The new Aged Care Quality Standards highlight meeting spiritual needs such as meaning, purpose, identity, beliefs, and wellbeing.
The new standards are very different from the existing standards as the new ones focus on care and quality of life from the person’s perspective rather than inputs such as medication management, infection control etc.
The National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care are an excellent resource in the provision of spiritual care.
Spiritual outcomes for the consumer
1. Develop robust spiritual screening and spiritual assessments
It is vital to consult and engage consumers regarding their spiritual needs. Most electronic care planning applications have a section for spiritual needs, however this rarely goes beyond religious beliefs and faith affiliations. Spiritual screening needs to be conducted when the consumer starts with the service to identify if there is any spiritual distress that can pose a risk to their wellbeing. Spiritual assessment should include religious beliefs, but also what gives the person meaning, purpose, hope, identify, connections and goals for life.
2. Develop spiritual care plans
Consumers should be consulted in how they want their spiritual needs to be met. In some cases, this will involve religious and cultural needs that may impact on food, symbols, observing rituals and practices. Under the umbrella of meeting spiritual needs, consider three components: spiritual care by all staff, pastoral care by trained practitioners, and religious care by faith representatives. Consider how staff will be trained to recognise, respond to and refer diverse spiritual needs as they go about their everyday tasks.
3. Engage trained, skilled spiritual care practitioners
Spiritual care requires trained professionals to work as part of a multidisciplinary team. Spiritual care practitioners should be trained specifically in ageing and spirituality with an understanding of the impacts with contemporary practices and principles such as consumer-centred care. The multi-disciplinary team needs to focus first on what gives the consumer meaning, purpose and identity and their life goals. Meeting these aspects of spirituality should be the focus of the care plan, lifestyle plan and other plans.
4. Identify who is going to meet spiritual needs.
Meeting the diverse spiritual needs of all consumers is challenging in a tight and competitive funding environment. Consider how lifestyle activities can meet spiritual needs such as art, music, spiritual reminiscence groups for people with dementia, mindfulness and mediation groups, and spirituality in the garden. Volunteers offer a great way to meet spiritual needs at low-cost and it provides a way of meeting diverse needs. Volunteers can provide pastoral care, but can also focus on what gives meaning and purpose such as gardening, board games, dancing, history, movies etc. Think about a comprehensive strategy for recruiting, selecting, training and supporting volunteers.
Demonstrate spiritual needs are met
5. Evaluate spiritual needs
It is essential that all aspects of spiritual care is evaluated to ensure it is meeting consumer needs and is part of the continuous improvement plan.
About the author
Elizabeth Pringle is the course coordinator for Ageing and Pastoral Studies courses at St Mark’s National Theological Centre. Elizabeth also was project manager and researcher for the development of the National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care. Elizabeth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org