Praying for Nursing Home Residents

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One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,”he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.  A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’  The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,  but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” Luke 18:1-5 NLT

For those just beginning in nursing home ministry one challenge is to learn how and what  to pray for the residents. The response of some has been to give up. The nursing home seems so filled with needs. There are sicknesses, infirmities and loneliness on every hand. What are our small resources of faith in the face of so much struggle? When we aren’t sure where to begin a journey sometimes the easiest answer is not to start.

On the other end of the spectrum there are some who feel so motivated to help that they are ready to patrol the halls asking anyone they meet if they can pray for them. But effective prayer can only be built on the two legs of relationship and respect. In the story that Jesus told we discover a woman who daily went to a judge to help her with her legal woes. It may not have looked like the relationship we hope to build with our special people, but she did it the same way that we need to do.

First, she built a relationship with the judge and became a part of his daily life. Every morning as sure as the sunrise and his first cup of tea, the judge would hear a knock  at his door,  “Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy!”  she would cry. Every morning he began to anticipate her visit. In the same way we can also become a positive part of the life of someone who has moved into nursing care. Whether we are the hair stylist, nutritionist, chaplain or nurse we each serve a need in that person’s life. If you “never give up” in your relationship building the day will come when they will ask you to pray. They will tell us what they are praying for and when our prayers agree with theirs amazing things can happen!

The second leg of effective prayer is respect. Though the woman was persistent in her requests to the judge she never treated him with disrespect. She in fact gave him the honored position in her life of being the only person powerful enough to help her with her problem. When we give the respect of really listening,people will know and respond. Others sense when we are just being polite and when we really have an interest in them. Only Jesus can meet their every need,but when we build relationships and treat people with respect, they will tell us how they need us to pray and open their hearts to the one who can give them the answers that they need.

What a friend we have in Jesus  – All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry – Everything to God in prayer

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Just over the Hilltop

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I’ve got a mansion

Just over the hilltop

In that bright land where

We’ll never grow old     Ira Stanphill   1949

“Mansion over the Hilltop” is one of the favorite songs among our people at the nursing home, as we sing together on Wednesday afternoons. For people facing the reality of nursing home life, turning to the hope that Christ has to offer, is a ray of sunshine during during their dark moments. For family members struggling to understand how to help their Mom, Dad, sister or brother, God stands ready and willing to enter into their daily battles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

God is the God of all comfort!     He understands what roads we have traveled and He  knows what lies ahead. God’s comfort is not just a “Hope you feel better…” superficial pity. God is touched by our heartaches and longs to enter into our tender and hurting areas to pour in His eternal comfort. He really has prepared a place for us to share with Him in Heaven. On this side of the hill we might just be seeing an empty barn and an uncut field. But from God’s perspective we are only a short distance from our destination. Together the journey will not be so lonely!

God is the father of Compassion!     The word compassion can be broken into two parts. The first part “com” means with and the second part “passion” tells of the earnest longing God has in His love for us. He is “with passion” about us. He is passionately in love with us, both when we are young, healthy and strong, as well as when we grow older, weak and frail. God cares about the smallest details of our lives and values every breath. Knowing that God is so passionate about us gives us the joy and the courage we need for each new day!

So that we can comfort!   When God has comforted us we will discover that we can be a blessing in someone else’s life. I have observed that the main difference between a swamp and a lake is that the swamp only takes in but never gives back. The flowing of the comfort through our hearts to others is the surest sign that we have begun to live out all that God has intended.

The nurse on duty, the person who cleans the room, and the resident who shares the same room may each be struggling. Marriage problems, financial crisis, rejection by a son or daughter, or a report from the lab may hover like a dark cloud on their horizons. An understanding touch, a gentle encouragement or a smile may be exactly what they need. When we have been wrapped in God’s comfort during our weakest moments, then we can travel that road with others. God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers. After all He is the God of all comfort(not us). We are only meant to be reminders that He, the comforter and passionate lover of our souls,  will one day wipe away every tear from our eyes and usher us into our own mansion over that hilltop!

The Nursing Home Decision A Whole New World

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I had traveled for fourteen hours to Dehli, then two hours more to Siliguri. There at the airport we were met by car and spent four more to our destination. Nothing could have prepared me for the strange new world of India. The people, the language, the food, the sights and smells were all entirely different from life back in the States. But little by little, one day at a time, one smile, and with each plate of rice with curried chicken, I began to learn what it meant to be in their land.

Mark 12:31  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. NIV

Most of us want to keep on loving our family member and friends after they have entered into long term care. But when your loved one moves into a nursing home it is far more than just a change of address. They haven’t only moved to a new neighborhood, it is a whole new world. You may “love them as you love yourself” but expressing that love will mean coming to grips with the “neighborhood” in which they will live. Here are three simple guidelines to follow once you cross the border into their new world.

Language Most nations have their own language or distinct dialect. Before we travel to Mexico, Italy or any other country it is helpful to pick up a simple guide to communicating the basics of food, travel and accommodations during our stay. Long term care facilities AKA “nursing homes” also have their own language. We will talk more about language in the future but the single most important term to know is that People are residents – not patients! This isn’t just a place where they will get treatment and then return home. This is their new home, and a home with some very small spaces. It will be best to treat those small spaces with the same respect as we would the white picket fence dividing your yard from your neighbor. Our loved one most likely will have a room mate. They may get along well or they may be distant. Respecting that neighbor’s privacy during your visits will be greatly appreciated by your loved one after you have gone home. They will have to continue sleeping just a few feet away from that person. If you are just stopping by to drop off laundry and have a cup of coffee its probably okay to have a quiet visit in their room. But if you are coming for a long visit or with other family members it will be better for you to find some place outside their room to enjoy your time together.

Laws When we travel to another country we could face some serious consequences if we disrespect the laws of that place. Once when we traveled into Canada my wife was surprised at the border guard’s insistence that she surrender the pepper spray that she carried in her purse. It was considered a dangerous weapon on the other side of the border. Just because she liked having the security of carrying it when she walked alone didn’t change the fact that on the Canadian side possessing it was a misdemeanor.

In long term care you will immediately discover that there are piles of new rules and regulations that are taken very seriously. Hipaa privacy laws govern how we talk, the questions we may ask and even taking photos with our cell phone camera. Sharing on social media could cost a staff member their job! In addition there are regulations in place to protect everyone’s health including your own. Read warning signs before entering a room, use the hand sanitizers or wash your hands before and after every visit. Keeping up with your flu shots and choosing to stay home when you are sick not only are rules to be honored but it may save the life of a resident!

Listening –  Listening and hearing are not always the same thing. No perceived fear or need is unimportant. Your loved one has lost a measure of the control which they had over their own life. Whether because of a physical, emotional or age related infirmity they have been put in the position of loss. Loss of privacy, loss of the ability to travel, loss of their familiar surroundings and loss of the ability to say no to many things are just a few of the realities they face.

Their feelings of dependency will be something that we can understand only by really listening. Don’t pooh-pooh their complaints or turn a deaf ear to their fretting. If you will respect them to the extent of your ability, that simple act will go a long way towards giving them the confidence and courage to go on. You are their link to who they were and still are. You are the one who will tell the doctors and therapists how their care needs to be guided. You are the one who can change the menu so that they will be glad to eat rather than picking over food they feel has just been thrown at them.

Last of all, listening will help to enrich your relationship with your loved one. They have time now to tell you stories and ideas that you may have never known. When you truly listen they will know. When you value what they have to say, they will be more willing to open up to you in ways that will bring your friendship to deeper and more meaningful levels. One day they will be gone and the moments and hours which your have given them in this chapter of their lives will live with your forever. When we learn to love each other (and it can be a painful process) it has rewards that travel beyond the borders of this life. Be blessed. Trust God in every situation of your loved ones in nursing care. His grace will carry us through when we don’t know the answers and hold us when we feel like we have fallen and can’t get up!

For more ideas on listening , here is to a short video on the subject  for those who may be interested

 

The Fields Are Ready

At the end of John chapter four Jesus tells his disciples to take a look at the fields around them. Maybe because they were fishermen they needed some pointers on farming and related that to their job as fishers of men. We only have today to harvest what stands ready in the field right now.

As a teen age I remember working wity friends putting up hay in the summer. Once the farmer saw the grass had reached that perfect point of height and the fields were dry it needed to be cut. We worked long hours into the night getting it all safely stacked in the barn. There was no time for delay.

In the same way there is an urgency to reach those who are spending the final chapter of life in Nursing Care. Many are open and receptive as never before to the message of Christ. The fields are ready God help us to be ready also!