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17 April 2020

Unquestionably our communities need our physical health to be protected and supported in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is now, more than ever, that we need to strengthen the inner resources of ourselves and others. Now, more than ever, we need connection to what matters most and to what sustains us.

We have been greatly encouraged to see the many community and individual efforts springing up in response to our collective need for connectedness. Conversely, we have been deeply disturbed by reports of spiritual care being shut out when it is most needed.

If you are supporting older people, check how your organisation is defining ‘essential’ with regards to their wellbeing. Do not allow yourself to be focused solely on clinical support or you will find in the weeks and months ahead you have created as many issues as you have solved. If you have spiritual care practitioners in your team, they are a major asset at times like this for individual, group and team support.

Drawing on examples from our members, we have created a short information sheet for service providers and others to be encouraged and inspired to keep spiritual care front and centre alongside clinical care. For example:

  • Opportunities to share: reflecting with older people about their experience, their strengths and spiritual resources whether over the phone, through doorways or with a skilled and compassionate listener wearing PPE.
  • Essential services: ensure all spiritual care practitioners are trained and have access to PPE. Create a plan to manage infection control (limited to certain areas). Ensure end of life support especially is maintained. Prepare processes for faith community representatives to attend. Link spiritual care volunteers (phone calls/letters).
  • Rituals: the desire for prayer, song, meditation, reading reflective/uplifting material and/or connecting with faith communities is likely to be heightened for some and of new importance for others. Ensure opportunities to engage with ritual are offered to all, regularly. Use videolinks or through doorways, over the phone, or in residential care, in small groups 1.5m apart. Expand programs across all sites, such as Namaste Care.
  • Care Packages: put together a box of small meaningful items. Include uplifting or sacred texts relevant to that person, along with practical items. Home care can drop the package at the front door, step back and wait. Many clients are desperate to talk for a few minutes. Link with local groups to write letters of support.
  • Care for the Team: Find ways to include moments of pause in the midst of the intensity. Perhaps five minutes at the end or beginning of a shift. Call out what you appreciate about the team, recognise the strain, invite them to strengthen their inner resources and stay in touch with what sustains them, in new ways.

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Questions/interview contact
Ilsa Hampton, CEO Meaningful Ageing Australia ihampton@meaningfulage.org.au 0425758277