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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Caregiving and "The Ministry of Presence"

The "Ministry of Presence" is the way a spiritual teacher I know recently described our visit to a friend from church who is staying in a nursing home. The physical presence of a caring friend, a hug, a hand squeeze, some listening, some eye contact and a bit of conversation, can have a healing and comforting effect. Whether you are just sitting nearby, keeping a quiet vigil, or are sharing conversation, simply providing your presence is a way of ministering to others who are ill or injured. Our presence speaks for us, saying, "I care. You're not alone. I'm here for you. You're important to me."

Often people excuse themselves from visiting those who are ill by saying "I wouldn't know what to do or say." But, that's not important. The warmth of a genuinely caring person who simply arrives to provide his or her presence can bring an uplift to someone's day.

Brilliant conversation, exciting news, or special nursing skills are not needed to provide the healing benefits of your presence. Just being yourself and providing the "Ministry of Presence" by a gentle hug, a hand squeeze, some listening, some sharing and eye contact will make a difference. The isolation that people experience when they are ill or injured, or in frail health, is a form of suffering that is eased by a visit from someone who cares.If a relative or friend has cognitive impairment, as with dementia or Alzheimer's, the presence of a caring person who listens, establishes eye contact, and bonds is a healing presence.

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