NURSING HOME CHAPLAINCY
The Need...The average life expectancy of an American is 75-80
years. The age continues to increase as medical technology discovers more cures and people take better care of themselves. Some people are outliving spouses and children. Nursing home care is a growing and thriving industry. In this setting, the need for a chaplain is a natural.
The Target ... The administration, employees and residents, and
A volunteer chaplain will help meet these needs.
The Process ... A bridge between the local church and the senior
adult care facility can be established through a nursing home chaplain. The steps for implementing this ministry are as follows:
1. Schedule a meeting with the administrator of the nursing home.
2. Determine what needs are not presently being met.
3. Plan with the administrator the programs which a chaplain could implement.
4. Recruit a chaplain and volunteers for the programs selected.
5. Set a starting time for the chaplaincy ministry..
6. Follow up the meeting with a letter outlining what was agreed upon.
7. Implement the ministry.
8. Evaluate every six months.
The Ministry…A variety of ministries may be implemented in
the nursing home setting. The most obvious are visitation and counseling. Several other ideas are offered here which go beyond these important services.
The chaplain may be responsible for leading a weekly Protestant service or for recruiting area churches to lead service. These worship experiences are usually traditional in nature lasting thirty or forty-five minutes. The worship time should be scheduled to fit into the facilities calendar of events which will most likely not be at 11:00 a.m. The chaplain will need to promote the service encouraging residents and staff to attend.
The nursing home may depend upon the chaplain to notify the family upon the death of a resident. In this event the chaplain should offer to assist the family in contacting their pastor and the funeral home. If the family does not have a pastor, then the chaplain may be asked to officiate at the funeral service. The chaplain must be sensitive to the background and needs of the family.
When an emergency arises in the life of a staff member or resident, the chaplain may be the only one to whom to turn. Be prepared to meet any crisis with a caring spirit and an open heart. Persons at the facility must never feel their need is an inconvenience to the chaplain. Do not offer this service unless prepared to give the necessary help.
The chaplain in an Audio Library collecting sermons donated from local churches, the Bible on tape, and Christian books on tape. Local churches may contribute to this ministry. Residents’ families may also wish to donate funds. The chaplain must keep the library in order. Investment in a few tape players for loan would also be helpful. A tape library will bring company and comfort to many lonely lives.
FOSTER GRANDPARENT PROGRAM
Youthful faces always bring a smile to the elderly. The chaplain can enlist children or youth groups from several local churches to adopt a grandparent. The “grandchild” should visit occasionally and send cards on special occasions. Encourage the young person to give their “grandparent” something she/he has made. Target those residents who have no family or visitors. The chaplain must monitor the program so that a child who loses interest may be replaced by someone else.
The chaplain may be responsible for planning monthly birthday or holiday parties. Choirs, drama teams and puppet teams may be enlisted from area churches to provide entertainment. Be sure all residents who come leave with a gift or prize.
CLASSES FOR RESIDENTS AND FAMILIES
Those residing in a nursing home have special needs as do their families. A chaplain may plan classes to address those needs. Some examples are: Death & Dying; Letting Go; Changing Roles of Child & Parent; Finances; Self-Esteem. The chaplain may lead in those areas of his expertise, but should recruit experts in these fields to lead the sessions. A survey may be taken of the families to determine the type of classes to offer. The staff can also assist with ideas. All classes should be free of charge.
FAMILY SUPPORT GROUPS
Placing a parent in a nursing home facility is a difficult time for most children. They are confronted with feelings of guilt, helplessness, inadequacy and fear. Knowing others share similar feelings will help these family members deal with their aging parent. The chaplain should schedule these support sessions in conjunction with the administration. The session may be held at the nursing home or a nearby church (within a few blocks).
The Reason…The elderly are often left to the care of strangers
A nursing home chaplain can build bridges of friendship from resident to staff to family to community. In a setting of sterile walls and steel beds, a chaplain can bring an air of hope, care and love. Jesus said, “What you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me.”