By Alexander Germanis
The great struggle of mankind has arguably been the struggle of finding purpose. Whether male or female, bound or free, individuals have and will always continue to seek for purpose in their lives.
Unfortunately, in our society, once our elderly move into a retirement or nursing home, we often forget just how much they can and are still willing to participate in and contribute to the
At the Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka, their goal is to actively keep their residents incorporated into the community and to prove to not only the rest of society but to the residents themselves that they do indeed still have great purpose in life.
With a mission statement of “loving care in the spirit of Christ” and the word “Christian” in their name, it is no surprise the Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka follows the words of the Bible and the example of Jesus Christ in everything they do.
“How we serve the seniors in our community is based on a biblical approach,” confirms the home’s administrator, Thomas Hoffman. “I encourage new employees to look at how Christ interacted with people. Christ showed them respect, He showed them love, and He served. That is the focus we want in our organization; that’s a big part of who we are.”
Their five-star rating from both U.S. News and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services also reflects who they are — a rating Tom attributes to the quality of their staff. “Staff and how they serve the people will either make or break you. We are fortunate to have a staff that is really focused on our residents — on treating the individual as a whole person. That means treating not just their physical needs but their emotional and spiritual needs also.”
Those emotional and spiritual needs are frequently met through what Tom describes as “validating their personhood.” There is such a focus on youth today, and our seniors are not recognized for the incredible contributions they have made,” he says. “Part of our effort is to celebrate who they are. They have a lot to offer yet; it’s just a matter of finding a way to allow them to become productive — to feel they are contributing.”
Service and mission work
Although the residents of the Apostolic Christian Home have earned their rest, the need to feel productive has not left them. To serve that end, the residents find continued purpose in serving others through a variety of programs. Living by Christ’s words in the Book of Matthew: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (25:40), the residents serve the young, the imprisoned, the hungered, and the aged.
Participating in the Snack Pack Program, some residents volunteer to pack a variety of weekend meals and snacks for children who have been specifically identified by the schools as being in need. Along those same lines, residents also pack rice pilaf meals for the poverty-stricken citizens of third world countries.
Residents also aid others with their spiritual journeys, helping Berean Prison Ministries by collating Bible studies, mailing them to prisoners, and even grading them.
“As our residents feel the fulfillment in these meaningful programs, they’re motivated and seek things on their own, especially as they see another resident having a need,” Tom says. “For example, we have one resident who, on a regular basis, reads to one of our vision-impaired residents.”
“I don’t think we realize how important these programs are to the individual,” he adds. “To feel they are still contributing and able to do things to serve others. To me, this all goes back to fulfilling that need we all have to serve, to help and to feel needed. I have learned the most fulfilling aspect of life is when we are serving others. And yet there is such a focus on just serving self, and that’s never satisfying; we are always searching for more.”
A part of the community
Although the nursing home, in a sense, is its own community, Tom believes it is vital for the residents to remember they have never left the overall community.
Sometimes, it is just the simple things that can make all the difference. “We have a book exchange program with our local library,” Tom says. While that may seem small, he says, many residents believe their ability to go to the library or read a lot is gone. “But, on a weekly basis, we have the library come here and provide them with new reading opportunities.
A program called Traveling Tastebuds is another simple but essential pleasure. Once a month, the residents choose any restaurant within 40 miles or so where they can go to enjoy a meal. For those who miss the thrill of shopping, they are not left out; a shopping destination is also open for the choosing. “Sometimes it’s a department store, sometimes it’s a discount store, or sometimes it’s just a unique place they heard about,” Tom says. “But they are able to continue to go out and interact in the community.”
The residents can also bring the community to them. “We’ve developed a little bistro area where our residents can entertain — where they can continue to host things. We provide the food, the snacks, or whatever, and they can host card clubs or have their families [come in].”
It has actually been the family members of residents who have passed away who have helped with some of the community interactions. A men’s coffee hour group was organized in just this way. “We have found,” Tom points out, “the children have seen the impact and benefit this social time had on their parents, and so they organize these things.”
In many cultures, the elderly are revered and respected because of the wisdom that comes from their years of experience. That cultural mindset is one the Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka wants to emulate. Through intergenerational involvement and engagement, Tom believes the nursing home can bring about this important change.
“We work with our local school district,” he begins. “We’ve got a reading program, where throughout the school year, second graders will come to the home, are paired with individual seniors, and the students will read to the residents. It gives the students opportunities to practice their reading skills, and it’s a great bonding time. Some kids develop a really strong, almost grandparent, relationship with some of our residents.”
The residents get a chance to read to kids as well when the local preschool brings its children in. Besides the reading, the residents also engage in crafts with the youngsters.
The interaction does not cease when the school year is through, however. “Throughout the summer, we have a kids’ club,” Tom shares. “On a weekly basis, kids will come in to work on crafts with the residents, read books together, and sing songs. It’s just a neat intergenerational exchange.”
School children are not the only ones who can benefit from the seniors’ experience and company. Through a program called Baby Joy, mothers can bring their infants and preschool children in to interact with the residents. While the residents can re-experience the joy that comes from holding the babies, they can share their experiences about raising children with the mothers.
Family Fun Day is yet another opportunity for the residents and the younger generations to interact and simply enjoy one another’s company. “We might have games or an animal petting area,” Tom describes. “Residents can invite their grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the kids get tickets for winning certain games and things and can trade them in for prizes. That’s always a fun time.”
Finally, Tom shares, “We have a number of high school students who work here and for them to see the value of what the elderly can contribute — it’s a step in helping society to understand.”
Cast me not off
“All too often, seniors are forgotten,” Tom states. The scripture: “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” (Psalms 71:9), is one which the Apostolic Christian Home in Eureka has chosen as a sort of anthem. It stands as a reminder to not only the younger generation but to the
“I find it extremely rewarding to see seniors find purpose and value in life, and in bringing new meaning or transforming a life in this long-term care facility,” Tom says. “So often, individuals go to a long-term care facility and they think it’s the end; but really, life goes on. We try to address that — to help bring continued meaning into their lives.”
To learn more about Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka please visit www.each.org or call 309-467-2311.
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