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A new tool is helping support the spirituality of older people

ConnectTo is a new tool supporting the spiritual care of older people, which creators say will minimise loneliness and isolation and help carers identify instances of spiritual distress.

Meaningful Ageing Australia CEO Ilsa Hampton
Meaningful Ageing Australia CEO Ilsa Hampton

The tool, which has now been trialled in rural, regional and metropolitan organisations, was developed by Dr Julie Fletcher based on her PhD research into spiritual needs and assessment, in partnership with Meaningful Ageing Australia.

Dr Fletcher’s research led to the image of a flower, with petals that serve as the tool’s visual map. Each circle represents the client’s connections to five key spiritual areas; self, others, nature, creativity, and “something bigger,” which may or may not mean religion.

One trial participant said that the five circles approach “opened up many conversations that needed to be talked through, ” as spirituality is an “integral part of caring for an older person.” 

While many staff have previously found the topic difficult to understand even for themselves let alone those they care for, ConnectTo uses simple, straightforward language to allow staff to engage in those conversations.

A staff member at Churches of Christ in Queensland said that understanding their own spiritual connections allowed them to “know, understand and value the importance of spirituality for others.”

Meaningful Ageing Australia says that the visual format can be easily incorporated into existing communication between staff and clients.

“Part of the beauty of the tool is its flexibility,” says Ilsa Hampton, CEO of the organisation. “It can be used at pre-admission in the initial assessment process, or as a review when an older person is experiencing significant change or transition.”

Angela Luhrane, from Lutheran Aged Care in Albury, used the tool to connect a new resident with a visiting music group, after it was noted in her ‘creativity’ circle that she enjoys music.

“We were able to do that because we knew what she liked,” says Ms. Luhrane.

The implementation of ConnecTo requires an appointed leader to undertake a spiritual care orientation program. For more information visit Meaningful Ageing

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