As Australia marks Pastoral Care Week, one provider shares its experience of using volunteer pastoral care visitors to reduce social isolation.
This week, Australia celebrates Pastoral Care Week, which aims to recognise the importance of spiritual care and the benefits spiritual caregivers provide organisations, including aged care.
This year’s theme is Spiritual Care Together, focusing on holistic and multidisciplinary care to meet an individual’s biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs, no matter their background.
Pastoral care has been an ongoing focus for BaptistCare, which in October 2014 launched its Volunteer Pastoral Care Visitors Program with aims to tackle social isolation and provide emotional and spiritual support for its home and community clients.
As Australian Ageing Agenda reported last week, effective spiritual care within the home has been shown to help improve quality of life and reduce depression within older people.
Under BaptistCare’s program, volunteers visit and talk to community clients in their homes on a regular basis. There are currently 40 volunteers who participate in the program within Sydney’s Hills District and Macquarie Park, and Wagga Wagga.
Over the next 18 months, BaptistCare has plans to roll the program out across south-west Sydney and the Central Coast, where the organisation has its highest proportion of home-care clients.
Ross Wakeley, the program’s coordinator, has watched the program gain momentum and said BaptistCare’s vision is to build appropriate relationships through passionate local volunteers.
“Each volunteer is provided a list of around 15 people. They then give two hours of their time to visit two people each week. Once they’ve seen everyone, they start from the top. It’s driven by relationships – not tasks or agendas,” said Mr Wakeley.
Volunteers are trained over a eight weeks in a free course alongside established chaplains. The course aims to develop vital skills, such as how to explore issues of loss and grief, and how experiences of ageing shape and change experiences.
Jenni Burnelek of Northwest Community Baptist Church was inspired to join the program in its pilot intake late last year. She said she gets a lot out of her visits and has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the local community and people she wouldn’t usually meet.
“There is a wealth of knowledge and experience there that I’d have missed otherwise,” she said.
“It’s interesting and thought provoking to listen to the lives they’ve lived and experiences they’ve had, and it puts things into perspective for me as I age.”
To find out about volunteering with BaptistCare, visit its website.
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