“There MUST be a way” for churches to help care homes image

“There MUST be a way” for churches to help care homes

This is a guest post from Gemma Gillard, founder of Truth Be Told, an intergenerational project committed to bringing joy and life as 0-4’s, their parents and residents of care homes tell stories, sing songs and are family together.

I love a challenge. 

I have these nagging and insatiable “can I make it happen?” thoughts, and quite frankly, lockdown has been a hotbed for them. I’m pleased to say that only one has been sofa-related. So far. 

One evening after a late supper, my husband and I thought it would be an ideal time to embark upon a room redesign. By 1am, the all important sofa swap was the final piece of the puzzle left. Now. We’ve done this before. Many times and we know that you can measure a sofa, a doorway, take into account it’s legs and the height of it’s back but really, there is no way of knowing if it will fit unless you give it a go. My husband swears by talking to it when we hit the peak of the challenge. Encourage it. Cheer it on. Whisper sweet nothings if all else fails. 

In our 17 year marriage, this was to be our biggest sofa debacle yet. Possibly enhanced by the time of night and the shear lunacy of moving something quite this big through something quite that small. It started promisingly and we managed to get it out of room one and into the hall. But then quickly came the wedge. The dreaded wedge. Because as anyone who’s ever moved a sofa knows, it’s all about angles. There were obstacles on all sides, including the two of us. But my favourite phrase at this point, the one that cannot be silenced in a situation like this is “there MUST be a way.”

In normal times, the Truth Be Told project visits care homes with 0-4’s and their parents and along with residents, we tell stories, sing songs and are family together. When they started to close their doors to lock down long before the rest of us, I had hoped that we’d be back visiting those care homes again in no time at all. I don’t think I fully grasped the enormity of the situation and how my intergenerational, church-led project for the most vulnerable in our communities would possibly be one of the last puzzle pieces of normal life to be slotted back into place. 

Unlike the rest of us, care home residents are familiar with the kind of social isolation that we’re getting just a tiny taste of now. In fact, studies have shown that they are twice as likely to be severely lonely as older adults living in their community. This generation are also well accustomed to being separated from loved ones. They may have said goodbye to their children being evacuated or they may have been that child themselves. Times of unprecedented upheaval are no stranger to them either. Simple weddings, lack of supplies and government imposed restrictions are all too memorable.

With my favourite phrase always resonating, I have been sure that with enough lateral thinking (or “to-me-to-you” in sofa language) “there MUST be a way” to continue to bring joy, hope and life to this precious generation, even now in their darkest times. After all, there was no stopping Jesus was there? No temptation too great, no authority too powerful, no stone too heavy. 

The good news is, there are many ways. I’ve been talking with a number of care home chaplains, activities coordinators and carers about the needs of residents and staff at this time and beyond. Despite the physical restrictions, churches, their families and communities can do much to help. Our website and this free resource for churches gives you specific guidance and suggestions so please do take a look and do what you can.

I still don’t know how long it might be before we are able to physically be with our older friends again. And there will be residents who are never reunited with us as their days aren’t numerous enough. But what I do know is that “There MUST be a way” to continually pursue the purpose of Truth Be Told. To remind everyone that they are invited to belong through His church, God’s beautiful display of family, of intergenerational love and devotion.

No matter how incompatible the measurements, there really is no sofa too big and no doorway too small.

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