We live in a disposable era – disposable diapers, disposable bottles, disposable cameras, even disposable cell phones. It seems there’s very little that can’t be converted into some kind of disposable product.
Here’s another disposable idea for consideration: disposable family members. Sound ridiculous? Think again. It’s already here. I’m speaking of those who have been abandoned in nursing homes.
Some do require special attention. However, many more are left there because their families don’t have the time for them. A large number never even get visits from family members more than once or twice a year.
This is my congregation, the activities room my sanctuary, the rickety podium my pulpit. I’m a nursing home lay-minister with sixteen years experience. So I have a unique perspective of the lives of these disposable people.
Of course, I don’t look at them as disposable. I view them as vibrant human souls, ready and willing to make a difference given the chance.
My greatest wish is that more churches had ministries to seniors. Nursing home ministry is one of the most rewarding opportunities out there.
Online Nursing homes are made available to the senior person of the house. You can search cna classes online for getting a home for senior ones. Perhaps you’re someone who would like to start a Sunday morning worship time, but you’re not sure how to relate to the aged. No need to worry. Just keep these five ideas in mind as you consider putting together a program for senior citizens in nursing homes.
- Love them. It seems simple enough. But it becomes more of a doing when they’ve wet themselves and the smell becomes almost unbearable. That’s when love has to kick in.
Be ready to give them the attention they need. A service won’t work without a conscious desire to love your people unconditionally.
- Discover their needs. One of the best ways to do this is talk with the staff at the nursing home. Build a relationship with them first. Most activities leaders I’ve dealt with have an inside track on what the residents need and want.
Make sure to speak with the residents as well. You’ll want to build a one-on-one raport with them before the service. So take some time to get to know your people.
Keep in mind, many of these folks have been virtually abandoned by their family members. This may lead them to “talk your leg off.” In those cases, be patient and graciously excuse yourself when you get a lull in the conversation.
- Tailor the service to their preferences. What I mean is don’t come traipsing in with a rock band and flashing lights. The older generation tends toward conservatism. They’ll relate to you and the service you’ve prepared if you stick to well-known hymns and choruses.
One caveat: Be careful of denominationalism. Our service tends to attract attendees that run the religious gambit. I’m careful about stressing certain denominational traditions. Biblical truth always stays. However, I ignore denomination-specific issues.
- Get them involved. This is a must. Residents have a hard enough time staying awake. Don’t give them any more reasons to nod off. I accomplish this by dividing the service between singing and preaching.
During the song service I take requests for favorite hymns. This gets the residents involved and helps them feel like they’re part of the service.
I also try to link the residents to the message. I strive to evoke some kind of smile from them by bringing up some kind of connection they have with the past. This helps them better relate to the message and the service as a whole.
- Expect anything! This one gets an exclamation point because it’s probably the most practical piece of advice I can give.
Groaning and screaming comprise a large part of our service. (And, no, it has nothing to do with my preaching.) Sometimes our Alzheimer’s congregants get a little rowdy. In those cases, I try to remain flexible. If they become too much of a disturbance, my wife or a caring nurse steps in to quiet them. Removal comes as the very last resort.
As a lay-minister, I don’t always wield the experience a seasoned pastor does. Yet, I have been called upon to comfort a family whose aged relative has just passed away.
Be prepared! Praying in the presence of a dead body isn’t as easy as it looks!
But in all seriousness, expect anything.
It doesn’t take much to minister to our “disposable generation.” All it takes is a little love and grace. Through it you will bless many, and, in the end, you will find yourself the one most blessed.