Caregivers working in an institutional setting have a formidable task. They provide front
line daily care for elderly and others residing in extended care facilities. Generally, their wages
are low and their task often seems thankless. Yet, to the recipient of their care, the caregiver is
the one consistent and frequent presence in their day. In some cases, the caregiver is the single
most important person in their life.
My observations of caregivers and the quality of their work and environment has been
both personal and professional. My mother resided in a nursing home for seven years before she
died. In addition, I provided chaplaincy to several nursing home facilities in connection with my
hospice ministry. As a result, I've come to recognize a pastoral need and concern regarding the
quality of care given by front line healthcare workers in extended care facilities.
The problem is the question of how to motivate caregivers to provide quality care which
is reflected in an atmosphere of mutual love and relationship between the worker and the resident
of the facility. Further, the concern involves the question of how to speak to the spiritual nature
of the caregiver in order to create a new perspective of reality between him/her and the resident.
In other words, the pastoral challenge is the task of empowering caregivers in such a way that
they will experience a change of heart, a metanoia, about the work they perform and the
relationship they develop with the people they care for; or to whom they minister.