Jacki Barbour – Long Term Care Chaplain

Jacki Barbour is an ordained Free Methodist pastor and a chaplain at Baptist Housing in British Columbia. Jacki was co-pastoring a church with her husband and completing her master’s degree when a friend, who worked at a long term care residence, told her that the residence was looking to add spiritual care for their residents. “The moment I walked through the door, I felt at home. As a child I wanted to be a nurse, and as a teenager, volunteered in extended care as a candy striper so maybe that had something to do with it. I was offered the job and set up the chaplaincy program, learning as I went.” 

For the last thirteen years, Jacki has worked for Baptist Housing. “We have nineteen chaplains who work in long term care, assisted living, independent living, and subsidized senior housing. Baptist Housing’s commitment is to have a chaplain in every place that they own. I work in a campus of care which consists of independent, assisted living, and long term care. There are 220 residents, half of whom are in long term care, and 150 staff.”

Jacki is part of an interdisciplinary team who work together on wholeness for their residents. Her work includes family care conferences, training spiritual care volunteers, caregiver support, and palliative work which is a big part of Jacki’s role as chaplain. “We have an incredible spiritual care program for all of our volunteers, residents, families, and staff. The program focuses on the aging journey, what spiritually looks like as you get older, the power of a story, understanding dementia, what it’s like to move into long term care, loss, grief, death and dying, boundaries, and taking care of yourself.” 

It is not uncommon for Jacki to have three or more people in palliative care each week. She is there to support the person who is dying and their family, but also the team that has grown to love them. “The really difficult thing is that after someone in long term care passes away, we need to fill that bed within 24 to 48 hours. The team is grieving this loss and saying goodbye to the family, then they have to welcome the new resident and their family. It’s a very difficult transition for the staff.” 

When COVID hit all programs at the campus were shut down, and the residents had to stay in their rooms. “Initially, we focused on connecting residents and families. The team immediately bought four iPads so residents and families could still see and speak with each other.” 

Initially, Sunday services also had to stop, so Jacki started a paper church which was a devotional that she would deliver to all the long term care residents who normally came to the Sunday service. Without the spiritual care volunteers providing Sunday services, Jacki and an 89 year old retired minister/resident she recruited now provide services on Sundays. “A lot of what I did before involved music but that has ground to a halt which has been hard for everyone especially our dementia residents. We’ve seen a lot of changes in some of our residents because they don’t have the music activation.” 

Jacki has learned how to take care of herself and has the guidance of a spiritual director to help her listen for God. “It’s important in this work to know when you need a break. Since COVID I’ve had even more support than usual. Our team of chaplains meet on Zoom every two weeks, and I also meet with a smaller group of chaplains as well. It is difficult work but the people I have met are so astounding, and they have such amazing life stories.”

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5. This is Jacki’s go to verse. “I never know what I’m walking into, so I’m constantly asking God to give me wisdom for the situation to help me listen to Him more clearly and give me more creativity.”