Meaningful Ageing Australia is launching several initiatives this week to boost understanding about the importance of spiritual care for people’s quality of life as they age.

It has released a joint position statement, developed with Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), calling for the universal acceptance of the importance of spiritual support in aged care for all stages of the ageing journey.

“In the position paper, we call for the integration of spiritual care in aged care services to ensure that each older person’s needs for meaning, purpose and connectedness are embedded in the care they receive,” said Sean Rooney, CEO LASA.

Patricia Sparrow, CEO ACSA said:“Care that recognises older Australians have diverse and highly individual needs, including spirituality, when it comes to their care is important. Older Australians deserve care that assures them quality of life which will always need to embrace individual spiritual needs.”

Ilsa Hampton, CEO Meaningful Ageing Australia, is running a special briefing at a meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Ageing and Aged Care, at Parliament House, and also launching a new resource for aged care providers on Thursday.

The primary message of Meaningful Ageing Australia’s briefing in Canberra will be that contemporary spiritual support is broader than religious-only support.

“The Royal Commission into aged care has been triggered by general community distress by the perception that aged care does not fully understand or intrinsically value older people,” Ms Hampton said.

“We are working in partnership with providers to take positive steps to improve on the experience of aged care for older people and their loved ones.”

The Leader’s Guide to Running an Effective Spiritual Care Volunteer Program is one of those new initiatives. It is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource to enable aged care organisations to establish, maintain and manage a Spiritual Care Volunteer Program.

The guide was developed in response to demand from aged care organisations following the production of a training course for spiritual care volunteers. The training course is distributed by Altura Learning and was developed by the Health Television Network in partnership with Meaningful Ageing Australia.

The Guide is based on material created by BaptistCare NSW & ACT, published literature, in-house expertise and input from providers, in particular, Fresh Hope Care, Churches of Christ QLD and VIC, Warramunda Village and Juniper.

The joint position statement with ACSA and LASA calls for:

  • Workforce reform to include resources and workplace capabilities to deliver high-quality spiritual support in aged care. This should be informed by the work of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.
  • Integration of person-centred spiritual support into aged care models, including those for end- of-life. Ideally, this should allow people to choose the type of spiritual support they need whether they are at home, in residential care or in hospital.
  • Resource allocation and funding for aged care should recognise the need for spiritual support, access to workers with the right capabilities and time to listen. The Resource Utilisation and Classification Study recommendations should accommodate best practice spiritual support.

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).

Meaningful Ageing Australia is the national peak body for spiritual care and ageing. We are a membership based not-for-profit, supporting organisations and groups to respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of older people, their significant others, and their carers. We advocate for spiritual care to be included in all care settings. Our mission is to enable access to high quality pastoral and spiritual care for all older people in Australia. Membership is open to organisations and groups who provide support, care and/or accommodation to older people.

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