Reflections From A Wittenberg Coffee Shop-Visiting a Senior and Health Care Center

I went to what used to be called in German an Altenheim, meaning a home for those who are old.  The term is not used much anymore because of a change in health care procedures. It is like in the United State because we no longer use the term nursing home we use the term health care center.  In Germany, instead of Altenheim, they use the term senior and health care center.

Since I work in a health care facility in the United States, I wanted to spend the morning at a senior and health care facility in

Pastor Kristin Jahn

Pastor Kristin Jahn

Wittenberg.  I had wanted to get out to see and experience the facility as part of my continued growth as a chaplain, and, because I like to learn what others are doing.  So, I got on my bike and I went with Pastor Kristin Jahn, one of the pastors at St. Mary’s Town Church-Wittenberg, as she journeyed to lead the devotions at Lerchenberg Senior Care and Health Care Center in Wittenberg.  She, too, rode a bike with all of her robes and equipment securely fitted to the back of the bike.

The facility is owned by the City of Wittenberg and has a capacity for 280 residents in four buildings in a lovely park


and garden setting.  Two hundred forty residents live in single, private, rooms and forty either share a room or a suite.  German law prescribes that each person has a right to a certain amount of square footage so the rooms are very large, bright and sunny.

Because it is a city-owned facility there are no staff chaplains, leaving spiritual care for the pastors of the various churches in Wittenberg.  Pastor Jahn comes once each month with a team of lay volunteers who help gather residents, get the room ready, set the altar and take care of any other preparations.  The worship service was almost identical to what we do at St. Anthony.  Pastor Jahn had made a song book and worship book in larger print so that residents could participate.  Residents joined in praying the Psalms and in singing the hymns.  The service included The Apostle’s Creed and The Lord’s Prayer.  So much was similar.  The volunteers helped find pages and helped residents find what was being read.  There were residents who would cry out and volunteers who would rub their hand.

They used open flamed candles (a surprise to me) to observe birthdays and to have a time of remembrance for residents who have died in the past month.  No one was on oxygen and the room was well separated from resident rooms so there was really no problem.

As the residents were brought into the room I was able to greet each one and say just a few words.  My German was just not good enough to carry on much of a conversation.  One man who came to the service was 90 years old and he really wanted to tell me about his trip to the United States.  He spoke enough English that we were able to communicate.  He had visited Florida, San Francisco, Las Vegas and other places and he was very excited to tell me about it in English.  He told me that he had been a tailor when he was working.

There are 240 private rooms.  Bright and sunny with lots of room.

There are 240 private rooms. Bright and sunny with lots of room.

Each room has a private shower and bathroom.

Each room has a private shower and bathroom.

Following the worship service I was given a tour of the facility by Director Matthias Henschel.  I saw that each of the nursing units had a design theme based upon different professions.  For example, one floor focused upon a shoe maker and the decor carried out the theme.  Each unit has its own kitchen where meals are freshly m

Private rooms have lots of space and sun.

Private rooms have lots of space and sun.

ade and served and each unit has an activity area that is designed to keep residents involved and engaged thereby enriching their lives.
I was surprised to learn (and, I hope I have understood correctly) that there is no specific living area for dementia residents.  Those with dementia live in the regular areas with other residents and there are no secured areas.  Those who might wander are given a wander guard so that they can be monitored.  There is a special area for life enrichment for those with dementia that has two rooms especially equipped for this purpose.  This area is also staffed with specialists who can work with the residents.

I tried to learn how this was paid for.  Again, if I understood correctly, each resident is responsible for payment.  They use their pension and/or insurance plans to cover the cost.  As the level of care increases so do the costs.  If the resident does not have the money, the family is legally responsible for paying the bills.

I was very impressed with this facility.  It reminded me a great deal of St. Anthony/Chandler and I learned that there is not a great deal of difference between German care of the elderly and sick and what we do in America.

This was a great morning.  More to come….

Steve at the entrance to Lechenberg.

Steve at the entrance to Lerchenberg.

Beautiful park like area.

Beautiful park like area.

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