Assisting With a Life’s Journey
A listening ear, open mind, and compassion are three qualities Sister Judy Weirick, IHM, brings with her when visiting a resident’s room. As a hospice chaplain for O’Neill Healthcare, Sister Judy is responsible for the spiritual needs of hospice residents at O’Neill Healthcare in North Olmsted and Bay Village. Based on her schedule, and as time allows, she also visits skilled nursing, assisted living, and long-term care residents.
Sister Judy’s days begin early as she reviews a list of new resident arrivals. Before the visit, Sister Judy garners a better understanding of each new hospice resident through nurses’ notes, discussions with team members, family, and other sources. She wants to be as prepared as possible when making rounds to maximize her time spent with the resident.
“It’s important to understand that each person visited is an individual,” she adds. “Everyone is unique and I need to understand as well as respond to their personal needs. I make no assumptions, and enter with an open mind allowing the conversation to flow organically.” She visits residents of all faiths, along with family members and loved ones.
Family members and loved ones also play a key role during this time. On many occasions, Sister Judy works with families and loved ones to answer any questions they may have or to address any fears or worries that may exist. According to Sister Judy, this is not an easy time for the family, and it’s critical to keep them aware of their loved one’s state-of-mind as well as to provide words of encouragement and if needed, spiritual guidance. “Family members may be confused about what’s transpiring with their loved ones, and want to know about how to more effectively communicate with them, to make the visit the best it can be” she adds.
Her daily visits can vary too. “I do my best to see all new hospice residents who arrive at the two facilities,” adds Sister Judy. In addition to her, there is also a chaplain who visits with residents at the other O’Neill facilities. On any given day, Sister Judy can pray with a resident, listen to their stories, discuss the current situation, or help alleviate fears and anxieties. During some sessions, she may sit in silence with a resident holding his or her hand, or the patient may reminisce about life and share stories about his or her children or spouses.
“It’s up to the resident on how these sessions flow,” Sister Judy says. “I have residents who smile and remember the good times, and those patients who want time to reflect in silence. It’s important to remain present with the person as well as focused on the way they would like the discussion to flow.”
Confidentiality remains paramount. Sister Judy believes in the expression of total honest feelings, with the resident knowing these feelings will be respected and held in confidence. Also, during this time, nothing remains unimportant and lays at the foundation to help them find peace.
Upon request, she also notifies the church to offer prayers for the resident at upcoming services, as well as extends an offer to a church member to visit the resident. “Frequently when a church knows a member is a resident, they will schedule a visit, and making this contact with the individual’s place of worship is extremely meaningful to the resident,” says Sister Judy.
Sister Judy served as Vice President of Ministry and Mission at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center for many years. She retired from UH St. John Medical Center in 2014, and after a few months joined O’Neill Healthcare. Sister Judy is an Akron native and lives in Olmsted Township. Her career began as a teacher, and she later became the principal of St. Mark’s School in Cleveland’s West Park area. In 1999, she completed her certification in the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and moved on to the healthcare field.
“I’m truly blessed to be able to carry on my ministry this way,” she says. Sister Judy agrees this continues her calling to provide love and support to those experiencing a challenging or difficult time in life’s journey. She would be remiss not to acknowledge the excellent hospice team she works with daily, along with the other departments “I must commend the outstanding hospice staff at O’Neill Healthcare as well as other team members from the two facilities. Nothing is done in a vacuum, and it takes us all working together to create an environment of excellence with the resident needs as the priority.”
John T. O’Neill, President of O’Neill Healthcare, has known Sister Judy for some time, and he is grateful that she serves on his team. “I deeply admired Sister Judy’s work at St. John Medical Center, and understand the compassion and passion she puts forth in all she does. She upholds our mission each and every day, and makes a difference in many lives.”
For more than 50 years, O’Neill Healthcare has been attending to the healthcare needs of older adults. With five facilities located in Bay Village, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, and North Ridgeville, they continue to provide the highest quality senior healthcare on Cleveland’s west side. The family-owned and operated campus of senior healthcare is continually being recognized on local and national levels for its quality, excellence, and innovation.
For more information on O’Neill Healthcare and its facilities, please call 440-808-5500 or visit its Web site at ONeillHC.com