One definition of ‘Civilisation’ is ‘how a society cares for the vulnerable … the sick, the old, the homeless and the weak.’
There are 376,000 older people living in 10,000 care homes in England. Many do not have access to a geriatrician, who could significantly improve their quality of life by taking an overview of their complex age-related health problems. Of those that do have access, some have to wait as long as 18 weeks to receive treatment. The average life expectancy of an older person entering a care home is 18 months!
A recent pilot study for a national care group on the ‘Spirituality of Older Men’, highlighted the importance of men from the local church befriending men in care homes and taking them out. Men in care homes are outnumbered significantly by women so the culture is inevitably feminised leaving men marginalised. Their spiritual and social needs are very varied: one to one Bible discussion, invitation to a men’s breakfast, a pint down the pub, a trip to a football match or a car ride to a good beach.
The majority of local churches are not involved with visiting the men in care homes. Such visits require a dedicated team who are flexible and imaginative. Advocacy skills within the team will be important to enable any dissatisfaction or frustration to be brought to the management’s attention. Residents often feel unable to complain on their own behalf. It will take time to build up relationships and trust with both the staff and residents. Remember also that about 40% of residents have dementia … just one more thing to embrace!