The Rev. Ken Weiss, of Williamsport, wants to make his post-pastoral career one of service to the elderly.
Weiss, who retired in February after 19 years as minister at the First Church of Christ Disciples, 1250 Almond St., will spend his time working as a patient advocate for seniors.
He calls his work “Caring Outreach.”
Weiss addressed the concerns of seniors at a recent United Churches of Lycoming County ecumenical luncheon.
“Doctors have their special language,” Weiss said. “Your generation isn’t used to being given anything. It’s embarrassing to say I can’t afford that medicine you prescribed no one says their dream come true is ‘I want to go into a nursing home.'”
After years of helping parishioners navigate the medical system, Weiss believes that many people need someone at their side who is knowledgeable about their individual case.
“Too many people end up in nursing homes that could be prevented,” Weiss said. “Your family physician can no longer really make the rounds of hospitals. The hospital doctors are wonderful, but don’t know the patient.
“I had a 96-year-old woman who was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured appendix,” he said. “She usually ran circles around me, but it took me being involved to convince (the doctors) that the last time she was in hospital was when she was in her 20s, and her treatment had to change.”
Though Caring Outreach is an advocacy program, and a job, there are elements of personal ministry in what Weiss sees his work to be.
“Seniors need special care for grief counseling, and they can have increased loneliness and isolation,” Weiss said. “A lot of friends have died or moved away. Even at 58, my wife and I have friends just a few years older who are retiring and moving south it’s amazing what a little bit of intervention there can do to a person’s overall psyche. Someone who otherwise might get really depressed and start medicating, maybe they didn’t need to get there.”
A few minutes of conversation can have benefits for seniors’ psyches and mental sharpness, Weiss said.
“The elderly tend to go down to the level and up to the level,” he said. “I had a parishioner who’d go weeks without having a conversation with another human being when she got somewhere where she talked with people she became much sharper.”
Delaying or preventing someone from entering a skilled care nursing home benefits the person and his or her financial affairs.
“It’s important and necessary that (nursing homes) are there when you need them, but it’s sad to see so many people go that route when it could have been prevented,” Weiss said. “I don’t care how much money you have, when you start having to pay $100,000 a year you won’t have much.”
Weiss also organizes bus trips and serves as a personal technology consultant. Those skills can help those he advocates for as well.
“For seniors, technology is a vital part of the care,” Weiss said. “If they can learn how to email, their lives are more connected, they’re happier I’ve found that time and time again with people, the doctor or social worker thought they’d done their job, and the person now had equipment or a contact they needed, but the person couldn’t figure out how to make the call.”
Weiss can be reached at 321-9555.