KINGSTON, Tenn. (Oct. 20, 2015) -- To hear her tell the story, Agnes Knight says, “I have outlived all my relatives. No one else is left. The only family I have is my church family."
Agnes Knight celebrated her 91st birthday earlier this year in a nursing home due to injuries she sustained after a fall. She has been a member of Kingston United Methodist Church for more than 25 years.
Last December, Knight was ringing bells for the Salvation Army at Kroger. As she was walking back to her car late that evening, she fell in the parking lot. She was taken to the hospital with several injuries.
After the hospital stay, it was determined she could no longer live alone, due to her dementia, and that she would need skilled care for an extended period. Yet no one was able to make arrangement for her. She had no relatives, no next of kin, no one to speak on her behalf.
Pastor Todd Chancey and Rev. Sue Lynn Johnson went into action to seek options for caring for Knight. It took several months and a court order, but eventually, Chancey was named conservator and Johnson was named back-up conservator. Finally, after months of paperwork, attorneys and an appearance before a judge, Knight had a voice and could now be properly cared for.
Kingston United Methodist Church members rallied around Knight’s cause. Many volunteers gave more than 300 hours to assist with Knight's personal belongings. Her health improved and, with the help of church members, Knight was able to move into an assisted-living facility where she continues to received round-the-clock care in the memory unity.
She has her own small apartment within the facility. She is able to sleep in her own bed and have some of her own personal belongings. The church volunteers make sure she is as comfortable as possible. They care for her every need.
The court suggested that Knight's house be sold and all her personal belongings be liquidated, providing funds to continue her care. Once again, Kingston UMC volunteers pitched in and worked with a local auction company. Knight's household items were sold and the house is now on the market. The church family hopes it will sell soon.
Knight’s dementia has progressed to the stage where her short-term memory is limited. She does not always remember Pastor Todd or Rev. Sue Lynn, but that does not stop her church family from visiting and sharing God’s love.
"Mrs. Knight is our family and we enjoy caring for her," Chancey said. "We have been blessed by her love and support for many years, and now it is our turn to give back.”
Johnson, who oversees congregational care at Kingston UMC, tells church members, "Get your paperwork in order. Make sure you have a plan, know what you want, and who you want to help you -- should you be at a place where someone else needs to speak on your behalf.”
Several Kingston UMC members have exchanged phone numbers for local attorneys who create wills, powers of attorney, and financial and medical directives. Chancey has been reminding people that the Holston Conference Foundation can also help with estate planning, estate giving, or trust documents.
Chancey and Johnson say this has not been an easy process, but it was needed to protect the dignity of a beloved member of their church family.
The Rev. Todd Chancey is pastor at Kingston United Methodist Church.