When we pray the “Hail Mary” and ask for her intercession at the hour of our death, we are in effect, praying for a good death says Deacon Roderick Pirotta, illustrating that death is something we will all face, thus demanding an ethical approach to all who are dying.
He and Deacon Michael Tan (Dr), have extensive experience in the care of the dying and those with dementia and at a recent online webinar shared how we can learn how to approach the needs of these most vulnerable people through the eyes of the Gospel and Church teachings.
Their online presentation was a special HOME Ground event “Gospel-centred Care of the Dying” held on Monday 13 September. Attended by around 40 people in the medical and caring professions, as well as parishioners with an interest in the subject, the event covered the different elements of what comprises of a Gospel-centred approach to care.
Deacon Michael introduced the topic. “Above all,” he said, “being at peace, living in hope and looking forward to joining the communion of saints is core to Gospel-centred care of the dying.”
“The health care ministry of the Church is founded on the healing and saving ministry of Jesus,” he explained.
Faith lends itself to care of the sick and dying through the sacraments, through pastoral visits, and through professional skills he said.
“The sacraments are how Jesus is present to the dying,” said Deacon Michael. “They continue the healing ministry of Jesus for the dying.”
“Visits to the dying are part of the pastoral dimension of care,” he said. “These visits by the pastoral carer minister to are the accompaniment and visitation of the sick and dying by Jesus.” He described the image of a caring person holding the hand of Jesus and the hand of the dying. “At one point we must let go of our hand and allow the sick and the dying to continue to walk on with Jesus,” he said.
The professional dimension becomes Gospel-centred when care rises above self-interest, said Deacon Michael. This sometimes means not letting our insecurities hold us back, and always acting ethically and accountably he explained.
Deacon Roderick outlined how currently around 500,000 Australians are living with dementia, with one in three people aged over 85, having the condition. Alzheimer’s is the most commonly understood form, which strips a person’s memory. In his work with clients who have dementia, he regularly hears relatives making comments about how the person is not ‘the same’, and how people prefer to remember them as they were before they lost their memories. He reminded participants of the humanity of people with dementia. “People are more than just their memories,” he said, also explaining how memories are stored in all the senses including touch and smell, and how appropriate care should cover all senses.
As part of the Christian sense of accompaniment, people with dementia need us to tell their stories for them, he said. “We are called to listen to them with care and compassion,” he said.
Deacon Michael is keen to develop a Gospel-focused community of those who care professionally, sacramentally and pastorally for the sick and dying as there are many issues involved in their formation for the health care ministry of the church. Those interested in finding out more about Gospel-centred care of the sick and the dying can email him at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org
The online event was part of HOME Ground, the online program of talks that the Diocese of Parramatta organised during the lockdown period. The last event in this series is tonight with the Members of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta. You are invited to join the free event which starts at 7.30pm. Email MET@parractholic.org for your Zoom link or tune into the Diocesean Facebook page at 7.30pm for the livestream.