Spirituality in the Nursing Home

When a new resident moves into a Care Home, the initial focus is usually on meeting their physical needs—clarifying their diet, medications, checking skin for wounds, setting up physical therapy, making sure their clothing is labeled, and on and on. With time, their emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs may become more evident. Attention to each one of these areas is vital. For many, the spiritual climate of their new home can be the key to adjusting and participating in life versus settling for simply existing, waiting for the end of life. Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities have Intentional Faith-based Programs to enable their residents to seek, practice, and live out their religious traditions and find peace within their new living situation.

Nursing Home Ministry is usually provided by outside volunteers from many different faith communities, and may include residential volunteers. They assemble at the care home and bring music, fellowship, and a meaningful message to those who aren’t able to go out to attend religious services. They usually read Scripture, lead worship and singing, using bold, large print music songbooks, so those residents who are able, may participate in the worship service. Sometimes family members of the residents attend as well.

An example of a Christian Ministry Resource is the SonShine Society, a non-profit organization. They provide direction and supplies for those involved in Nursing Home Ministry, including songbooks, CD’s of those songs, DVD’s for recruiting and training leaders, large-print tracts, ongoing support for leaders, and access to many other resources. They encourage the volunteers to conduct consistent and regular services in the care homes. They have a quarterly newsletter, “Bits,” accessible through the internet or sent in the mail, offering updates and ongoing support to those involved in Nursing Home Ministry. Read more about the SonShine Society on www.sonshinesociety.org.

There are many dedicated volunteers offering weekly faith services “outside of the Church walls” across the United States to those who are unable attend at their church, synagogue, or place of worship.

One group of volunteers, in a band called Narrow Road, has been leading worship in several care homes for over 12 years. Currently there are 10 members in the band, ranging in age from the 40’s into the 70’s, and are from several different Christian churches. Narrow Road uses the SonShine Society Songs and Scriptures songbook in these services. There are about 100 “old time Gospel” songs in the book, which also include readings from the Bible, all in bold, large print. These same books are provided in most of the nursing homes in this city. Many residents seem to relate to those old songs, sometimes breaking into a huge smile, singing out, and commenting, “I used to sing that in Sunday School when I was little.” Even when one’s memory starts to fail, those words and tunes from childhood may still be evident. The Narrow Road Band uses guitars, bass, piano, violin, bongos, auto harp, and harmonizing voices to present these monthly services. On the other Sundays in each month, there are other groups or individuals leading worship, using the same songbook, but with different music and delivery styles, but all with the same intention—to provide a meaningful worship service for the residents.

The rewards of volunteering in a Nursing Home, Retirement Community, or in an Assisted Living Home are endless, and worth so much more than any amount of money could ever provide. It is a privilege to be a part of bringing together an intentional faith community, giving the residents a worship opportunity, offering hand to hand contact, listening, making human connections that remind each one of them of their Value, that can so often be a missing link in one’s life as they try to adjust to a new and different life in an assisted care facility.

Spirituality is often a forgotten part of the care and service plans for Seniors who are aging in situations where they are no longer able to provide all of their own care. If you are aware of a way these needs are being met in a care community, let us know about it! We’re interested in your knowledge and sharing resources for providing this special care to those unable to get out to their own place of worship, whether it is due to physical inability or aging. A useful web resource for finding places of worship in the US is www.usa-churches.com.  A list­ of care homes is available on  www.assistedcarefacilities.net. This site provides a directory of Nursing Homes, Assisted Care Facilities, and other Senior Community Living homes across the US. At the top of each of the “city” pages there is a link to usa-churches.  It may be helpful to use these 2 websites to coordinate Care Homes and the different Faith Communities, providing a wonderful opportunity for volunteers and the residents.

Do you know of someone providing Nursing Home Ministry? Tell us!

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