Loving our neighbours in Care Homes
In normal times, for many clergy and parish visitors, a visit to a local care home is a familiar and regular part of life. Clergy & laity offer prayer, communion, ministry and friendship to the residents and it’s a very important rhythm of weekly life for many.
There are also thousands of church volunteers across the country involved in schemes who offer informal befriending to care home residents.
But we are not in normal times. Now such visits are difficult if not impossible; in order to protect us all, the guidance is that visits should not be made into care homes unless the visitor has correct personal protection equipment (PPE). Indeed, most care homes have now restricted all visitors in order to protect their residents from the virus.
Of course- we still care for those in care homes. But how can we do that from a (social) distance?
Care Home Friends is a project set up by the Christian charity Embracing Age, which matches church volunteers to their local care homes. Here their founder Tina English offers some helpful wisdom about how we can continue to show this love and care for our neigbours who live and work in care homes, even when we can’t visit.
Finally, the plight of care homes during this pandemic is hitting the headlines.
Care home staff look after some of the oldest and most vulnerable people in our society, and an outbreak of Covid 19 in a care home can have disastrous consequences, as we are beginning to hear about.
Care home residents are already some of the most lonely and isolated people in our communities, who are so often overlooked and ignored. Now, even relatives can’t visit – it’s heart breaking.
What can we as Christians and churches do to support our local care homes when we can’t visit? Every care home is different, and will have individual needs, so it’s hard to give blanket advice.
But it’s so important for the staff to know there are people in their local community who care, and who they can call on as needs arise.Here are a few ways you may be able to offer support:
1) Write a little note of thanks to the staff at your local care home. Maybe even send in a box of chocolates. Let staff know that when we are clapping the NHS on a Thursday evening we are also clapping and appreciating them.
Of course you could also write to those you know or visit regularly in care homes, or ask the staff if they would appreciate a phone call.
2) Could you buy an Android tablet and donate it to your local care home for the residents to be able to video chat with their friends and relatives? You may need to set the tablet up for them and offer some telephone IT support to help them get going with it.
3) As well as video calls, if the IT is available, some residents might enjoy an online game of Scrabble or Yahtzee etc., using an app. You could set these up on the tablet and see if there are some volunteers with time on their hands who would be willing to play. (A word of advice – set them up as opponents on the app before you give it to the care home – it’s so much harder giving telephone advice on how to do this – I know because I’ve tried!)
4) So many care homes are short of masks, gowns and other protective equipment. Some of these things can be made – do you, or folk in your congregation have the skills and resources to do this?
5) Could some of the children in your church, with help from their parents, draw pictures or write letters for the residents? Adults can write letters too, of course, and leave the name blank of who the letter is for, so staff can choose who to give it to. Writing well known poems in letters can be lovely for residents to read. Daffodils, by William Wordsworth, is a great one for this time of year.
With all of the above ideas (except for no. 1) it’s so important to check with the care home first – what do they need, and what would be helpful?
Finally, we can all pray – for the residents, for staff and for relatives who can no longer visit their loved ones.
Father, God of power and might, we ask for your hand of protection over care home residents and the dedicated staff who look after them.
Shield them from the coronavirus.
God who heals, we ask for your healing for residents and staff who already have the virus.
God of peace, we pray that carers and residents won’t live in fear of this pandemic, but would experience your peace that passes understanding.
God who provides, as ask for the provision of protective equipment for staff to use.
Where there have been shortages in supplies, let there be miraculous provision.
God of comfort, please comfort those who mourn, and those who are missing their loved ones.
Thank you that you are the God who sees, and the God who is present.
May your divine presence be felt in care homes across our country by staff and residents alike.
May they know that you see their needs, and that you are there with them in the storm.
For more on Care Home Friends programme: https://www.embracingage.org.uk/care-home-friends