(Editor’s note: Earlier this month it was revealed that the chaplain at the Ritz Lutheran Villa, Colleen Adams, had recently quit her job after she was told her hours would be cut to one day a week from four)
As I age, I am becoming more aware of how residents are treated in nursing home care facilities and I am very disappointed that, in some cases, the mission statements of these homes are not being met or lived up to in accordance with the advertised principles.
We seniors have lived our lives, sometimes with ease and sometimes through many hardships, but through it all we have coped with life. Now, as we near the end of our time here on Earth, there are still difficult matters in our lives ... still many different types of problems, pressures, and traumas to face and deal with on a day-to-day basis.
In all health care facilities, I know there are struggles with interference due to government rulings, policies, and procedures, sometimes going to the extreme and not using good old-fashioned common sense. I know that the staff in these homes are overworked and have little time to actually spend in the care of the residents; I know that the administration personnel of these places are also caught in all the behind-the-scenes running of the operation of the building matters, including all the paperwork and staff.
All are there and do provide good services to the residents but they do not have the time for other concerns, worries of the mind. Nor do they meet any of their spiritual needs.
Who, then, is providing the “compassionate, quality care, and related services to enrich the lives of those they are to serve?” That was a direct quote from the Ritz Lutheran Villa website. Where is there one person in both Mitchell facilities to give these residents the compassionate and continuity of care?
Quite frequently, residents need help with their various problems which include disappointments and hurts, sometimes bitterness and resentment for even being in said home, tragedy, and sorrow, loneliness, lack of purpose, hopelessness, and spiritual guidance. They often cannot approach nursing staff for these matters nor can they really talk with administration so who is left to listen to them?
I think that a chaplain in these places is one of the most important people as this person is neutral, not biased, and they have been taught to keep confidences, so therefore are trusted. They are caring and compassionate in their responses and guidance.
In my interaction at both Ritz Villa and The Mitchell Nursing Home, I became aware of the work that Colleen Adams provided. Along with her pastoral care duties, she helped patients with their food, in being a translator for people with speech problems, in helping with activities, etc. But most importantly, she listened to what the residents were saying.
As she strolled through the halls she was often stopped by those who needed help with a variety of concerns. She was a constant in their lives. She was approachable and cared to spend time with them and she listened as they confided in her.
She had such a good rapport with the residents, and this often resulted in a harmonious result. She might possibly see trends in their actions, patterns in their lives that might be detrimental to their well-being, and could then alert nursing or administration staff without betraying any confidential information.
I realize that lessening her hours will be a financial gain in the bookkeeping system but think of how many lives have been affected through losing her talents, training, help, and caring for the residents. I feel sorry that these people now have nobody to be their mediator, nobody with whom they can confide or someone who can be there to meet their spiritual needs.
I also realize that other ministries visit and hold services regularly but there are those people who don’t want to talk with formal clergy, nor do the formal clergy have time to talk with them at length or are they even there when the problem develops and needs to be handled at the time of the occurrence.
Please reconsider the important service that a chaplain in a nursing home facility makes to the residents and their families and re-think the bottom line on the financial statement.