Shalom in care homes
Updated: Apr 9
At such a time of concern for the health of residents in care homes because of the threat of coronavirus comes a piece of work emphasising how important relationship-building is in such settings.
Many families are distressed, very understandably, that they can't for the time being visit their elderly relatives in residential care. Professional carers are doing sterling work, putting their own health and families' priorities to one side while they carry out their duties. When the restrictions come to an end, and visitors are once more allowed in, the work of researcher Helen Hindle may help the care homes, churches and family members appreciate just how significant is the development and maintenance of good relationships to human flourishing. Hindle identifies what makes for such flourishing under the overarching term of shalom.
In the current spring 2020 edition of Plus, the magazine of the charity Christians on Ageing, Hindle writes about 'Community and Shalom: the views of care home residents.' It forms the basis of her PhD work in Contextual Theology, which is being funded by Methodist Homes (MHA).
Field work was carried out in four care homes, two of which are MHA homes. Hindle visited each establishment once a week for six months. Her aim was to find out about the structure of community and the functions it fulfilled within and beyond the homes from the perspective of each older person she conversed with (only interviewing those who had capacity to consent).
Changing the names of participants, she quotes a number of residents describing what's most important to them. For example, one speaks of how much it means to her to have a room with a view and to be connected to nature. 'I see God in the trees outside my window' (Brenda, September 2017).
When asked, 'Is there anything that helps keep your spirits up?', another resident replied: 'Yes, that young lady who's been in before. She's always jolly. She doesn't always feel it but she's always jolly and can get you going when she's in' (Marion, December 2018).
Using the idea of shalom as a framework for her lines of questioning, she drew on the work of Perry Yoder, author of Shalom: The Bible's word for salvation, justice and peace (Wipf and Stock, 2017). Hindle describes the biblical understanding of shalom as a vision of what ought to be, and as a call to transform society.
Sometimes thought of as another word for peace, Yoder explains in his book: 'Shalom love is not love at a distance, not love in the abstract, not love in the rocking chair – it is the love of confrontation, of strike, of protest and of disobedience to the structures of violence. Shalom love is suffering love because it is militant love struggling for human liberation, justice and shalom, which is God's will for our world.'
What we're currently living through may upturn many of our views about the way we lead our lives and conduct our relationships, not least with those of older generations when reaching their most frail and vulnerable stages of life.
'The act of listening '
Prior to carrying out the fieldwork, Hindle said she'd anticipated that 'listening to older people would lead to a list of practical recommendations to strengthen community links within and beyond care homes. Instead I have found that the act of listening and building relationships strengthens and develops community.'
'This may lead to practical actions, or it may not. Community development begins with relationship-building within and beyond the care home. Listening to the voices of people and establishing our connection with each other is part of the process of continually, mutually transforming society.'
For more information about Christians on Ageing, you may contact the Hon Secretary CCOA at Stoneway, Hornby Road, Appleton Wiske, Northallerton DL6 2AF
Telephone: 01609 881408