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Parish Health in Practice: a Ministry for Health and Wellness

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Parish Health Ministry

At Episcopal Retirement Homes, we’re always trying to put our faith and ideals into practice in the community.  The Parish Health Ministry (PHM) has been one of the ways we’ve been able to do that.

We’re forming true partnerships and empowering congregations within their community.

When a church works with us to implement Parish Health Ministry in their congregation and community, it isn’t an ERH program.

It’s a church ministry, run by members of the congregation who assess the needs and talents of the parishioners to determine what adult wellness or senior care programs will be the most beneficial. We just coordinate any necessary training.

“Our Parish Health Ministry staff are the teachers, and they teach the volunteers in each congregation how to carry out these adult wellness programs,” says Kathy Ison Vice President of Affordable Living and In-Home Services at ERH.

We continue to provide support after initial training— we offer continuing education workshops and send out an information-packed email newsletter with plenty of resources— but it’s important that ERH isn’t actually running the programs.

“I’ve seen that patients are much more likely to respond and accept help if it’s [coming from] a nurse from their own church,” says says Rose Lindeman, an LPN and program coordinator.

Through Parish Health Ministry, churches are able to implement a variety of adult wellness programs and health initiatives within their congregations that are revolutionizing both ministry and healthcare.

PHM works with a church to build a ministry for health and wellness

We’re transforming how churches and communities see the ministry of health and senior care.

Because each program is run by individual churches, every Parish Health Ministry program is different.

At the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park, Betsy Babb has been ministering to her congregation as a parish nurse since 1999. In her service to Church of the Redeemer, Babb has helped set up several different health and senior care ministries within her church, including those that knit prayer shawls, visit the homebound and offer transportation to church or appointments.

As a liaison for Main Dish, Babb and other parish nurses provide meals for church members who are going through major changes and life events such as illness or a death in the family.

Parish nurses at Church of the Redeemer are advocates, not caregivers, so Babb doesn’t administer medical care, but she will often make home visits to see how a parishioner who has recently been discharged from the hospital is doing. She has also been asked to attend the family care conferences that are held before a hospital discharge in order to help family members interpret the doctor’s instructions.

She spends the most time trying to empower her congregation to take an active role in their own healthcare, referring people to any resources they might need, from counseling to senior care services to medication management.

She also helps organize blood pressure screenings (led by a parishioner who is a retired physician) and other events as needed by the congregation. And that’s the key—“as needed by the congregation.”

Each PHM program knows its congregation and is ready to meet the needs of parishioners even before they arise.

You won’t find all of these programs at every PHM partner church, and there are programs at other churches that you won’t find at Redeemer.

Parish Health brings healthcare where it is most needed.

The small town of Martins Ferry, a small Ohio community across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia, faces a lot of challenges.

The unemployment rate in Martins Ferry is some of the highest in the state, and when that’s combined with a tough economy, poverty becomes almost standard.

That’s why local churches have banded together to bring Parish Health Ministry to their community.

Mary Ellyn Pusz, a local R.N., is also a PHM Program Coordinator and serves as the faith community nurse for a number of small congregations around Martins Ferry, organizing everything from diabetes, blood pressure and other personal health screenings to referrals.

 She works out of Our Daily Bread, a food pantry, formed by that same consortium of churches, to provide food for the poor. Through PHM, Martins Ferry churches have been able to carry on a dynamic ministry for health and wellness in their community.

Bryan Reynolds
June 03, 2013
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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