HMA Today – Fall 2013

This article by an HMA member illustrates the power of bringing together various members of a congregation, including pastoral/spiritual leaders, to offer caring whole-person support for congregational members.

We’d love to hear and share your health ministry story, from your Spiritual Leader, Program Leader, Health Minister, and/or Faith Community Nurse perspective. Feel free to contact Michelle Randall, HMA office manager, who will connect you with the appropriate Director.
Joan Hurlock, RN, EdD, FCN
HMA Member

Within the context of the Health Ministry of Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Carmichael, California, and based on reflections of my personal experience as Caregiver for my late husband, Paul, I developed a heightened awareness of many issues impacting the lives of Caregivers. At a time when they look for strength and support for their spiritual selves, they frequently find the intensity of their roles as Caregivers distancing themselves from their church. They may perceive being left out, since for many Caregivers, attentions are focused on the medical and physical care needs of the loved ones receiving their care. As a result, I recognized a need to support those who give so much of themselves. Coming alongside and actively listening to Caregivers on their care-giving journeys may be a critical factor in determining whether they become ill themselves or are able to sustain their wholeness.

Our program, the Faith-based Model Caregiver Support Program, is supported by two grants. The first came from Presbytarian Women, an organization of the Sacramento Presbytery, and the second, over a three year period, is from the Hilda V. Thompson Medical Ministry Fund of the Synod of the Pacific. These grants allow us to employ a consultant, Taryn Benson, MHA, with education, expertise and connections in care-giving. She provides input, contributes resources, develops the program and works in collaboration with our Program Team consisting of Ivan Herman, Associate Pastor; Joan Hurlock, Faith Community Nurse; Rebecca Cameron, Psychologist, Professor California State University Sacramento and Elder; Len Tozier, Stephen Ministry Leader; and Barbara Kerschner Graduate Student in gerontology and psychology. Additionally, program assessment and evaluation methods are provided by Rebecca Cameron and Barbara Kerschner. The Team meets frequently to conceptualize, plan and produce the program materials.

We actively recruit Care Visitors from the congregation, and connect each with a Caregiver who was selected by the pastor. The Care Visitor and Caregiver meet monthly for one-hour over a twelve month period of time. The Team provides a five-hour training for the Care Visitors so they become (a) sensitive to care-giving issues; (b) able to offer prayer and encouragement; and (c) more skilled in using open-ended questions, affirmation, and reflective listening. This content was selected in order to help empower our Caregivers to explore options and find solutions in their care-giving journeys. (Care Visitors are not professional counselors.)

The program’s goals are to help Caregivers (a) feel valued, listened to and heard; (b) problem-solve by accessing church and community resources; (c) strengthen connections with the church; (d) enhance their wholeness; and, (e) feel supported by someone who actively cares. Church resources, including encouragement and joint prayer, are integral to the visits. Maintaining confidentiality is vitally important. Members of the Program Team are available to our Care Visitors throughout the program and the consultant and Program Team contribute to monthly support sessions that address the types of issues that arise, as well as provide ongoing training and resources.

We are currently in the first year of this new Faith-based Model Caregiver Support Program. This unique program is designed to be evidence based. We are monitoring its effectiveness through ongoing evaluation and making modifications as needed. Our plans for its third year, 2015, include offering training to expand the program into other settings. Throughout the process, we will be glad to share measurable results. We are excited to see the impact this ministry has on Caregivers in our congregations.