Every month, we invite one of our team members to sit down with us and tell us more about their journey to Elder Care Alliance, their role now, and their insights into older adult care. We are excited to share the expertise and knowledge of our many team members who every day come to work and help our residents live their best lives with us.
Today we welcome Reverend Rebecca Anderson, Mercy Retirement & Care Center Spiritual Care Director.
Us: Hi, Rev. Rebecca! Tell us a little about your background and role at Elder Care Alliance.
Rebecca: I completed graduate studies in biology, religion and pastoral care and am a lifelong nature enthusiast and artist. After a career as a biologist and director of education at a nature preservation nonprofit, I attended seminary. I’ve coordinated volunteers and activities for a drop-in mental health support center and led a church group’s involvement in a state-sponsored two-year “mental health first aid” training for tools to understand better and support those with mental health challenges. I’ve coordinated volunteers and provided bereavement care for hospice. I have also served as an ordained pastor, focusing on worship, pastoral care and the intersection of art and spirituality.
Prior to coming to Mercy in 2015, I completed five units of clinical pastoral education (professional chaplaincy training) in local hospitals. More recently, I earned a certificate in expressive art therapy. All these experiences contribute to my work as Mercy’s spiritual care director and my practice of spiritual care.
Us: How does your work benefit residents at Elder Care Alliance communities?
Rebecca: Perhaps most importantly, the other Mercy chaplains and I bring genuine care and concern for our residents’ and team members’ spiritual and emotional well-being. We provide spiritual care group programs and one-to-one support for assisted living, memory care and care center residents and staff.
Active, compassionate listening and a ministry of presence are among the tools we use that can be very helpful for our residents. I oversee the team and serve residents and staff directly. I hire, train, and supervise Mercy chaplains; handle most department administrative tasks; network with other spiritual care professionals; explore new program options, and collaborate as part of the chaplaincy team and with other directors to meet the spiritual care needs of residents and staff.
Us: Tell us more about a specific feature of your job or duties and what residents can expect to gain from it.
Rebecca: I have a strong commitment to interfaith spiritual care, which addresses what is meaningful to residents from many belief systems and traditions. I believe this honors and supports Mercy’s faith legacy, builds upon it and broadens the scope of spiritual care offered at Mercy (making it accessible for residents and staff from any background or belief system who may be seeking spiritual care here). My sincere interest in supporting the spiritual and religious needs of all residents creates opportunities for shared learning experiences which help grow and sustain a sense of community among our residents and team members.
Us: What is one of your favorite memories or experiences working at Elder Care Alliance?
Rebecca: Kneeling at the bedside of a dying resident in the Care Center whose family I had begun supporting as she declined. While I prayed for her to have a peaceful death, she rested, seemingly unaware. And then, as I was praying, I realized she had just taken her last breath and was at peace. It was a sacred moment. Being able to share that experience later with her brother and sisters was meaningful to us all. It was a gift to have been there with her in those last moments. I will never forget this experience.
Us: What is the greatest reward that your role at Elder Care Alliance brings?
Rebecca: I have been blessed to get to know and care for truly wonderful human beings, learning their stories and genuinely treasuring those connections. Our residents are a joy to know and to support socially, emotionally and spiritually. They are an ongoing source of wisdom and kindness in the community. I am also blessed to have known and continue to know and work with many remarkable, caring staff members who passionately exemplify ECA’s core values.
Us: Can you share any insights into new programs, menus, etc. you are planning for the future?
Rebecca: In the coming year, the local Franciscan Friary — our source for Catholic worship and sacramental support since the early 1900s — is preparing to move out of the neighborhood. I am working with my staff on strategies for establishing ongoing pastoral support from other local priests. As needed, we will adjust programming to address changes in Mercy residents’ spiritual and religious needs while continuing to provide caring spiritual and religious support.
Additionally, we intend to renew our indoor-outdoor resident Hymn Sing; find new ways to engage residents with expressive art to explore spiritual and emotional themes; offer meditation sessions; continue individual and small group discussions with chaplains exploring relevant themes, and renew and expand regular spiritual care gatherings in the care center.