Gerontological nurses have another partner to assist them in providing whole-person health within a primary preventative health-care system: the parish nurse/ health minister.
This is a continuation of healing practices that date back to the ancient Greek, Roman, Christian, Muslim, and Native American times.
In the congregational setting, nurses are working with a large older adult membership. Thus, there is a great need to understand the needs of the aging members of the congregation. Gerontological nursing theories and practices are applicable in this nonhealth setting.
Gerontological nurses can assist nurses in congregational settings. These nurses often visit residents in various healthcare settings, and they consult with facility nurses to assist residents in making a rapid return to their home and community. Therefore, parish nurses/health ministers become a bridge between health-care settings and the home and community.
Many health-care facilities have pastoral care departments. Parish nurses/ health ministers can work cooperatively with these departments to assist parishioners to return to the highest level of health possible, or to assist them in dying with peace and dignity. The nurses work closely with other health-care professionals, family members, friends, other congregation members, and the clergy staff to ensure that caring, supportive ministrations are carried out.
Congregational nurses are in unique positions to bring medicine and religion together in establishing relationships that mend physical, psychological, and spiritual brokenness. They provide an "intentional ministry" focused on prevention of emotional, physical, or spiritual impairment and assistance in restoring one's balance of body, mind, and spirit.
Larson (1991) states that "there is more to health than not being sick." He describes the interrelationships between mind and body that not only reduce stress but facilitate wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. The parish nurse/health minister works toward assisting individuals to overcome destructive lifestyles and negative relationships that prevent them from having wholeperson health.
Parish nurses/health ministers can be role models in demonstrating health and self-healing through love and caring. Siegel (1990) states that "love and peace of mind do protect us." We know that when our bodies (physical, emotional, and spiritual) are in harmony, our built-in immune system is highly effective in warding off germs and illness. Thus, nurses can be instrumental in providing information, suggestions, support, and counseling that will enhance wholeperson well-being.
Research has shown that older adults are receptive to learning about nutrition, resting, exercise, meditation and prayer, use of medications, socialization, and developing techniques to adjust to changing life situations. Healthy practices can lead to highlevel wellness, or at least improve the level of wellness. When destructive behaviors are eliminated, one can move toward hope, peace, and comfort.
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