How your church could support local care homes
Tina English, founder of Care Home Friends, shares ideas about how we can come alongside residents and staff at care homes during this extended lockdown
The Government recently released guidance for care homes on visiting arrangements while the risk of coronavirus continues. It doesn’t make encouraging reading for those of us wishing to restart services in care homes or pastoral visiting. In situations where visiting is allowed, care homes have been advised to limit visitors to a single constant pre-booked person, with all the usual social distancing precautions in place.
At this point in time it is impossible to tell how long these restrictions will be in place, so we need to think creatively about how we can come alongside residents and staff at care homes during this extended lockdown. While traditional services are out of the question and pastoral visiting is extremely limited, there are still things we can do.
Many churches have been catapulted into the world of online services during lockdown, and there’s no reason why these can’t be utilised in a care home. A high percentage of care home residents have dementia, so it’s important to keep things simple – a 40 minute online sermon is difficult to stay focussed on at the best of times for most of us, let alone for someone with dementia! Perhaps you have been pre-recording services that could be edited into a shortened version with lots of singing, for residents to engage with. Or perhaps those who are part of the care home service team can record a short service for the care home to use. This is a great opportunity to work together with other churches in your area to spread the load and provide a variety of appropriate services that can be used by different care homes.
Care home staff may need help to access the recordings on a television screen for residents to view. If you have a church member who is IT savvy and is willing to offer help, this may be greatly appreciated.
This Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on care homes, causing anxiety and fear for carers and residents alike. As the church, we have the opportunity to show God’s love in practical ways to those who have been on the front line of caring, and to those most vulnerable. It’s worth contacting your local care home and asking if there is any way the church can support them at this time – every care home is different, and their needs unique to them. There may be residents who are particularly isolated, with no-one to visit them, and a volunteer from your church could be their constant person.
The care home may benefit from a donation of an Android tablet with apps like Zoom, to enable residents to connect with loved ones via video. You could also offer to provide a casting device to plug into their TV so that residents can watch your services together. They may have residents with the capacity to enjoy an online game of something like Word with Friends, which a volunteer could facilitate. That’s something I’ve been enjoying with a care home resident during lockdown. And there’s always traditional forms of communication like letter writing and telephone that can be utilised effectively. Most people love receiving letters or postcards, and this is something children can get involved with too – writing letters and drawing pictures. All these activities enable residents to stay connected with the outside world.
Your pastoral team could also offer support to relatives of the residents, for whom lockdown has been emotionally draining. You could leave contact cards at the care home for any relatives that are visiting, and ask the manager to pass on your contact information to any other relatives that would appreciate such support. Pastoral support and a friendly ear may also be of comfort to those working in the care home.
And let’s not forget the staff – the amazing carers who have been tirelessly working during this pandemic. How about creating goody bags for staff, with a little note to let them know that their local church is praying for them? We have done this in our area, and they were so well received. Each bag contained lip balm, hand cream, chocolate, a small scented candle, and a handwritten thank you card, as well as the note to say we were praying. It’s such a simple way to show God’s love and express our gratitude.
Image | “Kindness to Carers” goody bags for care home staff sponsored by local churches.
For more ideas of how you can support care homes during extended lockdown visit
If your church has been supporting a care home during lockdown we would love to hear about it and share your ideas with others. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Care Home Friends is an Embracing Age project. Embracing Age is a Christian charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people.