“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” Psalm 71:9
Engraved in stone at the entrance to Sholom Home Senior Residence in St Louis Park is this timeless scripture from the Hebrew text in the Old Testament songbook. Its reminder prompts a sacred mindset in me each time I go there to make a compassionate visit, bring a word of hope and offer a prayer.
Certainly, this COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly taught us multiple lessons about senior care in senior living communities needing to isolate in their rooms protecting them from virus bearing visitors! Activities were cancelled and time tested pandemic protocols were put in place; Watch distance-Wear masks-Wash hands! All congregate dining was replaced by all meals delivered at your door and private dining! And, of course, no one else can get vaccinated until all who are 75 and older receive the vaccine they are offered! The threat of infected people coming into your building and the threat of going out among infected people resulted in greater stress, anxiety and loneliness!
When vaccination against the coronavirus was in full swing in senior living communities, vaccination stations limited to those 75 and older began to open all around the country in all kinds of places from civic centers to sports facilities and more. Some drove themselves there while others got a ride with a family member or friend who also wore a mask. Many didn’t even need to get out of the car…just hang your arm out the car window like you would do taking a ride in the country on a summer day.
Finally, a few wise and observant hospital executives said, “Who is bringing vaccines to the homebound?” (StarTrib-3/16/21) Frail older adults living in their own apartments or private homes with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems, who often, for fear of going out, wondered if they’d need to forego the vaccination that would protect them from the public health enemy coronavirus.
Thankfully, someone remembered the shut-ins and the homebound! Now home vaccine programs are being organized and equipped by home health and public health providers sending out visiting nurses to bring hope and help wherever they go!
Every Advent/Christmas season and every Lent/Holy Week/Easter, Pastors and lay Eucharistic Ministers from faith communities are extra busy bringing communion to shut-in and homebound people in their place of residence. Oh yes, they may regularly make monthly or weekly visits, but these sacred days are special times to bring a special meal of remembrance!
Every Hannukah and Passover, families gather so the questions and wonderings of the youngest generation can be addressed by stories of deliverance shared by the eldest generation and by remembrances in the Seder meal!
Doctors who still make house calls to administer life-saving health care are a great blessing and are legends even now in their own time! Pastors and priests and parishioners who still make house calls to administer sacraments and bring life-saving home spiritual care are also!
One mentor Pastor who I have emulated for over 50 years was said to never be in his church office after 2pm because he was out making home visits. Another mentor Pastor often said “the character of a congregation and the quality of its ministry is shown in its care for the sick and aging and dying!”
After this year of isolating, quarantining and distancing, all of us have a greater sense of what it means to be alone and experiencing more than a little ‘cabin fever’! Be patient, practice the 3 www’s and do not forget the shut-ins and homebound in your neighborhood and among your friends and even in your own family.
Together, we will get through this…with God’s help!
Editor’s note: The author, Pr. Rod Anderson (retired) served as a Pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie for over 34-years.
The Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) serves the people of Eden Prairie and broadly supports and invites the free expression of religious traditions and spiritual perspectives of the community.