National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

Carers know that what they want for the people they love who have gone into an nursing home is some form of holistic care. The food can be great, the décor wonderful, but it is the relationships formed with other residents and the staff that add value to their lives. A key aspect of holistic care is some form of spiritual care.

For those new to spirituality, the concept can be a bit confronting and raise a few hackles. However, Spiritual care is not necessarily religious, rather it is an umbrella term of which religious care is a part.

In June 2016, the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care were published by Meaningful Ageing Australia. As spirituality is integral to quality of life and well-being, it should be accessible to all older people in way that is meaningful to their beliefs, culture and circumstances.

The Guidelines are designed to reflect best-practice in spiritual care for aged care providers. Effective spiritual care is a hallmark of many aged care providers. This could be through the provision of pastoral care and religious activities, or through principles and philosophies such as active ageing, well-being, person-centred care, relationship-based care and holistic care. Not-for-profit providers, especially those that have a religious origin and orientation provide pastoral care as an integral part of their operations.

Spiritual care can be provided by staff through every day encounters such as genuinely enquiring how a person is feeling, offering empathy, sharing joys, exchanging stories and humour.

The Guideline states that good spiritual care requires a whole-of-organisation approach by being embedded within the model of care adopted. It requires a relational approach to spirituality encompassing family, friends, faith community, staff, volunteers, pets, health care professionals and God/other higher being. This indicates that Spiritual care is everyone’s business. Those in contact with older people need to have a basic awareness of spirituality and how it affects their role. Spiritual care should bring meaning, purpose and wholeness to assist a person to flourish, grow and realise their potential in their final journey of ageing.

When developing the guidelines, the authors said it was evident that spiritual care comes through meaningful connections with people. Older people described relationships that brought spiritual significance to them including cleaners, maintenance staff, care workers and spiritual care practitioners. This highlights the importance of all those involved in providing care and services having a role to play in offering spiritual care.

Source: Meaningful Ageing Australia, (2016). National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care, Meaningful Ageing Australia, Parkville.

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