Tool supports staff to discuss elderly people’s spiritual needs

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Tool supports staff to discuss elderly people’s spiritual needs

Meaningful Ageing Australia CEO Ilsa Hampton.

Today Meaningful Ageing Australia (MAA) launched a screening tool designed to better equip staff and volunteers to discuss the spiritual needs of elderly people.

The tool, ConnecTo, was designed to help staff engage meaningfully with those in their care, with the aim of enhancing relationships, minimising loneliness and isolation, and identifying when spiritual distress requires referral to appropriate support.

The visual screening tool, which is free for MAA members, features a map of circles representing an older person’s connection to five domains; self, others, nature, creativity and something bigger. It is supported by evaluation materials for participants and facilitators, and worksheets designed to encourage staff reflection.

In order to implement the tool, organisations need to appoint an internal educator or leader who has received basic education in spirituality and spiritual care.

MAA CEO Ilsa Hampton said leaders then need to provide staff with basic education in spiritual care before they can be trained to use ConnecTo.

“Staff and skilled volunteers in palliative care could use ConnecTo as a gentle starting point to understand what is most important to the person in their care, and to create meaningful referrals to the spiritual care support person in their team," said Ms Hampton.

“Part of the beauty of this tool is its flexibility. It can be used at pre-admission, in the initial assessment process, or as a review when an older person is experiencing significant change or transition.”

ConnecTo is based on PhD research by spiritual support worker, Dr Julie Fletcher. It was trialled with four aged care organisations, where it showed that staff developed new understandings of the broad concepts of spirituality and spiritual care and that it is not just about religion.

Leaders are supported by a 50-page ConnecTo Leaders Guide which can be purchased online. The guide is available free, from today, for MAA members, and for $112 from August for non-members. It comes with a PowerPoint presentation, to assist with education sessions.

MAA also offers basic education in spirituality and spiritual care through an orientation program called ‘Spiritual care – an integral part of caring’.

Ms Hampton said most palliative care services would be eligible to become MAA members and working exclusively with older people is not a prerequisite.

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