The CDC states that there are nearly 16,000 nursing homes in the United States with about 1.4 million people receiving long-term care services in those facilities. Over 30,000 assisted living facilities are in operation. Plus, many adult daycare and hospice facilities exist providing services. While most long-term care is provided at home from home care providers and agencies, the total number of people expected to require care in a facility is expected to rise as baby boomers continue to age.
While physical and mental care is important in these cases, spiritual care must not be forgotten. There are several faith-based facilities representing Roman Catholic, major Protestant denominations, Jewish, and other faith communities which exist to serve the needs of those who belong to those faith communities. Non-faith-based Long-Term Care facilities often provide a basic non-denominational church service catering to the majority religion within the facility. Transportation to area churches for those who are able, are sometimes available. Priests, ministers, rabbis, and other religious leaders may visit residents who share their faith.
However, it is in fact, not the responsibility of long-term care facilities to ensure residents have their spiritual needs met. This is where the family must intervene, and make sure that spiritual beliefs are upheld throughout the time spent within a facility.
Keep basic practices going
Basic practices, such as prayer or devotion, can still be practiced in a facility. Communication with the deity or deities of the religion is easy enough to do in the privacy of the person’s bedroom. Reading from a holy book or other religious scripture is also achievable. Gather as a family on a regular basis to continue basic religious practices to encourage spiritual well-being is also possible. Talk to the caretakers on duty to plan the best time for these meetings. Attempting a religious reading or prayer session must be done during downtime. The long-term care facility manager can help determine the best time for private spiritual practices.
Talk to the community
If the person in long-term care is the member of a religious gathering place, find out if the leader of the organization will visit the person regularly. For example, ask the priest to pay a visit to Grandma once per week for prayer services. Some organizations have specific groups for this purpose, so one can add the loved one to the list of people who receive visits. Keeping the person, in long-term care, in the religious community helps maintain the spiritual well-being he or she built over a lifetime.
Simply talking to the person in long-term care can do wonders for spiritual well-being. Talking about past and present religious beliefs help the person in care gain perspective on the experience. Talking about everything, from where people go after passing away to personalized spiritual paths, will enrich spirituality and forge a personal connection with the loved one.
It is not always the responsibility, or the priority, of long-term care facilities to ensure the spiritual well-being of every patient. This is why it is essential for families to help loved ones continue existing spiritual practices. Spiritual health is important at every stage of life and has the possibility of being upheld in long-term care facilities.