Many congregations have a Lay Pastoral Care Team (or Pastoral Visitors) who make regular contact with members who are no longer able to be as active as they once were. They may make personal visits, telephone calls, remember birthdays and celebrate other important holidays. They also check on people in the event of natural disasters or if they learn of a health concern. And they are the clergyperson’s eyes and ears, helping clergy know when it is urgent for them visit someone who may need professional care.
Training is often provided by clergy or the diocese can schedule such training on request (contact Mary Ann Mello at the diocesan office). Team members can also benefit by reading and discussing books such as the ones listed below.
Pastoral Care to the Aged: A Handbook for Visitors by Neville Kirkwood is a nuts-and-bolts guide to visiting the elderly in a variety of settings, to offer pastoral care and spiritual comfort. Kirkwood offers readers a thorough overview of the aging process, including the challenges of dementia and a look at the unique emotional and spiritual needs of the elderly. This book offers help to those who want to make visits to the elderly more meaningful.
In A Hospital Visitor’s Handbook: The Do’s and Don’ts of Hospital Visitation Neville Kirkwood, a chaplain with many years’ experience, offers practical guidelines to make a hospital visit an experience that strengthens the bonds of friendship while nurturing the patient’s spiritual health. Included are tips on respecting the patient’s needs and moods, communicating effectively, following hospital protocol, and praying for—and with—those who are confined to the hospital.
Hospital Handbook: A Practical Guide to Hospital Visitation by Lawrence D. Reimer and James T. Wagner offers advice and practical information on how to understand the hospital’s structure, gain access to its systems, and establish a rapport with staff, as well as explanations of hospital protocol and etiquette. The authors also explore the emotional and spiritual aspects of illness, and specific information on the needs of particular kinds of patients, including children, adolescents, substance abusers, plus AIDs, psychiatrics, and terminally ill patients. Resources for prayer, scripture readings, and sacraments are included.