1. What got you thinking about using a tablet when you made pastoral calls on elderly people?
First of all we all have different gifts as pastors, teachers and students. I learn visually and teach using visuals. The laptop computer and the projector was an answer to my prayers. But to take a laptop along on a shut-in or hospital call wasn’t convenient. A tablet because of its size and the memory it has is the answer. A tablet can be used with the people in the hospital, the young or elderly people, especially individuals with dementia or Alzheimers.
2. What kind of tablet did you use?
Because of a generous gift I was provided with a Samsung, Model SM-T560NU, Galaxy Tablet. Android operating system. Sometimes I attached a separate speaker to improve the sound for elderly ears.
3. Was the tablet easy to use? what were the challenges with learning how to use it?
I had to learn how to use a tablet. Many people use tablets to play games, watch movies and whatever. For me it wasn’t easy to use; I needed help to learn it. The screen was very touch sensitive — just touching it by accident would stop or change what I wanted the person to watch. However, I feel the potential is there for a pastor or layperson to use the tablet on a visit with the elderly or person young or old in the hospital.
4. What did you put on it, to use with those you called on? Where did you get the materials you used?
In my experience I have found that people with dementia or Alzheimer’s sometimes need a memory trigger. It might be a picture of a Bible story, or a familiar hymn that they learned in their youth. The simple song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” brings memories back. Pictures and hymns can be downloaded to the tablet and played for the person. Maybe just one verse of a hymn is needed.
Following are some links: This Lutheran Quartet has recorded a number of Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal. I use a lot of these hymns for my Bible Class at KingsPath Senior Living, Belle Plane and Highland Regency House, New Ulm. Both places are managed by The Lutheran Home, Belle Plaine, MN.
I have also made a number of YouTube videos that others can use. I use a lot of these in my Bible Class.
I have also made a number of Power Point presentations where I insert an MP3 file of a choir singing or an organ playing and the words of the hymn are shown on the tablet. People can either sing along or just follow along with the words of the hymn.
Chris Dreisbach has composed and performed many good Christian songs that are fun and useful to use.
Bible Story Pictures can also help bring back memories — old Sunday School pictures and Bible History pictures. There are a lot of free pictures that you can find if you Google for them. [An earlier GOWM conference contains a wealth of free Bible visuals.]
5. When you used the tablet with people, what did you do?
I used the tablet with a person who was in hospice care. I asked her if she had a hymn she wanted to hear. She said, “I am but a Stranger here, Heaven is my Home.” I was able to play it for her. I held the tablet so she could watch the words of the hymn, with pictures in the background and the words being sung on the screen. I also used a small speaker hooked up to the tablet so the sound was better. Heaven is now her home.
I ministered to a member who had dementia. She didn’t remember anything. She didn’t know who I was and I had been her pastor for years. I would show her a picture of the church and she would stop talking gibberish and then I would show her a picture of Jesus on the cross and for a few seconds she was back, sometimes even enough so that I could give her the Lord’s Supper. She could confess her sins and receive absolution. Hymns and pictures can trigger memories.
6. What did not work as well as you hoped? Why not, do you think?
The tablet I use is very touchy. I have to be careful that I don’t touch the screen when I am holding it to be viewed so that the presentation doesn’t stop or change. But I still feel the potential is there for a pastor or lay visitor to use a tablet to bring the comfort of the Gospel to those who are suffering.
7. Any suggestions to someone else for using tablets for this demographic? What to do, what not to do?
Give it a try. Use this gift of technology for Kingdom Work. Don’t overdo it however. Know when to use it and when not to use it. Don’t overwhelm the person. Be gentle and humble in bringing the message of Jesus to those who need it.
Pastor Roger E. Woller emeritus
Chaplain at KingsPath Senior Living , Belle Plaine, MN.
And Highland Regency House, New Ulm, MN.
Both managed by The Lutheran Home, Belle Plaine, MN.
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