Loving the Vulnerable on Thanksgiving

What vulnerable populations come to your mind on Thanksgiving?

The first one that comes to mind is homeless people.  We concentrate our efforts on food drives and serving Thanksgiving dinners to meet their needs.  We also might run coat and mitten drives to help keep them warm.  Here, in New Haven, CT, young people coordinated a blanket drive for the homeless!  We do all of this so these people feel cared for by their community…not forgotten and loved by someone.

But there are others who are vulnerable in body, mind, and spirit, especially during the holiday season, who are also in need of our care, love, and concern.  I think of Native Americans, people who are grieving the loss of loved ones, socially isolated, the unemployed and underemployed, diabetics, obese and overweight people, and older adults.  Are there others that come to your mind?

There are many ways that we can meet the needs of vulnerable people in our communities, and there are many resources out there to help us do that.  I will share some here, and please share anything that you do or resources that you know of in the comments below.

Keep reading for more on how to love the vulnerable on Thanksgiving!

Licensed photo courtesy Sharon

Licensed photo courtesy Sharon

Native Americans

A list of Native American Community Health Resources is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.

The Native American Cancer Education for Survivors uses a unique “Quality of Life Tree” to share information and resources for Native American’s with cancer about “major quality of life areas, Spirituality, Communication, Treatment, Clinical trials, Health Information, Treatment side effects, More health problems (also called “co-morbidities” (diabetes and cancer; arthritis and cancer), and Help & Support”.

See article below on Educating Vulnerable Populations About Diabetes.

Grieving the Loss of Loved Ones

GriefShare, a ministry of Church Initiative, helps people survive the holidays with local support groups (I found two in CT this December.), many articles online about healing, and a daily email service (free).  Church Initiative also ministers to the unique needs of divorced people during the holidays through DivorceCare.

Thanksgiving Woes: Anxiety, Depression by U.S. News and World Report discusses this topic; you are not alone!

WebMD provides 25 Ways to Find Joy and Balance During the Holidays with some down to earth and practical suggestions that you can use in your day to day life.

 Socially Isolated

The AARP Foundation strives to reconnect those in social isolation with education and research on the health effects of social isolation, and programs to reduce isolation.

Does your church offer support groups or special healing services for grief during the holidays?

Diabetics, Obese, & Overweight

Educating Vulnerable Populations About Diabetes provides strategies to over come barriers to care.

…diabetes health risks were not created equally, as the disease disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities…

But truly educating vulnerable groups is not as easy as handing a patient a brochure and shuffling them out the door. These groups face a number of barriers that can prevent them from getting the care and treatment that they need, so practitioners should take a multi-pronged approach when it comes to diabetes education.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Diabetes from a Parish Nurse Perspective and Keeping It Healthy on Thanksgiving share my thoughts and resources for these populations.

Homeless, Unemployed, Underemployed, & Low Income

Greater New Haven Holiday Cheer posts current ways to help others such as active Food Drives, Toy Drives, Meals, Fundraisers, Coat Drives, and Boot Drives.  You can share your event with them and it will be listed too.

Platform to Employment, developed by The WorkPlace, provides a 5 week program for CT long term unemployed people that includes “skills assessment, career readiness workshops, employee assistance programs, coaching and more.”

Platform to Employment (P2E) helps the long-term unemployed return to work and Connecticut employers address the need to find skilled workers. P2E will be offered statewide in Connecticut with classes held in Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Haven, Hartford and the Norwich/New London areas.

211 is the ULTIMATE of all health and human services resources in CT from the United Way of CT! A list of shelters is here, and warming centers will be posted here.

United Way 2-1-1 is your one-stop connection to the local services you need, from utility assistance, food, housing, child care, after school programs, elder care, crisis intervention and much more. 2-1-1 is always ready to assist you find the help you need. Dial 2-1-1 or search online.

Older Adults

The CT Association of Area Agencies on Aging

The five Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) in CT are private, not-for-profit corporations established in CT in 1974 to provide leadership and resources to meet the needs of the rapidly growing elderly population.  The CT Association of Area Agencies on Aging (C4A) is a professional affiliation comprised of all five AAAs.

Area Agencies on Aging administer programs and services for frail elderly and caregivers.
1. Statewide Respite Care Program
2. National Family Caregiver Support Program
3. CHOICES Program (Information and Assistance)
4. CT Home Care Program for Elders (SWCAA and AASCC only)
5. Aging Resource Centers
6. Private care management is provided by some AAAs

In addition to these resources, the AOA also offers funding for programs that support older adults.  Currently the AOA of South Central CT offers monthly mini grants up to $5000 per grant.  This might be a way for you to fund a program geared toward older adults in your faith community.

Who Else is Vulnerable During the Holidays?

Besides these especially vulnerable people who come to my mind on Thanksgiving, I think of two othersYou and I!  None of us are impermeable to the stress, expectations, and memories of loss during the holidays, so it is important that we take the time to care for ourselves and to care for each other…to love each other.

Licensed photo courtesy  Johan Hansson

Licensed photo courtesy Johan Hansson

I read an article this week in American Nurse Today, “Synchronicity: Meeting Mother Teresa,” where Mother Teresa offers sage advice to the author, that I believe is most important for us to heed around our Thanksgiving tables.

“Look around. Do you know the names of your neighbors? Do you know what your neighbor needs?” she asked. “You aren’t asked to be kind to everyone, only to those around you. Love is practical and do-able, and always starts with the people nearest to you.”

This Thanksgiving, as you look around your table, take a moment to see the faces and the eyes looking back at you, the human being who is sitting next to or across from you.  Be present in your own self, so you can really be there with your friends and family…and maybe even new friends who are welcomed to eat with you for the first time this year.  Do you know what each person needs?  Is there a practical way that you can show each person kindness and love?

Licensed photo courtesy garlandcannon

Licensed photo courtesy garlandcannon

Showing our love doesn’t always come easy, but I know of at least five ways to try.  In The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman says we communicate our love for others with “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Receiving Gifts,” “Quality Time,” and “Physical Touch.”  Love isn’t just for lovers, it’s for singles, friends, and parents (of children, teens, and adults). The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children have enriched the way that I love my friends and family through practical advice and examples.

Mother Teresa suggests that to love others, we must first know what they need.  When considered through the lens of the nursing process, this certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? Do you know what you need if someone were to ask you?  How do you experience love from other people?

“Words of affirmation” is a great way to communicate love on Thanksgiving.  I am reminded of Pastor Susan Murtha’s sermon this past Sunday when she suggested a way to share words of appreciation on Thanksgiving.  Her family’s Thanksgiving grace tradition is to place each person’s name under a plate on the table before guests arrive, and when someone sits at that place setting, that person looks under the plate to see whose name they are responsible for that year.  Then, before sharing a meal together, they share words of appreciation with their person.  Each person is given time for personalized love and affection from a loved one, as they say to each other, “I appreciate that you…”  This is a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving through love and gratitude for each other!

Do you practice Thanksgiving traditions that make the day meaningful for you? Please share in the comments.

Licensed photo courtesy Dave

Licensed photo courtesy Dave

About courtholmes

Nurse Practitioner, Faith Community Nurse, Parish Nurse, Certified Wound Specialist, DNP Student at Quinnipiac University, Social Media Enthusiast... Passionate about integrating faith and health! CT Faith Community Nurses on Twitter @CTFCN

Posted on November 26, 2014, in Inspiration, Program Ideas, Resources and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Another population that I think of on Thanksgiving is the mentally ill. Mental illness can make Thanksgiving even harder to navigate through.


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