In the first half of this year, Meaningful Ageing Australia is offering seminars in regional locations across Australia.

Each host organisation chooses a topic that meets the learning needs of their staff. The majority of hosts have chosen ‘Spiritual Care in a Diverse World’, ‘Supporting Older People in the Transition to Aged Care’ or ‘Death, Dying and Hope: Conversations at End of Life’.

The seminars kicked off in Albany, WA, and have been a valuable opportunity for staff, families and older people to have the opportunity to learn more about contemporary spiritual care.

In some locations, aged care organisations have opted for a facilitated conversation with residents and/or family members. This provides an opportunity for questions and reflections on how it is to be in aged care, or to have family members in aged care.

Following a recent seminar in regional Queensland, Meaningful Ageing Educator Merisa Holland spent some time with an aged care resident and their family member.

Unlike much of the poor press about how terrible life is in aged care, Merisa learned that the resident had settled in beautifully and was enjoying a fulfilled life at the home. However, her son John said that he was feeling very guilty about putting his mum in a home.

This is not uncommon for families and can cause great distress.

Merisa asked some questions about his experience and listened closely as John talked. She then shared a simple model of transition that Meaningful Ageing uses in their sessions.

The model shows that transition into aged care can be marked by an initial period of being overwhelmed, followed by adjustment, and then acceptance[1].

Although articulated by researchers who were focussed on the experience of older people making the transition into residential care, Merisa asked John to locate himself in the model to see if that would be of assistance. He was able to articulate that he was in fact at the beginning, in the overwhelm phase.

Merisa asked some more questions to assist John to name his resources and supports. At the end of the conversation John said, “I wish we had someone like you here”. He was able to see the value of Merisa’s skilled questioning and reflection as a spiritual care practitioner.

The Meaningful Ageing Regional Seminars offer opportunities for aged care staff, including leaders, managers and direct care staff, to unpack concepts relating to spirituality, the spiritual needs of older people and spiritual care.

Participants have light-bulb moments when they realise that everyone has a spirituality, and that everyone working in aged care provides spiritual care.

Participants learn skills and attitudes that can be integrated into their work immediately.

They also learn that, while every person has a role in spiritual care for older people, spiritual care specialists have the skills and capacity to enable deeper conversations.

Sometimes questions or statements from group members in the seminars provide an opportunity to open out the concept of spirituality and spiritual care, bringing more nuanced and pluralistic perspectives.

In one session, a nurse asked, “What is a chaplain. Is it good for an organisation to have a chaplain?” The educator then had the opportunity to talk about spirituality in a diverse world, and to say that organisations don’t have to have a chaplain, but access to spiritual care specialists is important.

If you’d like to learn more about the Meaningful Ageing Regional Seminar Series, or about how to ensure that spiritual care specialists are available to your residents or clients, please contact Meaningful Ageing Australia or call  03 8387 2274

[1] Wilson S.A. (1997) The transition to nursing home life: a comparison of planned and unplanned admissions. Journal of Advanced Nursing 26, 864–871

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