Our Senior Living Chaplains play an integral role in providing practical, personal care in many situations.
Gift of Listening
I met Irene in the ICU waiting room. The Director of Nursing had called me that morning to tell me that Irene’s mother had been unresponsive and taken to the hospital. She had only been a resident at this facility for two days. Irene was feeling grief and guilt. Grief – because it appeared that her mother was at the end of her life’s journey. Guilt – because Irene felt the move had proved too much for her mother. I prayed for Irene and for her mother, who had slipped into a deep coma.
We Spent Three Hours Together
Irene spoke about the past three years and her move to Kansas City to be with her mom. She had moved her mother to assisted living centers, nursing homes, back to assisted living and back to nursing homes. The stress of making all those decisions alone had taken its toll.
Irene was feeling this last decision may have caused her mother to fail. “She was so happy the day she moved to Bickford. She looked around and saw her own furniture; she felt she was home. I really believed this would be a good move for Mother. Everyone was so good to her and really cared about her.”
I listened. Giving Irene the opportunity to go through each decision she had made and look at it in the light of sound judgment, was healing for her. At the end of the conversation, she hugged me and said, “I think I would have felt more guilt had I not moved her to Bickford. She can leave this life as a happy woman, knowing she was in a place that loved and cared for her – even if it was only for two days. No other place she has ever been would have sent a chaplain like you to be with me during this difficult time.” God’s grace and love covered Irene with peace as I gave her the gift of listening.
A resident is having a health problem that is causing her to lose her memory. Her daughter is angry at her for not remembering everything and making decisions like she once did. The resident wants to stay in her home at the assisted living facility, but her daughter wants her in a nursing home. They had been going round and round and fighting to the point where it would get ugly.
I recognized the fact that the daughter is mostly upset that she is losing “the mother she once had.” Her daughter’s life has revolved around her mother and she can’t foresee what it would be like without her. I have spent time with the daughter, letting her voice her frustration on me instead of her mother or the facility Director. We talk about pre-death grieving and the importance of not taking on guilt about every little thing. We pray about trusting God with her mother from beginning to end. We speak or text almost every day.
I am working with the daughter to show her that she needs to care for herself as much as she cares for her mother so she can be healthy as she walks through this new season of her life. I have prayed with her daughter and have assured her that “we will go through this together, she won’t be alone.” This has calmed her down and is helping her to be gentler when she is with her mother. I have worked with her mother to see that her daughter’s “anger” is really fear of losing her, and she said, “I never thought of it that way. I think you are right. She doesn’t have anybody; can you spend time with her?” They came to a good compromise. The mother is staying at the facility with the help of Hospice, and they are spending their time enjoying each other.
One of our Directors called me to meet with a husband of a resident who was angry with the staff because they weren’t taking his wife to all of the activities. The problem was, his wife’s health was deteriorating and she was not able to attend the activities like she once was. She was tired and leaving her room was more effort than she was able to put out. I met with the man and let him vent his frustration on me instead of the wonderful staff doing a great job caring for his wife. It was obvious that this man just wanted someone who would spend the time to listen to him. Anger is one of the emotions people feel when grieving starts. I asked him if it was possible that instead of being angry, he was grieving because his wife was losing some of her zest for living. He admitted that was probably it. As he began to understand that his anger was normal, but was directed at the staff instead of the future loss he might be experiencing in the future, he began to calm down and “work with the staff” instead of against them.