Why spiritual care is important in aged care

Posted on Monday, December 9, 2019

Elderly man in wheelchair looking out at a lake

For many of us, conversations about health and wellbeing naturally migrate to the mind and body. But what about the spirit?

The spirit is neither mind nor body. It’s an immaterial force that shapes who we are and influences our actions. It’s the part of us that asks those big life questions, encouraging us to seek meaning and search for more.

Quality of life is what good aged care strives to maintain and improve. And according to the World Health Organisation, spirituality is linked to quality of life.

Defining spirituality

Elderly couple smiling standing either side of a tree

Whether we know it or not, we all have spiritual needs.

For some people, spirituality and faith are intimately entwined – whether that’s a belief in God, Buddha or something greater than themselves.

But for others, spirituality could simply be a restorative relationship with nature, a calming connection with music or a deeper understanding of one’s self.

Spirituality is a broad concept, but in essence, it is about:

  • Seeking a sense of purpose and meaning
  • Feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness
  • The need to feel hope and gratitude

What is spiritual care?

Support worker with elderly client

Spiritual care is an essential part of aged care. It encourages meaningful ageing and supports seniors to be the best versions of themselves they can be in their circumstances.

According to Meaningful Ageing Australia, there are five domains of spiritual care:

  • Organisational leadership and alignment – Embedding and practising spiritual care at all levels through the organisation
  • Relationship and connectedness – Providing care in the context of mutual, respectful and genuine relationships
  • Identifying and meeting spiritual needs – Recognising choices, preferences and needs of older people, to be identified, documented and shared by the care team
  • Ethical context of spiritual care – Ethical framework to ensure spiritual care is offered in a way that respects and upholds the rights of older people
  • Enabling spiritual expression – Individualised activities and interventions to encourage the finding of meaning, purpose, connectedness and hope.

Spiritual care often holds greater importance at the end of one’s life. According to Palliative Care Australia, spiritual care helps reduce stress as a person faces dying, helping them explore what has given meaning to their lives and what will sustain them as they face their final days.

Examples of spiritual care in aged care

Profile photo of elderly man listening to music with headphones smiling

They key to supporting spirituality in aged care is to connect with residents and know what's important to them. 

Spiritual needs are different for everyone, so it’s important for carers to learn how they can best support someone spiritually, just as they would when supporting them mentally and physically. This could include:

  • Seeking opportunities to connect, through everyday encounters like sharing stories and memories
  • Respecting a person's identity, culture and diversity and allowing them freedom to express themselves and their beliefs
  • Providing appropriate and understandable information in supporting choice and decision making
  • Facilitating wellbeing by encouraging engagement in purposeful activities (such as providing raised garden beds for those interested in gardening or arranging music and wellbeing programs like The Music Pharmacy)
  • Providing the opportunity for residents to access quiet outdoor areas and natural spaces
  • Providing outings to the ocean, parks or other meaningful destinations
  • Facilitating prayer or meditation and providing access to religious services
  • Encouraging people to reflect on their memories and experiences
  • Providing support for important relationships with families
  • Simply being there for a person and being compassionate

At Brightwater, we’re all about wellbeing. We provide residential aged care, home care and retirement living solutions for seniors, as well as support for younger people with complex disabilities.

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