Keeping spirit alive in aged care

Photo: Shutterstock.

Photo: Photo: Shutterstock.

Ageing can be a time of profound spiritual reflection as people seek to find meaning in their lives and look for a continuing sense of hope and purpose.

Residents of aged care facilities are often reliant on staff and volunteers to recognise their need for spiritual conversation and to ensure their need for spiritual care is met.

A ground breaking values-based education package, Spirituality in Aged Care, does just this and was recently developed by the Healthcare Chaplaincy Council of Victoria Inc (HCCVI).

The HCCVI is the peak body for chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual care for the healthcare sector in Victoria and has a dedicated manager servicing aged care and the community services sector.

The Spirituality in Aged Care package for residential aged care providers enables staff and volunteers to:

• Develop a shared understanding of a contemporary model of spirituality

• Differentiate between spiritual care and religious care

• Attend to the spiritual needs of individual residents/clients

• Empower staff to work collaboratively to respond to spiritual care needs

• Find appropriate referral pathways when they are needed

HCCV’s general manager, Jacqueline Taylor, tells DPS News, organisations have responded to the education in a variety of ways, including implementation of policy changes regarding residents’ care and committing to the provision of ongoing education regarding spiritual care skills.

“Participants of the pilots report they are ‘listening better to residents’ and residents’ story and their individual needs. One participant also reports her residents are happier, with some residents stating they are thinking more about end-of-life wishes,” she says.

In February, 10 pastoral care practitioners underwent training to facilitate the 13 education pilots that have now been completed and were held across a range of metropolitan and regional sites in Victoria.

Ms Taylor adds: “By the time someone moves into residential care, they are likely to have accumulated many types of losses in their life.

“This naturally leads to significant spiritual reflection as people seek to make meaning of their life circumstances, and search for pathways to hope and purpose. The realisation of dementia and other life limiting illnesses can also be a time of spiritual exploration.”

She says “good spiritual care” can contribute to restoring a sense of wellbeing and connectedness, with spiritual care exploring a person’s “whole story”.

The package is undergoing extensive piloting and development before publication and distribution in 2013.

The education will be evaluated again after three months and after 12 months to assess the long-term effectiveness.

Census data last year shows the number of Australians who consider themselves to be ‘spiritual’ continues to rise, while fewer people are identifying with a particular religion.

If you’re an aged care worker, tell us if your facility offers ‘spiritual’ guidance to residents. Leave your comments in the box below.