These days nursing home residents are often in very poor health, but a brief religious service can be a tremendous comfort. Remembered songs or prayers help them become, even if only briefly, the people they used to be before their illness. You can make a big difference for people who have given up a lot of what makes life meaningful. Read on to learn more.
Contact the activities director at the home in advance to schedule your service. Usually late morning is a good time when residents are more alert. Agree on which residents will be invited and who will bring them to the meeting room. Request a staff person to assist you during the service in case someone needs to leave, needs a drink of water, or needs help finding the page.
Review the prayers that you will use. If there's time, print them out in large print (14 pt.) so residents can follow. Even if they can't read along, holding the paper makes them feel involved.
Being by welcoming everyone and introduce yourself. Acknowledge the staff assistant and thank her. Explain what the service will cover and why you volunteered to lead it.
Speak slowly and loudly. Pay attention to residents who are trying to respond or want to say something. Give them an opportunity to speak.
End with a song that many are likely to know. Singing is an important way for people to connect with each other. Finish with a prayer that mentions each person's name if possible. Thank the staff assistant. Thank the residents for coming. Collect the prayer sheets.
- Five to twelve people is the optimum number of participants.
- The service should last no more than 30 to 45 minutes.
- Wear layered clothing with something very light underneath even if it's winter. Nursing homes are usually very hot since old people have poor circulation and get cold easily.
- If the staff assistant has to go out for any reason, have a plan in case of emergency.
- If you are not accustomed to nursing homes, visit in advance to know what to expect.
- Call ahead earlier in the morning to make sure the service is still on before you set out, especially if the group is small. Residents who were expected to attend may stay in bed that day if ill.
- Don't be surprised if you have to bring the residents from their rooms yourself; nursing homes are chronically understaffed.
- If you don't have experience operating a wheelchair safely, get a lesson from the staff.
- Be prepared for participants to fall asleep, drool, speak inappropriately or argue.
- Don't give the residents anything to eat or drink without direct supervision from the staff. Some have dietary requirements and others may have difficulty eating or swallowing.
- Prayer book or reflections from your faith
- A quiet room with space for wheelchairs
- A staff assistant
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