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010elEach day in our communities and neighborhoods, there are people who are lonely and forgotten. It is not uncommon for a senior to be in a nursing facility or group home and have no one to oversee see their care.

About ten years ago I read about an opportunity for volunteers to be “guardians” for people in need. CASS (Cincinnati Area Senior Services) is a nonprofit agency committed to meeting the needs of seniors. CASS recruits, trains and oversees the work of individuals who serve as guardians for seniors. These guardians are appointed by the Hamilton County Probate Court and are empowered to make medical and end-of-life decisions for those assigned to their care. These individuals are referred to as “Wards”. Since I have a background in Pastoral Care, I thought this would be an area where I could bring the “healing presence of Jesus” to those who are alone and in need of care.

Here is a “snapshot” of some of the individuals I have had the blessing and privilege to serve… (names have been changed)

011elAnthony Frederick Augustus SandysSarah was an elderly woman who would usually sit in the hallway of the nursing home observing the people around her.  I soon discovered that she enjoyed flowers, especially roses. I would bring in flower books from the library and we would enjoy looking at the floral pictures together. When the weather was warmer, we would go outside into the courtyard where flowers and vegetables were planted.

Douglas was a man about my age. He was divorced and his sons had nothing to do with him. He was friendly and we had many conversations about where he had worked. He was proud that he had helped build the Cincinnati Red’s stadium. He had some health issues and on occasion, I would find myself in the Emergency Room with him. He was well liked and had a special “lady friend” at the nursing home. He died very unexpectedly. I was not prepared for that reality nor was the nursing staff. As his guardian, I made his funeral arrangements. I attempted to make contact with his family members with multiple phone calls; but received no response. I packed up his personal belongings including his pictures. I finally sent a letter to his son asking if the family wanted his photos. His ex-wife came for the pictures.  Sadly, Douglas died without ever reconciling with his sons. He had no idea what caused the separation. There are so many families that are broken and in need of reconciliation.

Rose was a patient at a hospital. The social service department recommended that she be considered for a guardian. They had determined that she was “alone” and was no longer able to make decisions for herself. Rose was not happy about being placed in a care facility. She had been a professional woman. She was determined she would find a job and leave. Initially, she did not welcome my visits; yet over time she became more peaceful with her situation. As her health declined, Hospice was called. She died peacefully as I prayed Psalm 23 for her. I conducted her memorial service at the nursing home.

4elCurrently, I have three Wards. I visit with them several times a month. Nancy does not remember me from one visit to another. She has a form of alcohol dementia. Art has a history of being homeless and a history of alcohol use. At one time, he worked in Alaska. Art is always happy to see me. He likes it when I bring him candy and soda.  He never misses a “smoke break”. Andy is wheelchair bound. His parents are elderly and asked that a guardian be appointed. They visit when they are able but they have their own health issue. Andy loves Elvis. He calls everyone “honey” and is well liked by the staff and residents.

Each person’s story is unique. All have welcomed a friendly visit and the care and support I provide. Each of my Wards’ have been/or are broken and wounded in some way. Yet, each is a beloved child of God.

 By Sister June Casterton, SFP

Published: July 24, 2017