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AGING WELL: Home blessing service supports older adults in transition to new place Missy Buchanan, Sep 19, 2011
By Missy Buchanan UMR Columnist
An 86-year-old widow slowly pushed her walker through her house for the last time. She paused at the window and reminisced about the countless backyard games her children and grandchildren had played there over the years. She thought about the many holiday dinners she had prepared in the kitchen.
Silent tears began to roll down her face when she caught a glimpse of her daughter and son-in-law carrying out the last few boxes to their cars. In just a few minutes she would be moving to a large assisted living center in a nearby community. She knew life would never be the same.
The older woman knew that it was time for a change. She needed more help with daily tasks. Still it was a difficult moment, packed with unexpected emotion. Though she could barely admit it to herself, she was afraid.
Transitioning to a senior residence center can be confusing and intimidating to many older adults, especially those who are growing frail. The thought of leaving behind what is familiar in exchange for unknown faces and surroundings can be overwhelming. Regrettably, adult children of aging parents often fail to realize that their loved ones are silently wrestling with a mental list of what-ifs. What if I get lost on my way to the dining room? What if no one talks to me? What if I don’t make new friends?
Change for those who already feel that they are losing their independence is especially hard. Many have given up the keys to the car. Most have grieved the loss of close family members and friends. Physical decline has robbed them of strength and energy. Even though a move to a senior care center may be a logical step, it can still be unnerving to the person making the move.
I remember when my parents decided to move to an independent retirement community a few miles from their home. They were still active seniors but had decided that they were ready for someone else to do the cooking and the cleaning. I can still see my dad looking at my mother squarely in the eyes and saying, “Mama, we’re going to like this place. Let’s just make up our minds right now. We are going to like it!” I had to laugh at his direct approach, but at the same time, I knew there was wisdom in what he said.
Establishing a positive attitude about a transition is important to the well-being of an older loved one. However, she may need help from her family and church. One way to mark the transitional moment is to host an intimate worship service, a Blessing of this Home, just a day or two after she has gotten settled in her new place.
Invite a few close friends and family members to gather in her new apartment or room. Ask her minister to open with prayer and give a brief message about God’s faithfulness and new beginnings. Sing hymns and ask everyone to hold hands and form a circle, offering prayers for the older adult and this life transition.
One older woman told me that a Blessing of this Home service helped her establish a positive attitude and reminded her that she is surrounded by God’s loving presence. It is also a great way to get friends and family acquainted with the facility so that they will be more inclined to visit regularly.
Ms. Buchanan, a member of FUMC Rockwall, Texas, is the author of several books, including Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults (Upper Room Books.)