that meeting the spiritual needs of individuals can promote healing. For many that means connection with their faith in the midst of change, or understanding the meaning of mortality. Research shows that there are higher levels of depression and lower levels of healing when these spiritual components of someone’s life aren’t addressed,” she says.

Bringing hope to residents and families amidst COVID-19

Uplifting the well-being of residents and families throughout The Hearth, spiritual care, especially amidst COVID-19, has brought a great sense of hope through challenging times. “Throughout COVID-19, it has been so important to address what people are struggling with. Feelings of distance, isolation, fear, or anxiety may be heightened at this time and people need a lot of support,” Pastor G reflects.

As individuals and families adjust to a new normal throughout this pandemic, residents and families of The Hearth continue to celebrate moments of joy and connection in new and creative ways. “It’s important to continue to find hope and joy in the midst of everything that we’re collectively going through. At The Hearth when the pandemic began we started having Zoom meetings with family members. Everyone could share the good things that have happened and the moments in life they’ve had to celebrate, like birthdays and virtual weddings,” Pastor G says.

Sharing moments of happiness as well as any concerns, The Hearth’s virtual programming has been a wonderful resource in connecting residents, staff, and families while tending to their emotional and spiritual well-being. In addition to ongoing Zoom meetings, texts, emails and phone calls with families, the spiritual needs of The Hearth’s residents are met through online resources and socially distanced, limited capacity, in-person rituals for high holy days.

Feeling the comfort of safety and compassionate care, residents at The Hearth are thankful to have staff like Pastor G who tend to their spiritual and emotional well-being. As their days are uplifted with engagement and the sharing of stories with others, their hope and sense of purpose continues to thrive.