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Faith flourishes in nursing home

Staff writer

When people move from living independently to a long-term care facility, their world changes as they leave one community and join another.

Something they bring with them is their religious faith, and residents at St. Luke Living Center find activities and support that help to keep faith a vital part of their lives.

“I think it’s a big part of accepting and moving into the facility and adjusting to their life here,” St. Luke Living Center Director of Aging Services Janet Herzet said.

Glancing into residents’ rooms on a walk down the hallway, one sees visible signs of faith in many rooms, from crosses and religious pictures on walls, to Bibles on nightstands or in residents’ hands.

“I try to read a little bit every day, and I keep on praying,” resident Ivanlee Timm said.

“When residents come into the facility, we do an assessment to see what it is we can do to help them meet their needs,” Herzet said.

Herzet described some of the faith-based activities available to residents.

“We have a prayer group that meets during the week, and we do a hymn sing on Wednesdays. It’s very well attended,” Herzet said. “Some of the churches come in and do Communion during the week.”

A church service is conducted Sunday afternoons, through a long-standing partnership with the Marion Ministerial Alliance. The Rev. Faye Wagner of Valley United Methodist Church had her turn in the chapel Sunday.

“It’s all about keeping them connected to the body of Christ, in our sermons, with what we do together in the service,” Wagner said.

“The only way they’re going to hear that is if the pastors come out and worship with them,” Wagner said.

While Wagner paces her sermons to accommodate the needs of her listeners, she strives to provide a complete worship experience.

“They need to feel like they’re at worship. It’s all about making it as normal a worship service as I can,” Wagner said.

Timm attends the services regularly, and doesn’t mind having different pastors rotate through.

“A lot of us have different faiths,” Timm said. “I don’t care what denomination they are, as long as they believe in God.”

Keeping the faith is second-nature for Ruth Viets, a three-year resident at the living center whose husband, Don, and father were both Methodist ministers.

“I lived my whole life in a Methodist parsonage,” Viets said.

Viets described the challenges of her transition to group living.

“I lost my Don three years ago. I lost my home. We had a sale of everything in the house. I lost my car, so no way to get around, and my brother died,” Viets said.

“I don’t believe I could have made it without my faith, without the realization the Lord was here with me every moment, even though I forget it,” Viets said. “There’s been a lot of adjustment, but through it all I read my scripture each morning. The Lord gave me wonderful peace.”

Faith is central to Viets’ active life style. She continues to attend Eastmoor Methodist Church, but also participates in Living Center service and hymm sing. She leads two Bible studies for groups from outside the center.

Viets was equally enthusiastic describing how faith is seen in informal, everyday life at the Living Center.

“When I go out first thing in the morning, the man across the hall has his Bible out and is reading it,” Viets said. “Pastors come on call. They’re terrific and we welcome them. People here like the Bill Gaither Group (a popular Southern gospel singing act), and they play records of theirs Saturday morning.”

Viets said other residents and staff come by her room to discuss Bible passages, and to share prayer requests.

“I think most of the people here have a faith that they don’t parade, but they have it, and they console each other whenever necessary,” Viets said. “There are 30 of us in here, and about half come to our religious things.”

Faith provides stability and continuity in a place where change in the center community happens often.

“We have turnover real fast — we lose people quite unexpectedly. Somebody that has been a part of something dies, so we have to regroup,” Viets said.

“I do a lot of praying here for people,” Viets said. “Sometimes they ask for prayer, sometimes they don’t, but you can pray and lift them up. I enjoy doing that.”

Last modified Feb. 15, 2012

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