Ideas for Keeping the Homebound Connected
Often, homebound members would prefer to attend church in person but cannot do so due to the design of the building or a practice of the congregation that affects their health or safety. Rather than ask for a practice or building design change, they separate themselves or search for an alternate church to attend that can better accommodate their needs. Unfortunately, those with special needs regularly experience rejection when seeking accommodation from others. They often encounter resistance and skepticism regarding their need for requested adaptations. Below are some special needs requests you will likely receive and why they are needed.
A family-style restroom with a wide entrance door and a pathway inside wide enough for a powerchair to navigate and turn around. Most of this request is self-explanatory in that a wheelchair needs lots of space and a wide entrance frame. Family style is necessary if the person in the wheelchair is of the opposite sex from the caregiver and both need to be in the room together for care purposes.
Secluded Room with Closed Circuit Television – Especially during respiratory virus season, many who want to attend church cannot do so because they are at high risk for catching respiratory viruses if they sit with the rest of the congregation. Coughing and sneezing church members expel their viruses into the air. The virus can travel in any direction that the air circuit is flowing up to six feet or more. Assign a secluded room with a closed-circuit television to provide for their safety. A separate room allows them to spread out more and reduce cross-contamination.
Physical Contact – Most diseases spread through physical contact with contaminated objects. Therefore, an awareness of where and how physical touch occurs most often in your services can help reduce the risk of infection while in worship services.
- In common areas everyone uses, place hand sanitizing wipes and trash cans close to the most touched objects like doorknobs. Disposable gloves are an option but not encouraged since gloves become contaminated and spread germs to uncovered skin.
- Provide masks for those who wish to use them.
- Make an announcement such as, “We offer each of you a warm welcome to …… Thank you for worshiping with us. To keep all our family members healthy, we practice not shaking hands, hugging, or kissing in greeting due to the potential spread of infections. We do not wish to offend anyone with this practice, so I am explaining our reasoning and asking for your indulgence to benefit our immunocompromised and high-risk members. Instead, we greet each other with an elbow bump (demonstrate). Please join us now in greeting each other with a warm elbow bump to your neighbor.”
- Provide Communion in individual servings.
- Use Individually Wrapped Servings of Food provided at gatherings should be individually wrapped.
- Encourage those who are sick to stay home, including the ministers.
- Have cleaning staff use a disinfected cleanser that has a 10:1 concentration of bleach to effectively kill most viruses.
Sunday School Teach Preparation – The Sunday School teacher (religious instructor in other faiths) leads a large group of individuals, usually over an extended period. It stands to reason that some of them may have medical problems that could decline during one of those sessions. If an instructor is unaware that an individual has a medical condition or does not know how to handle it appropriately, significant time lost while waiting to decide what to do during an emergency may make a difference in life and death. Furthermore, if the person’s condition is a mental health one, inappropriate interventions on the part of the instructor will escalate the problem rather than resolve it.
If a person has a medical condition requiring periodic intervention, they notify their teacher. They should provide enough information so the teacher can recognize the signs and symptoms, pointing to the need for intervention. Their training should include the steps to take for intervention, how to tell if it’s effective, and whether to call 9-1-1 or if this is something that resolves itself.
Examples include but are not limited to the following:
Signs & Symptoms
Restlessness, getting up, singing the mantra, walking in a pattern, bouncing ball, spinning top, repetitive motions.
Leave them alone. Stemming (the repetitive actions listed above) soothes and comforts autistic individuals. It helps calm them. If you try to stop them, they may have an emotional breakdown.
Becomes sleepy, sweating, slurred speech, acts intoxicated
Needs glucose asap. If they have their glucometer, take blood sugar and find out how low. If they are still able to eat, get them to eat something. If unconscious, call 911 and try rubbing syrup sugar between teeth and gum
Weakness on one side, drooping mouth, difficulty smiling or speaking, arms not equally rising, and difficulty walking.
Pain radiating up the left arm or across the chest, shortness of breath, nausea, sense of impending doom,
Special Needs – There are as many special needs as special conditions, and I could not begin to list them here. My recommendation is to post on your website and in your bulletin something like this:
We welcome everyone at _____________. If you need unique mental or physical accommodation to help you in your worship experience, please contact __________ at ___________ 24 hours before your arrival to allow us time to arrange for your accommodation. We wish to make your worship experience with us a blessed one.
Examples of Special Accommodation Need Request
Amplification equipment in pews
Sign language interpreters
Closed caption on all media,
Provide written materials
Blind or sight-impaired
Print reader in the library,
Text to audio apps for materials
Large print materials,
Magnifier sheet/glass for pews,
Rollator or walker
Attach handrails throughout buildings, such as bathrooms and classrooms
Hold service in an alternate location that was accessible
If steps are an issue, relocate services to a flat surface with better access for wheelchairs
Secluded room to watch service
Mask or face shields and gloves for interactions with members
Promote participation in activities through Facetime or other interactive means
May not be able to sit close to others and may need to move across the room or under a desk or table
May need to stem (if autistic, they need to move to release their anxiety – bouncing balls, twirling objects, making mouth noises)
Change of clothing due to soiling or accompanied to the restroom