Churches and care homes – how can we help?


Author: Faith in Later Life

Care homes are in the news more than ever before, whether due to a lack of PPE or funding, or hearing about sacrificial staff “living in” to look after their residents at this difficult time. Churches have begun thinking about how they can develop their support for care homes in this new context. There are some ways we can reach out, even with visiting restrictions.

Dale is a pastor in Merthyr Tydfil. He describes one care home with staff depleted from 16 to 3 because of Covid-19: “There is a devastating impact on the staff emotionally from stress and trauma and anxiety in seeing elderly people pass away. Many of the staff are very young and on a minimum wage. They need our prayers.”

Bev manages the care home team at a city mission. She suggests people send postcards with encouraging messages: “they are much appreciated. They know people outside are thinking of them. We need to pray for staff who are short-handed. We are praying that the DVDs we sent with hymns and prayers will encourage those who are Christians, and really touch the hearts of those who aren’t, that they will turn to God in this time.”

Alex is part of the West of England Baptist Association, and a church champion for Faith in Later Life. Knowing that care homes have an obligation to provide spiritual care, she was part of a team that offered to lead Sunday services in a local home. A conference from the Methodist Housing Association offered support. (There is also support and advice from Faith in Later Life and Pilgrims’ Friend Society on our resource hub here).

Without being able to offer an in-person Sunday service or visit, these ideas could help form the start of a care home strategy for your church.

  1. ‘Adopt’ a local home, or more than one. Use our directory to find your local home if you don’t have an existing relationship.
  2. Start praying, regularly and with a sense of context. Stay informed and look out for issues that affect residential settings. For example, polling suggests 31% of us are less likely to seek residential care for an older relative in light of coronavirus. This will have a financial impact on the sustainability of homes and on staffing. It will also mean that more community support for the elderly may be needed. Pray for health, stamina, healing and God’s strength.
  3. Tell the care home that you’re praying for them. Ask for prayer requests. Speak on the phone.
  4. Get to know the workers and residents as much as they permit. It might be that they would appreciate some music in the garden, or something specific through.
  5. Many staff in care homes are Christian, perhaps more than you’d expect. Are there ways your church can equip them to give spiritual encouragement to residents? Make sure they know about the ‘Daily Hope’ free phone line, provide prayers or poems, and see if they might be willing to show live streams of services.
  6. Find out if there are ways as a church you can offer support to the families of residents.
  7. Determine to be there for the long haul, including in bereavement. There are resources to help with funerals ‘at a distance’ on our website here, for example.

We’d love to hear what you think. If older people are on your heart and this is an area of ministry you are involved with at your church, or one you would like to introduce at your church, do consider joining our free Church Champion (inter)national network. We provide a virtual community, as well as ideas and resources.