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Importance of spiritual health in aged care

Spiritual health is an incredibly important aspect of life and care and is something we all experience.

Key Points:

  • Everyone has spiritual needs, particularly those in residential aged care
  • Spiritual health refers to your ability to age positively and the ability to feel hope, fulfilment, meaning and purpose in life
  • Spiritual health and spiritual care are particularly important for those accessing palliative care as they come to terms with a diagnosis and their mortality

The aged care sector recognises the importance of person-centred care for older Australians which centres on addressing your emotional, psychological, physical, social and spiritual needs.

Spiritual health and care does not refer to being affiliated with any particular religion or ideology, but it considers the human need to have meaning, purpose and connection to ourselves and something greater than ourselves. 

This aspect of health is very personal and can look very different for each person as we all fulfil our spiritual needs in different ways.

Spiritual health can manifest as prayer, religious traditions, meditation or a deep connection to nature. 

Going into aged care or being given a diagnosis can bring up a variety of questions and queries, particularly about life and mortality. You may ask why this may be happening and what the greater purpose of life is. 

For an aged care provider to tend to your spiritual health, it addresses and acknowledges your care needs, but can also help ease the burden of these big questions and provide contentment.

But what is spirituality?

Spirituality: a human need

The idea of spirituality and spiritual health can be a hard one to understand for some, but others may have spiritual needs.

Spirituality refers to seeking a sense of purpose and meaning, feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness, and the need to feel hope and gratitude.

The spirit is neither psychological or physical, but a power that shapes who we are and influences our actions – often prompting us to ask big life questions and seek meaning.

According to the World Health Organisation, spirituality is linked to quality of life, especially for older people.

For some, spirituality and religion are entwined but for others, spirituality could be a connection with culture, nature or music, or a deeper understanding of themself.

Spiritual care and its role in aged care

Spiritual care and maintaining your spiritual wellbeing is an important part of aged care. It encourages positive ageing, supports you to be the best version of yourself while accessing aged care, and can help you make peace with your situation.

According to Meaningful Ageing Australia, spiritual care upholds your rights and choice as well as engages your spirituality in different ways for ultimate wellbeing while living in aged care.

These aspects can include:

  • Providing respectful and genuine care that accommodates your individual spiritual needs and upholds your rights as an older person
  • Recognising your choices, preferences and needs which are to be identified, documented and shared by your care team
  • Establishing individualised activities and engagements that encourage you to find meaning, purpose and connectedness 

Care that meets your spiritual needs can be very personal, so you will need to discuss with your provider about what that may look like for you so you are delivered aged care services in a respectful way.

Spiritual care and palliative care go hand-in-hand

Spiritual care and end of life or palliative care are often intertwined.

Spiritual care can help reduce stress as you come to terms with a diagnosis or navigate palliative care and find peace with life.

After receiving a life-limiting diagnosis and then accessing palliative care, your care team is able to engage with you and find out what is most important to you and how to best meet your spiritual needs. 

Spiritual needs are different for everyone, but some ways to have your needs met could include:

  • Sharing stories and memories with workers or other residents
  • Encouraging connection with family and friends
  • Creating a safe space for you to share your identity, culture and diversity and have the freedom to express yourself and your beliefs
  • Have accessible, appropriate and understandable information provided to you to support choice and decision making
  • Engage in different purposeful activities that are good for the soul, such as gardening, music making or other wellbeing activities
  • Accessing outdoor areas and natural spaces which should include outings to the ocean, parks or other meaningful places
  • Facilitating prayer or meditation and providing access to religious services

Spiritual health is important for everyone, but particularly in aged care and during the end of life stage for an older person. 

Outside of honouring your right to express your thoughts and beliefs, spiritual health and spiritual care can help you maintain your wellbeing and grapple with the big questions we often ponder in life. 

How do you practise spiritual health in aged care? Let us know in the comments below

Related content:
What is palliative care for?
Palliative care: How does it impact someone’s life?
Diversity standards and initiatives in aged care


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