Making homebound visits is an important part of the ministry of the church, especially for older seniors who are vulnerable to isolation and poor quality of life. Yet too often they are neglected and left longing for visitors.
Julia Quiring Emblen, PhD, RN, was troubled by the lonely seniors she visited in her church. “Some told me the church community had all but forgotten about them,” she writes in her article, “A Compassionate Visitation Program for Church Homebound Elders” from Journal of Christian Nursing.
Many of the elders Julia visited had been leaders of the church for years. “Recalling how much service these former spiritual pillars had given to the congregation, I felt sad that now, when they were in need, they received so little,” Julia said. She was determined to improve the care of the homebound elders in her church.
Realizing that older seniors need support, a Compassionate Visitation Program was initiated. Most of the volunteers were in their 60s or 70s. It soon became apparent that more emphasis was needed on making the visit experience enjoyable for recipients and satisfying to the visitors.
The program developed general focus points using the acrostic HOMEBOUND to help visitors remember to incorporate Humor, Observation, Music, Encouragement, etc. Parts of the program include an awareness of Nutritional issues and even the Death of the visitee.
Active listening is a nursing skill that can be taught to visitors who can listen to a person’s stories about the past and concerns about the future. Allowing them to share their pain validates their experience and helps decrease the loneliness of chronic pain. Visitors can learn to be present, listen to the visitees, help them process their feelings, and explore healthy responses.
Over time, guidelines and a structure for the Compassionate Visitation Program were developed with a Visit Facilitator coordinating the program for the church.
A friendly visit can encourage and lighten some of the lonely hours for those who have little to do during their long days. “It takes time and planning on the part of the visitor,” Julia concludes, “but the time pays off when the visitor is leaving and hears, ‘Come back soon! I really enjoy our time together.’”
Are there homebound seniors in your church who are longing for visitors? Read the full JCN article for more tips and program ideas.
This JCN article offers 2.5 CE contact hours. Become a member of Nurses Christian Fellowship and receive JCN regularly as a member benefit, as well as discounts on all CE.