A guide to supporting elder spirituality

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A new free guide from Meaningful Ageing Australia outlining ways to incorporate spirituality into care for frail, older people launched this week. The guide, which lists NurseWatch as one of the companies who gave input, is now available on the Meaningful Ageing website. The guide includes several scenarios centred around reflective listening by aged care staff and ongoing spiritual practices for connecting with older people.

The website also lists printable worksheets and provides further resources. CEO for Meaningful Ageing Australia, Ilsa Hampton, says the guide emphasises the importance of shaping language around the older person’s perceived identity: “It’s important to focus on the abilities of older people, despite any increasing frailty and chronic conditions,” she adds. “They should be acknowledged as people rather than the sum of their symptoms.”

Ms Hampton says she believes spiritual well being can be harnessed and maintained even as increased frailty threatens an older person’s physical and mental capabilities: “The word frailty implies vulnerability and weakness,” she adds. “Our interviewees were proud of their remaining abilities and independence.’

The guide encourages aged care staff to actively listen, pause and collaborate in shared ideas sessions such as at working lunches and team meetings.  Strong bonds of trust between staff and older people should be celebrated and shared and Ms Hampton adds that rather than leaving people feeling as if life is over, aged care providers should be encouraged to ignite their imaginations and partner with older people for the whole of their lives, beyond when the body will not do what it used to.

New solutions for varied challenges
The guide goes on to explain how creative thinking can develop solutions for varied challenges when caring for the older person – for example, knitting groups could visit a bedridden person who is socially isolated. Another scenario could be older people with a love of gardening who can still experience this passion with indoor plants or even by feeling soil through their fingers.

Dr. Elizabeth MacKinlay, Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University says the guide opens up the topic of how to interact with and holistically care for older people who are becoming frail: “It contains much needed practical information and education tools for learning how to provide best care for people in this situation. It will be invaluable for training purposes and particularly, at this time, as it incorporates the new standards for quality aged care in Australia.”

The free guide includes input from Aurrum Aged Care, Baptcare, Brightwater, Churches of Christ Care QLD, Multicultural Services Centre of Western Australia, Nurse Watch, Tanunda Lutheran Home, The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus and Uniting AgeWell plus senior researchers in the field of spiritual care; and interviews with older people.

For more information contact NurseWatch on (02) 9331 3344 or email to admin@nursewatch.com.au. Or you can visit Meaningful Ageing Australia here.

About Meaningful Ageing Australia
•    Meaningful Ageing is the not-for-profit peak body for spiritual care and ageing, supporting organisations and groups to respond to pastoral and spiritual needs of older people, their significant others, and their carers.
•    Meaningful Ageing works with organisations united around a common goal of full quality of life for the older people they are serving.
•    Meaningful Ageing creates high quality, practical resources and deliver engaging education services enabling best practice pastoral and spiritual care for older people.
•    Meaningful Ageing advocates with government and key agencies regarding the value of spiritual care for older people in all care settings.

About Spirituality
•    “Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” (Puchalski, Vitillo, Hull, & Reller, 2014)

Photo by Sincerely Media