Holistic nurses make big impact to aged care homes

Cranbrook Care added the new role of holistic nurse to residential care teams earlier this year, and the impact has been significant, writes Lee Carissa.  

Cranbrook Care added the new role of holistic nurse to residential care teams earlier this year, and the impact has been significant, writes Lee Carissa.  

There’s plenty of discussion about the need for nursing staff in the Australian aged care sector right now, and it’s entirely valid. But whilst there’s no doubting the additional demand for qualified nurses to deliver medical care to residents around the clock, there’s another nursing function which is incredibly important but often overlooked.

Holistic nursing.

We added the new role of holistic nurse to our care teams at each of our four aged care residences earlier this year, and the impact has been significant, and inspiring.  

Lee Carissa

Holistic nursing is a comprehensive approach to patient care, meaning taking care of residents as a whole body that involves physical, social, environmental, psychological, spiritual, cultural, and religious beliefs.

All of our holistic nurses are registered nurses. They play an incredibly valuable role helping residents manage pain and supporting their overall wellbeing, whist freeing up time for other nursing and care staff. They have proved to be a wonderful asset to our residents and our broader care teams.

Currently, we have a holistic nurse available at every residence, including at identified times of heightened need and potential distress, such as the late afternoon.

Pain isn’t always physical nor acute in nature. Pain can stem from emotional distress leading to agitation and distress. It can stem from chronic conditions. It can result from diminishing physical strength and fitness. And that’s where holistic nursing comes in.

Holistic nurses initially take a non-pharmacological approach, tailoring treatment to each resident’s condition, and using techniques such as therapeutic massage, heat therapy, exercise, and one-on-one companionship to improve wellbeing, with pain medication offered if holistic measures are ineffective.

Holistic nurses also focus on hydration or residents’ eating habits, particularly in cases where an individual may refuse to eat, sharing their techniques with care staff to deliver better long-term outcomes – for staff and residents.

By taking the time to delve into a resident’s personal background, holistic nurses may discover insights that can improve emotional wellbeing by engaging a resident’s interests and inspiring them to participate more in the activities on offer.

For instance, a holistic nurse may encourage a wheelchair-bound resident who once enjoyed dancing to clap her hands or tap her feet to her favourite music; or may accompany a resident who enjoyed gardening on a tour of the garden to smell and admire flowers and discover the different plants in the landscape, or the pair may sit together and look at photographs of plants and flowers to stimulate memory and reignite a passion.

Yes, these may sound like small things, but the impact can be huge.

Looking ahead, we plan to further upskill our holistic nurses in areas including massage, palliative care, and behavioural and emotional support. By investing in improving residents’ wellbeing without automatically reaching for additional medication, we are genuinely supporting their overall health and quality of life. And there’s nothing more important.

Of course, as a new program, there will no doubt be changes as we progress, but in the meantime, we are proud to support the overall wellbeing of our residents by expanding our teams to set a new industry benchmark for clinical excellence and care.

Lee Carissa is chief executive officer of Cranbrook Care

Comment on the story below. Do you have an opinion to share about an issue or something topical in the aged care sector? Get in touch at editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au

Tags: Cranbrook Care, holistic care, lee carissa,

1 thought on “Holistic nurses make big impact to aged care homes

  1. On holistic nursing care for older adults: this is a step in the right direction but please remember this is what Leisure and Lifestyle coordinators and assistants do very well, every day within Aged Care (and usually without the general support, fanfare and high wages they deserve).

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