Chaplains' resourcefulness in Rugby
Updated: Jul 21
Anna Chaplaincy network members in the midlands – the Gift of Years Rugby – have found all sorts of ways to engage with care homes during lockdown. Giving voice to her sadness at this time, as well as detailing ways she and her team have adapted to the changed circumstances, Lindsay Pelloquin, Lead Chaplain, writes:
Before lockdown, our team were taking or supporting 19 services per month, and so it has left a huge hole in the lives of the residents not having us there. One care home made a wishing tree and hung residents' wishes on the tree which they then tried to make happen. The residents said they wanted to have services again. This led to the staff really trying to make garden services happen. My colleague Georgina did lead some services in the garden, but when the weather became rather unsettled the home then gathered residents in a conservatory and put Georgina under an umbrella outside but looking in through the open door. She is doing this every week now. It has its challenges (she got rather wet last week!) but the staff and residents have been really pleased.
YouTube video services
We have also been experimenting with making video services. It has been such a learning curve for us trying to get the technology right. But we now have two services on YouTube which are available for the network to look at and there is a third one coming this week.
We’ve asked for feedback from residents to try to produce something that they can engage with. Again, staff have been really grateful and have been gathering groups to watch them and taking them on iPads to individuals in their rooms. They have said it would be a good resource to use on Sundays.
So although it has been a bit difficult and time-consuming, I think it is the way forward for us at the moment until we can go back into care homes. We hope to have lots of different team members on the videos so the residents can see and recognise us. The videos (The Lord is my shepherd and Give thanks to the Lord) are very much trying to speak into this time and the real lived experience of the residents, so there may be something there that other chaplains can use. Also coming is: 'We’ll meet again', a service dedicated to Vera Lynne, who died last month. Check out the Gift of Years Rugby website.
We have had some success with virtual visits in homes, where activities staff are available to connect with us on an iPad and then take us around the home to talk to residents. It requires staff to have the time and technological ability to do it, so it has not been possible everywhere. I have been surprised that residents have been able to see and hear us and talk to us in this way. I have been able to hear how things are going and listen to stories.
Virtual singing group
In one of our homes we have been able to set up a virtual singing group. The residents really missed our weekly singing group, so now they do it on Skype. The home has been able to gather about nine residents together. Our team member, Angela, has a keyboard next to her computer, and every week they sing their way through the music folders that she made for the home. The residents are really enthusiastic, and somehow they have all been able to make it happen. (Whoever said that very old people wouldn’t be able to learn new things!)
As with all this kind of technology, there is a sound lag, but Angela has found that it works to sing a line and then the residents sing a line – some songs lend themselves to this or have an echo or repeating line which enables them to manage the sound lag.
I enjoy taking photographs. and early on in the lockdown on my daily walks took pictures of well-known local landmarks, especially the local park in spring time and other recognisable places. I had the photos printed by a photo machine in ASDA, which was open, and then made my own cards with them. I have written personalised letters to residents and chosen photos I think they will relate to. Activity staff have taken them to residents, read them to them and talked about the photos. I have heard from staff that the residents have really loved them. I think it lets them know that the world outside the care home is still there and the pictures stimulate memory and conversation.
[Lindsay, like many members of our network, has appreciated the Zoom get-togethers we are having to worship and share experiences – the frustrations and the small gains – during this challenging period. Lindsay said:]
It was interesting to hear what other network members are doing, and as always there is such creativity within the network. I did find it moving to hear one person expressing her sadness at not being able to exercise the ministry she feels called to. I would like to echo this feeling and to acknowledge that this has been a time of such loss for chaplains.
Great waves of sadness
If I am honest, I have at times experienced great waves of sadness in the face of the situation as it has been and still is. In Rugby, as everywhere else, the doors of the care homes closed to us on 20 March. Overnight we went from being a valued part of those care home communities to being outsiders who might be spreaders of infection – especially me, who goes in and out of so many care homes. The role we had, of helping people to live lives that are meaningful in care homes, had to give way to the need to keep people alive and safe. Although we completely understand this focus on survival, it has been very hard to be shut out of these places at a time when they need us the most. Being close to people, holding a hand or giving a hug is part of the bread and butter of what we do as chaplains, being able to look into the faces of those who can no longer communicate and see how they are and feel their mood so much part of how we work. The screens and calls and cards have helped us to maintain the contact, but the quality of real pastoral care has been affected.
I am finding it hard not knowing how long this lockdown situation will go on in care homes and feeling very concerned about the isolation of older people and the stress felt by care staff.
Bless you for all you are doing to encourage us.