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Know What You’re Walking Into

You wouldn’t embark on a mission trip to Thailand or Yuganda without spending some time in preparation. You would make sure your passport was up to date and  that you had all the recommended vaccinations and medications. You would also spend time learning the culture of where you’re headed, understanding social customs and expected behaviors so that you are setting up yourself and your mission trip for success. 

The same is true of going into a nursing home. It really is a different culture. You need to understand the language of long-term care, the way facilities and their staff operate, and the behaviors of the residents you might encounter.

A few things to know before going to a nursing home…

This short video is great for people who have no nursing home experience. It’s also a good refresher for people who are seasoned pros!

First, let’s talk about the staff of a nursing home.  Many times we hear people refer to pretty much everyone who works with residents as a :nurse”, but in reality, there aren’t many registered nurses in nursing homes. Federal law only requires one registered nurse be on site eight hours a day. It costs more to employ registered nurses, so many care homes employ other types of direct caregivers.

Keep in mind that these terms may vary slightly from facility to facility. Also be sure to visit our FAQ page to learn the difference between the various types of long-term care. This too is important because people  often use the word “nursing home” to imply any type of care home, and there are important differences in the types of facilities.

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s)- majority of folks providing direct care
  • Med Tech- person who distributes medications
  • Director of Nursing- over all the nursing staff
  • Administrator- This person must hold a license to operate a nursing home
  • Activities Director- Person who plans and implements all social activities for residents.  This is the person you want to get to know first!
  • Social Worker
  • Dietician/Food Services Coordinator
  • Housekeeping/Laundry Coordinator
  • Maintenance/Facilities Staff
  • Various Office Personnel- folks who handle admissions, HR, billing, etc.

One of the easiest and best things you can do with residents is to sing! It is amazing to see how residents, particularly those with dementia, come alive when they sing familiar songs, and especially the hymns they grew up with in church. But don’t worry- you don’t have to be a great singer and you don’t have to play an instrument. We have had success with cds that have voices leading the hymns; we just bring along your cd player, gather a few residents, and pop in the cd! You can also get “hymnals” that have large printed words for the hymns on the cd. 

We’ve used all of the resources above and have found them to be very helpful. We realize that not every church will align with every point of theology on all of these sites, so please peruse them and choose the resources that work for you.