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If you’re an active member of a house of worship you know how supportive the congregation can be.
When you're sick, they call and ask if you need anything. Someone will always offer to run an errand. If there's a death in the family, members will make dinners and offer fellowship. But as we get older, our needs are often more than the congregation can meet.
You may need more than a social support system. You may need home health care. You may need to move to an assisted living facility. And while the members can continue to visit, support and pray for you, the reality is most of your day-to-day living needs will be in the hands of strangers.
So what if you want your care providers to share a religious foundation? To share in your faith? In your values? There are many faith-based senior care providers across the U.S. And as some studies show religion can help seniors heal or at least cope with the effects of aging.
If you're reading this for a senior parent or friend, you should know the value that this generation puts on religion and faith. A 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center found the following:
Over 1,000 books and articles have been written showing the power of religion in health. One of these articles, a study of 68 Alzheimer's patients who were on average 78 years old, found that those with “higher levels of religiosity and spirituality were associated with a slower progression of Alzheimer's disease.” This study included Christians, Jews, a Buddhist and an atheist.
In a 2006 article from the journal Counseling, Psychotherapy and Health, the authors cite research from a number of books and journals that show religious coping — “the reliance on one's religious beliefs or practices as a means of dealing with some of life's challenges” — to be a significant factor in helping seniors meet their challenges. These challenges include “loss of physical abilities and relocation to nursing homes can also contribute to feelings of despair, loneliness, and grief.”
The article also says religious seniors have a framework for understanding the purpose of life, have hope, and “are more likely to have a reason for living and for wanting to get better.”
A University of Missouri-Columbia study says that religion is an important coping mechanism for “persons with chronic disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and arthritis.” And the study recommends that health care providers “encourage religious practices important to individuals.”
Many seniors, particularly those with terminal illnesses, want to be able to discuss faith with their doctors. And there's good news. In a survey in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 76% of the 2,000 doctors said they believed in God.
In another survey of doctors reported in the New York Times, “54 percent said God sometimes affects a patient’s health, and 33 percent said religion and spirituality help prevent specific medical events like heart attacks, infections and death.”
Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jewish organizations already have hundreds of respected hospitals across the U.S. In fact, Catholic hospitals account for 15% of the total beds in the country. Here are just of few faith-based care providers.
A nation-wide company called Christian Companion Senior Care (CCSC) has 29 locations across the country. The owner said “All of our caregivers are committed Christians who are experienced, qualified and highly motivated to make a difference in the lives of our clients. In addition to physical and social needs, we also address the spiritual needs of our clients. The spiritual services we offer are by request, but many clients take great pleasure in them.”
The faith-based Western Pennsylvania Alliance of Senior Services Providers represents more than 11,000 long-term care residents.
Christian Care Centers in Texas have assisted living, retirement living, Hospice, memory care and other programs for seniors. Their mission is “housing and health care services for senior adults in an environment which encourages relationships, independence, and dignity through spiritual, physical, social, and recreational programs.”
And there are hundreds more across the country who provide faith-based care for seniors.
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