Not too long ago, I had a group of volunteers who wanted to “lead church services” in the facility. I am always in favor of people volunteering….but hmmmmmm. Now, this may get a bit sticky for me as the writer and for you as the reader, but lets muddle though this without judgement, shall we?
First let me say this. My dad was a Southern Baptist minister, enough said. During college, I attended an interdenominational chapel type service…and as an adult, I chose to attend Assembly of God services, and finally, now as a late-forty-something conservative, I attend whatever church on whatever day for whatever reason because I personally do not believe buildings save anyone from anything. Having said that……. I am open to and okay with pretty much any type of church service taking place any where…..
This particular group of volunteers did not apply any label of Baptist, Methodist, Catholic,New Age, etc. to their application. The first visit went smoothly. They sang the traditional hymn book songs, shared a mini-sermon and closed in prayer. Good enough for me.
Weeks had passed when the director of nursing came and planted herself in my office, wanting to discuss ” those people who come every Tuesday morning.” Hmmm…Tuesday morning, Tuesday morning….who comes on Tuesday morning….ohhhh yes the church people! She explained to me in great detail her concerns…..the conversation went something like this:
” Jessi, you have got to stop those people from coming here. They are nuts. Have you actually been to one of those services? They walk around the room,placing their hands on the resident’s heads and scream “I command you satan to loose this poor soul in the Name of Jesus..” It’s like watching an excorism. Surely you don’t agree with this. Let me tell you one more thing, if they break out rattle snakes, I am so out the door.”
That was it. She got up, walked out the office, leaving me sitting there to dechipher what she just had said. For once in my life, I did not know what to say, even if she had stayed long enough for me to speak. Obviously she was upset about the whole snake handling thing……..I made a note on my calendar to attend the following Tuesday’s “service.”
Tuesday morning started off with a bang; ringing phones, walk in tours, and staffing problems. I managed to catch the last ten minutes of the “service”. Hmmmm. Here is my problem. I believe the Bible from cover to cover, every word in it, and do my best to live by it……..but where do I draw the proverbial line in the sand for dementia patients who are having hands layed on them, and having the devil cast out while yet rebuking demons? I told you this would get sticky, right from the get-go. How can I tell a group of well meaning,Pentecostal, devil slaying,demon chasing people that they can’t “lay hands on the sick”? The Bible says it’s ok, and is recommended, but ummmm……hmmmmm. See my problem?
Dementia patients have the same needs as others do; physical, pyschological, pyscho-social, emotional and spiritual. Their cognitive decline has taken them to a place where they no longer have the ability to make decisions or to make choices. It is my job and duty to ensure they are protected from any type of harm….even unintended harm. Now wait, do not think I am calling the actions of the pentecostal movement harmful….I am not. I am merely trying to express that dementia patients may not understand the laying on of hands and the rebuking and binding and casting of demons into the lake of fire…….. I am saying it is my duty to make sure the residents in my facility are okay….safe, free from being forced into anything… safe.
As I watched the ending of the service that Tuesday, the problem worked itself out. One of the group leaders approached me. I could tell by her tone she was not pleased with something….Her monolouge went like this:
” Ms. Steele, nice to have you join us today. I hope the Lord blessed you. But listen, we have a problem. Someone in your facility stole a praise and worship CD that I left for your people to listen to. Now, stealing a CD is wrong. I don’t know who stole it, but I want to be reinbursed for it, it costs me about $15.99. If you want to write a check for that amount, that would be fine. If you want to ask your staff who stole it and get it back, that would be fine too. Which would you like to do?”
Dumbfounded. Caught off guard. Alarmed. Surprised. Shocked. Angry. Those appear to be good adverbs to describe how I felt. Let me get this straight….someone stole a Praise and Worship CD? Hmm. I think not. Ask any worker in any nursing home, assisted living or group home that serves the dementia population, how often residents klepto other people’s belongings, or how often things turn up missing……the answer will be “every single day”. Dementia patients rummage, root and are happy to hoard another’s stuff because it is part of the disease process……no other reason. They are not out to “covet thy neighbors” Praise and Worship CD and plot to steal it.
I explained this to the group leader. I explained dementia. I explained how hoarding happens. I explained to her that I did not believe a staff person would steal a worship CD. I was not heard….. but rather, I set the leader off into a rage. I could totally understand why the devil and demons were scared when she yelled….
” Are you calling me a liar? I bind you satan to shut your mouth. You will pay for that CD or we won’t set foot back in this place until you do”……….
You know what I said? AMEN! (The meaning of amen is…so be it). She took her herd with her, stormed out the door……I haven’t seen them since….(thank you Lord).
True story? Yes, every single word of it. But the point is really not about religion, faith or denomination. It is about, what is best for the people who live in long term care facilities and their rights. Their right to practice or not practice any form of religion. It is the duty of the staff to honor their belief system and respect it and prevent others from violating them……can I get an amen?