An “Unfortunate and Tragic” Outcome

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An “Unfortunate and Tragic” Outcome

An unfortunate and tragic outcome..

These two words seem woefully inadequate. They were used by the Hollywood police chief to describe the recent deaths of eight individuals who lived in a rehab center in Hollywood, Florida. Their names and exact causes of death have not been announced, but the images of frail, vulnerable adults being removed from their residence are dreadful and appalling.

So many words flood my mind: Inexcusable, horrifying, unspeakable, staggering, shocking, sad, heart-wrenching. Truthfully, there are no suitable descriptors.

The most vulnerable were neglected—even in a time of a drastic weather crisis such as Hurricane Irma. The promise to provide care, support and comfort, was broken.

This is a real-life story made public by the rolling cameras of cable news. We are sickened. But every day, vulnerable adults are neglected and abused. It occurs in residences such as the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills; it happens in private homes; it takes place in our neighborhoods.

And, to my despair, the neglect of frail, vulnerable adults transpires in our churches. Oh, we may not carry them out on stretchers from pew to the grave, but we neglect them, send them home to die alone, forget their names, and ignore our covenant to care for, comfort and support them.

This “unfortunate and tragic” incident in Florida is re-igniting a passion in my heart. I have spent most of my career developing programs and systems of care for elders. It was my calling. I remember God using Isaiah 61 to call me to work with vulnerable seniors—to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…” I worked hard to fulfill that calling in the community and in business, but God impressed upon me to consider the church; it is the institution my husband and I have served for decades. Through the years, I found little to no time and effort were given to vulnerable adults. In fact, as many churches became increasingly trendy and focused on families and young people, the elderly were pointedly ignored. Some pastors even felt their churches were better off without them. I remember when “older” pastors were no longer allowed on stage because their aging faces didn’t represent the new mission.

We can cluck our tongues and point our fingers at the nursing home in Florida (and we should!), but may God use this tragedy to remind us of our obligation to the elders of our communities, churches, and families.

It has certainly broken my heart.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of despair.
Isaiah 61:1-3

P.S. Blessings on those churches and ministries who continue to respect, honor and serve their older adults! May God continue to call all generations to love those who are living a long time.

written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite
©Re-Ignite 2017
Image by Canstock

By | 2017-09-14T13:41:17+00:00 September 14th, 2017|Re-Ignite Your Life, Third Calling|4 Comments

About the Author:

Leona Bergstrom is a writer, speaker and consultant. She currently directs the ministry of Re-Ignite, a division of ChurchHealth. Passionate about inspiring her Boomer peers, Leona has written and developed Re-Ignite curriculum, co-authored Third Calling: What are you doing the rest of your life?, manages a weekly blog, and contributes articles to magazines and newsletters. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Richard.


  1. Brenda Voth September 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    My mom is in her last days right now (within the last week she has become bedridden). There are two gals from her church (at least 25+ years younger than my mom) that have faithfully visited her for the last few years. It has been an incredible blessing to me (since I live in another state) to have them love my mom so well! They have been a wonderful example of God’s love and care.

    • Brenda Voth September 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      What a beautiful story, Brenda. Thank you. And may God bless these young women who walk on sacred ground as they visit your mom. May she know God’s peace in these days.

  2. Carol Grant September 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I moved alone 2000 miles away from family, and found in my church several programs for such as I. One called WIN. Widows in Need which helps those of us without family or husbands to do the “Honey Do” projects that help us. as well as a twice a year car checkup at the church to help spot issues that need to be addressed. (with wonderful treats while we wait)! The other one is called Elder Care and it is multifaceted in helping with all the forms and paperwork and with again those like me with no family nearby to deal with wills, medical care etc in our last days or after we have gone home to heaven. I am so grateful for both of these incidental helps. We also have an over 55 choir that go several times a year to nursing homes, retirement homes, Veteran’s homes and sing and visit, as well as on a trip somewhere in the USA to minister and sing and sightsee while there. This is at Green Acres Baptist Church, in Tyler, TX.

  3. leona September 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Carol, Thanks for your comments and for telling us about your church’s wonderful ministries. So glad to know you and other is your church are in good hands! Also, we are pleased to hear that Texas is treating you well. Many blessings…. Leona

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