Genevieve is a senior in our archdiocese. She is 78 years old, a widow and has been a devout Catholic her whole life. She has served her parish in several capacities, sending her children through the parish school, and is a proud grandmother.
She has spent her life in selfless giving to her family, her parish and her neighbors. She is part of that generation that made America great.
Her children have moved away, due to the ebb and flow of careers, and she is increasingly isolated from her past friends and parish community, not by choice, but rather because of the increasing limitations of age.
She cannot easily drive anymore and has to manage getting around her home, changing light bulbs, getting the lawn mowed, the snow shoveled and the repairs and maintenance that inevitably arise.
She is fearful of driving, especially in winter, and barely manages to get to Sunday Mass. Sometimes she is picked up by a younger friend who looks in on her periodically, or when one of her children is visiting.
Questions about care
She wonders about how she should handle her decisions regarding care. Should she move into assisted living? Is home care an option? Can someone help her around the house so she could stay there longer and yet remain safe? Gen’s faith is deeply important to her, and she desires to stay connected to her parish and the community who used to know her better when she was more visible, but she thinks she has “fallen through the cracks” and “out of sight — out of mind.”
Genevieve’s situation is very typical, and there are many “Genevieves” right in your own parish. You probably know them by face, if not by name.
It is a generation that “does not want to burden” anyone with their needs. It is not their way. But we need to, as parish communities, step up our awareness and concrete steps to ensure we are addressing the needs of seniors in our midst, who have given so much to our parishes, schools and lives.
Pope Emeritus Benedict said in “Deus Caritas Est”: “As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.” (n. 20)
How can we better organize ourselves as a network of almost 200 parishes and 800,000 Catholics in this archdiocese to connect our seniors to parish communities and services?
One solution is senior care coordination. Catholic Senior Services has been investigating, listening and strategizing about the critical areas of senior needs in parishes, meeting with seniors, parish nurses, pastoral ministers and clergy.
What has emerged is the need for a regional senior care coordinator to assist seniors, caregivers and parish staff (especially parish nurses, pastoral ministers and volunteers), regionally with assessment, navigation and referral to senior services in the context of planning or crisis. This coordination would typically involve one or more of the following areas of need:
- Senior care solutions — care at home, community services, housing, etc.
- Caregiver support
- Ensuring sacramental and spiritual care is provided
- Transportation solutions
- Educational programming in parishes
We are currently working on implementing this initiative on a pilot basis in a few regions of the archdiocese.
In the meantime, there is nothing stopping each of us from reaching out to seniors in need, who are right there in your own parish and neighborhoods. Talk to your pastors, pastoral ministers and parish nurses about how you can help. Indeed, it is our sacred call from our Lord Jesus Christ to “love one another.”
Visit http://www.catholicseniorservices.org for news and information about senior care in body and soul. Or call our senior HELP LINE at 1-877-420-6461.
Deacon Gannon is the president and CEO of Catholic Senior Services in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Category: From Age to Age