MINISTERING TO THE NEEDS OF OLDER ADULTS AND CAREGIVERS
By the time I was 30 I already had a great career start in the field of working with older adults.
I had been fortunate to land a job in Bryan, TX as Director of the new government-funded senior congregate meal program.
The philosophy of the Federal Government in starting these programs was to help older persons (over 60) to age in place in their own homes with socialization opportunities in their communities which included meals, transportation and so much more.
I loved the concept of promoting independence and allowing another alternative to institutionalism in old age.
At that time I left my full-time government job to start a family and immediately became more involved in my church.
As I sat in the choir facing the congregation I could see a sea of graying and whiteheads; so many more than fidgeting children or restless teenagers.
When it was time for the congregation to vote on the annual budget I challenged the session to not only budget for youth and children’s ministry but also consider putting a line item in for older adult ministry.
Their decision was made a lot easier when some money, through an inheritance to be used for programming only, was received by the church.
I was then hired on a part-time basis as a lay leader in Older Adult Ministry.
I soon discovered that there was plenty of need for socialization, spiritual growth and belonging, more so then what the existing staff could offer.
I also discovered that there was a place to minister to the many family caregivers who were struggling with the challenges of taking care of a frail and disabled spouse and/or parent.
The path was clear and I loved every minute of my time starting that new and innovative ministry for my church.
Our family left Bryan for my husband to enter seminary in Austin, TX.
The day we arrived on campus I discovered that the downtown Presbyterian Church had an older adult ministry and their director had just left.
I joyfully was hired into that position and continued to do Older Adult Ministry for three more years.
When my husband finished seminary we left Austin and I moved back into the secular world.
For 37 years I worked for the government in various fields of aging before retiring in the summer of 2018.
I had promised myself many years ago that when I retired I would go back to older adult ministry thinking that it would be an established ministry in ALL Presbyterian Churches by the time I was ready.
Sadly that was not the case.
Being fortunate enough to not need paid employment I offered, as my tithe, to start an older adult and caregiver ministry for my home church St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in Tucker, GA.
I made it very clear from the beginning that I was not there to do the Pastors job of shepherding her congregation or the deacon’s job of visitation and care for the older members who were assigned to them.
Seven months into the ministry I see my goal in these ministries as adding a bit of special attention and support to those who are the most vulnerable, particularly those who are frail and aging in their own homes or are institutionalized.
I also offer more socialization opportunities, beyond what the senior lunch group offers monthly, as I observed that church activities draw a large number of seniors.
A niche that I’m concentrating on now is the family caregiver who might be caring for an infirmed spouse, parent or other relative and is overwhelmed by the challenges of that caregiving role along with the other roles they take on in their everyday life.
I want them to feel that they can go to the church with their worries and concerns and will get expert help in their times of challenge.
Interested in working with older adults and their caregivers on a regular basis? Click here to learn more about CLL Older Adult Ministry opportunities.
Pat discovered her special gift of working with family caregivers in the early 80’s when she started her first Caregiver Support Group. Since that time she has facilitated caregiver support groups in Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia. She presently is facilitating three support groups: one for employees of Gwinnett County who are caregivers, one for the Emory Integrated Memory Care Clinic caregivers and one in her home which she has had since 2002. She is a Certified Trainer for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s- Dealing with Dementia Workshop.
Besides her board work with POAMN she is the current Vice-President of the Georgia Gerontology Society Board of Directors and serves on the FRIENDS of Gwinnett Senior Board of Directors. FRIENDS is a 501C3 that raises funds and advocates for the most vulnerable seniors in the county.