by Rick Nash
For weeks now, the residents at the nursing home where I have worked for the past six years have been on lockdown. All residents must stay in their rooms, and no one is allowed to come in except essential medical and support staff. The danger of an outbreak of the coronavirus in a contained community of high-risk individuals is just too great. In addition, our daily Mass has been discontinued, and so has distribution of Holy Communion to residents. If I visit a resident, I can only stand in the doorway and yell a word of encouragement, blessing, or short prayer.
Being in my late 60s myself, and having high-risk family members at home, I had to find another way. My prayers and broadcasts of Spiritual Communion over our closed-circuit television system are appreciated, but our 100-plus residents need more.
That is why, for the past month, I have been calling every resident on the phone at l
east once per week, usually about 20-25 calls per day. My calls are usually done after lunch from about 1-3 p.m., which seems to be a time when residents are available. I listen to them talk about their frustrations, fears, loneliness, and complaints, as well as the acceptance and peace they have found in their souls.
In fact, some of our residents seem to prefer talking to me over the phone and look forward to my regular calls. Perhaps this is because it gives them a sense of power to ramble on or cut it short. Last week, for instance, I spoke at length with a resident who is really hurting from shingles. She is so uncomfortable, but she felt better being able to talk about her illness and her feelings.
Most of my conversations are short and to the point, but each one ends with a prayer and a sincere blessing of gratitude from both resident and chaplain. We are all in this together, and only our faith in God will see us through.
Rick Nash is a chaplain at St. Benedict Nursing and Rehabilitation in Niles, IL.