Could your church adopt a nursing home?, Evangelical Focus
Jesus said in his parable of the sheep and the goats that whatever we do for the least of his brothers and sisters, we do for him.
The Message says it like this: “Whenever you did any of these things to someone who was neglected or ignored, it was me, you did it to me.
Neglected and ignored: such an apt description of many nursing home residents. Did you know, research shows older people in nursing homes are twice as likely to feel severely lonely as older people living in the communityand?
There are around 12,500 care homes for the elderly across the UK, and about 50,000 churches.
The Christian charity Embrace the age has a vision to see every care home embraced by a local church. Even if only one in four churches did this, together they could make a huge difference in the lives of some of the oldest people in our society.
Adopt a local retirement home is so much broader than running a monthly or fortnightly home care serviceas wonderful as they are.
Traditionally, that has usually been the extent of a church’s involvement in its local care home, often with a frustrating lack of volunteers to help.
But most of it activity stopped anyway during the pandemic and took a long time to restart. It may be time to broaden the vision of what nursing home ministry might look like.
Embrace the age suggests a number of other church-tested ways to adopt their local care home, including:
Write cards and letters to residents, or children drawing pictures.
Thank you gift bags for nursing home staff.
Trained volunteers befriend individual residents.
Christmas gifts to residents without family or visitors.
Knitted aquariums (yes, really!) or other craft creations.
Manufacture of kits for growing small potted plants for residents or delivery of bouquets of flowers.
Helping residents connect digitally.
You can read more about these and other ideas in a free booklet downloadable from the Embrace the age website.
Billingshurst Family Church has answered the call to adopt their local care home and also a local assisted living complex, just before the pandemic hit.
Although this thwarted their plans for volunteers to visit individual residents, they were able keep in touch with cards and phone calls as well as helping with gardening, planting herbs and summer flowers.
They organized for the children of a local school to make Christmas cards for each resident and provided staff with hand cream, chocolate and mince pies.
When restrictions were lifted, volunteers were able to start visiting residents againone volunteer delighting the residents with a visit from her dog and another also welcoming her young children.
Sue Gatland, who has championed the initiative at Billinghurst Family Church, writes: “Our BFC volunteers love visiting our local elders and adopting our local care home. Embracing Age supports us well with training, guidance and resources. The visit is so rewarding!The residents are always delighted to have a visitor and have interesting stories to tell.The visits are flexible and the volunteers come to the house at a time that suits their other commitments.
At 85, Susan suffered from dementia and diabetes, which forced her to be cared for in a nursing home. She did not like to participate in the activities offered by the shelter and had no family or friends who visited her.
She spent most of her days sitting in her room or wandering the halls alone. A volunteer started visiting Susan and, like putting together a puzzle, started piecing together glimpses of her life story, while talking together.
She discovered that Susan loved nature, and while her dementia meant she was often too anxious to take the lift down to the garden, the volunteer was able to bring photos of local parks Susan had been to, which brought back good memories. .
At the end of her visits, Susan would often say, “Thank you so much for coming to see me, it’s so nice to have someone to talk to.”
Susan loved poetry and as her speech deteriorated, the volunteer was able to read Susan’s favorite poems to her. Despite her dementia, she was often able to join the last lines.
The volunteer created a book of life stories for Susan, including her favorite poetry and pictures, for staff to use between visits. A member of staff had tears in her eyes as she read it, telling the volunteer that she had no idea of Susan’s life story.
Just an hour a week of the time of this volunteer makes the difference between Susan felt loved or had no visitors, between being known and unknown.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to reflect his unconditional love, to show the value and value he places on individuals, regardless of their age, health, and status in life. As we reach out to residents of nursing homes, the world can see the authenticity of our faith in action, and we will hear the whisper of Jesus, “All you have done for someone neglected and ignored – c was me, you did it for me.”
You can find out more about adopting a nursing home by visiting the dedicated page on the Website Embrace the Age.
tina english is the founder and director of the Christian charity Embracing Age. She is the author of “A Great Place to Grow Old: Reimagining Ministry among Older People” and volunteers at a local nursing home.
This article was first published on EAUK website and republished with permission.