Faithful Friends
Nursing Home Ministry

Chaplain's Point of View


As holiday time approaches, we reflect on warm scenes of family moments. These scenes, reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, are imprinted in our minds through media commercials of families gathering around dining room tables heavy laden with every comfort food imaginable and the sounds of strong healthy family members engaged in jovial conversation and warm laughter.

Christian images portray families gathered for worship in a candle-lit church that bring to mind a stable lit by the glow of a warm fire that reflects off of a young man face as he looks down on his wife who holds a peaceful new baby in her loving arms. These images touch us deep within, causing us to long for such serene moments of holiday contentment.

Reality presents another picture for most people, and those who care for someone in a nursing home deal with even more struggles in reconciling the Currier and Ives picture with the reality of their daily life. On the best of days, caregiving is a difficult task but the stress of holidays makes the task one that is almost impossible. Caregivers, especially women caregivers, desire not only to meet, but also to exceed, everyone's needs and expectations. We allow the concerns of spouse, children, and grandchildren to become the overpowering drive that forces us to set aside our own needs. When one is caring for a loved one in health care that loved one's needs seems to conflict with the well-being of so many, and yet their needs and concerns are so few that it seems a greater sin to let the loved one down.

Caregiving is not something to be done in isolation. By making the choice to put a loved one in a nursing home, we make the decision to bring many into the ministry of caregiving. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, the apostles recognized that they could no longer fulfill their responsibilities of caregiving. Under the guidance of God's Spirit, they saw the wisdom of reaching out to the community to find others to help with caregiving in meeting the needs of others. That is what choosing to place a loved one in health care is, my friends. Through the health care system, there are loving, caring individuals whose ministry it is to help you in your caregiving role.

During this holiday season, I urge you most earnestly to spend some time with the apostle Paul and his writings to the Philippians. Read chapter four with the eyes and heart of a caregiver and see how Paul's words apply. Paul reminds them, and us, that we are not alone in our ministry and to give thanks for all those who are willing to share in caregiving ministry. If you are a caregiver, your gentleness is known to everyone, and so is the gentleness of those who share this ministry with you. Allow them to give you the peace you need and deserve during this holiday time to nurture and care for your own spirit. When you do, you will recognize the strength God gives to you and you will come to realize that it is only in God's strength that you can do all things. Then you be better able to share your spirit of peace and God's peace with your loved one.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice," especially in this holiday season.

Dr. Bonnie Sparks holds a doctorate in Pastoral Care in Gerontology. She was chaplain at The Community at Parkvue, a United Church Home in Sandusky, Ohio, when she submitted this article.


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Faithful Friends Nursing Home Ministry
Larry & Sandy Wasserman
Raleigh, NC



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