We recently hosted a group discussion with representatives from churches across the UK on "Churches Supporting Care Homes during COVID 19".
It was really inspiring hearing what different churches have been up to, as well as exploring potential routes ahead.
A church in Mirfield has launched two new initiatives since we last caught up on their Care Home Friends project. Under "Boxes of Hope", every other month, they are delivering a box containing a few treats. One box had a packet of biscuits and sachet of hot chocolate, and the latest had a sunflower growing kit for that resident’s windowsill. Children from the church (aged 5-14) have been buddied up with an individual care home resident so that the box comes addressed from that child rather than the church. Several residents have sent thank you letters in reply so this has also built into a penpal system. There is a real sense of connection, both for the children and the residents, even though it is all done at a distance, especially with the sunflowers as there can be ongoing conversation as they continue to bloom, and can be seen through windows, on the window sills.
With residents limited to a single visitor, the care home has also agreed that people from the church can offer to sit outside with family members while another family member is visiting a resident. This gesture of support and offer of a friendly ear has been gratefully received by relatives.
Churches have also been assisting care homes to play live, or recorded, church services for the residents. One vicar includes a "hello to everyone watching at" the name of the local care home in every service as he knows the residents will be watching the YouTube recording and this helps them feel more connected.
Other churches have been busy organising cards, letters, gift bags and other treats at various times throughout the year to show gestures of kindness to care home staff and residents.
If your church is doing anything with your local care home, please leave a comment below or email us. It would be wonderful to hear your stories and you may inspire others to try a similar idea.
If you're interested in supporting your local care home, here are some links you may find useful:
One village church in Norfolk, is making a real impact on the elderly in their community.
In a village of just 1489 residents (according to the 2011 census), with 20-30 regularly attending their weekly church services, size (or lack of it) has not deterred the team at St Mary's, Newton Flotman, from making a difference.
Last year they set up a Care Home Friends project, with volunteers going in regularly to visit elderly care home residents.
Volunteers visit weekly, talk about childhood memories, the news or sometimes take individual residents outside for a walk in their wheelchair. Special boxes, full of objects connected to topics they enjoy, help volunteers initiate and engage in conversation.
Once a month, the church baby and toddler group, Church Mice, meets in the care home. Residents and children sit around, talk and do crafts together. Everyone enjoys singing nursery rhymes together.
A small group from the church visit regularly to lead a communion service, which is well-attended by residents. For those unable to join in, the team visit residents in their rooms and are able to share communion and pray with them.
A number of care home residents are picked up and taken to the monthly community lunch in the church room, where they get to meet other village residents, both old and young.
There are occasional outings for the residents, where one of the team drives the minibus, to take residents on a day out. A recent outing to the seaside town of Southwold was well received, with beautiful sunny weather being an unexpected bonus.
With loneliness impacting over 8 million people in the UK, the church is involving older people in their community and creating opportunities for friendships to grow and blossom.
This small local church really seems to believe and act on the quote, that "helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person."
Community outreach worker, Andy Cox, says "We've had highs, such as being shortlisted for an award for our work at the Caring UK Awards. I've also been involved in end of life care for some and been involved in funerals which, although sad, has been a privilege." Andy is hoping to recruit more volunteers from the local area to help reach more older people in their community.
Head of Care at the home, says "We’re so grateful to everyone who makes such a difference to the daily lives of our residents".
What's impressive about what they're doing, is that it's just a handful of volunteers running everything - from the baby and toddler group, to the Care Home Friends project, the monthly communions and the occasional outings.
St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman, really are showing that the saying, "small is beautiful" is true, at least, for one Norfolk village.