Caring for the elderly: Faith based nursing facility discovers compassion

Even a little compassion can have a huge impact on the mental and physical well-being of those around us. Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Squaredpixels

LOS ALTOS, Ca, October 27, 2013 – The group gathered in the District Attorney’s conference room included representatives from 27 county agencies including Elder Protective Services, the Sheriff’s department, Health and Human Services and the County Coroner, as well as a handful of hospital administrators, doctors and nurses. Collectively they constitute an organization charged with making sure the elderly are well cared for, particularly at the end of their life.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how they might do this better.


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The medical examiner spoke first. Her presentation included image after image of those who had suffered severely from bedsores and other preventable conditions at a variety of nursing homes and hospitals. When she came to the last slide she paused and with tears in her eyes she said, “You would never see this at Oak Knoll or at any of its sister facilities around the country,” a reference to a local nursing home she had visited that provides faith-based, non-medical nursing care. (Due to confidentiality requirements, the name of the facility has been changed.)

A skin specialist from one of the state’s largest health care systems spoke next. Three times during her presentation on the treatment of bedsores she referred to the avoidance of this condition and the quality of care provided by the staff at Oak Knoll, noting that this was accomplished “without the use of any medical treatment.”

Finally, it was time to hear from a representative from Oak Knoll.

She began by making it clear that although her facility doesn’t provide medical care in the conventional sense of the term, she has nothing but respect and appreciation for those working in that profession. She went on to explain that her staff had been thoroughly trained in taking care of their patients’ physical needs – feeding, bathing, bandaging, getting in and out of bed and so forth – but that a significant portion of their work focused on maintaining the spiritually uplifted mental environment they knew was conducive to health and healing.


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Asked by one of the nurses if those coming to Oak Knoll with pre-existing bedsores had ever recovered and, if so, how this was achieved, she replied, “With prayer and continued proper care.”

She also noted that the treatment provided at Oak Knoll is “patient-assisted,” meaning that not just staff members but the patients themselves are involved with this prayer-based, compassion-centered approach to healing.

Although it’s unlikely any of the doctors or nurses listening to this presentation will be starting their own faith-based nursing facilities (although that would make for a good follow up column), there was broad consensus that compassion is key when it comes to meeting the needs of patients at any age – an aspect of treatment, it was made clear by Oak Knoll’s example, that could be incorporated easily and even immediately into their individual practices.

All too often, though, it would seem that compassion – as willing as we may be to show it and as useful and effective as it can be in treating the sick – is in short supply, especially in light of the limited amount of time most doctors and nurses have to spend with their patients. Here again, though, the folks at Oak Knoll may be onto something with their conviction that compassion – including the time and the energy to express it – isn’t a humanly contrived emotion but a divinely inspired, divinely supported, frame of mind.

They have also figured out that it doesn’t take a lot of compassion to have a huge impact on the mental and physical well-being of everyone around them, including their patients.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.


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Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson has been published and featured in numerous newspapers, online publications, and radio talk programs. He speaks from years of experience in the mind-body field, especially as it relates to health. In addition, he is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California and is a self-employed Christian Science practitioner. He’s also a huge baseball fan and loves riding his bike in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. You can find him at www.norcalcs.org.

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