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From our CEO: The Right Measure for the Right Ingredients

Did you see this this recent headline in the aged care press: Video calls don’t reduce loneliness, review shows? I was very curious but then when I read on, the story was familiar. The measures that were used in the three Taiwanese nursing home studies were “objective” measures. I wonder what would have happened if these studies had included other types of evidence? In the Australian article reporting on the Cochrane review, researcher Lynne Parkinson from CQUniversity talks about their study into video support that is yet to be published. Their “objective” measures also haven’t showed much effect but Lynne commented that “over 50 per cent of our groups continued to meet, independently, which I feel is a powerful indicator of both need and impact.”*

Some stories just have to be told. Think about your own life. We have a saying for this – you all know it – to get it off your chest. When something wonderful or challenging happens, many of us have an almost immediate need to share the story. Think about a time in your life when you noticed a physical shift in that moment – a lessening of pressure – as a result of being listened to. I experienced this myself recently. It was only when I started talking I realised how big the story was, how I had to start way back at the beginning. I was able to do this because I knew the listener was present to hear.

It is through our stories that we find out who we are, who our people are, where we are within ourselves. What Bruce Rumbold refers to as sense of coherence, which is another way to think about spirituality.** It is a chance to find clarity or at least to see some path ahead, even just a glimpse. The little stories we tell along the way are part of this dynamic and often create the space for bigger moments to be shared. This is part of the gift of dedicated spiritual care roles, whatever the title, that are embedded in teams and with people who are in regular contact with the older people you serve. It is not a ‘problem focused intervention’ but rather an invitation to connect with ourselves, others and all those relationships that make up our bigger story: nature, creativity, Something Bigger.

Looking and listening for the impact of flexible emotional and spiritual support is not so easy as administering a depression scale before and after. Let’s hear the stories from the people who have been involved. Let’s watch for what happens after engagement with spiritual support. It doesn’t mean that every video call is a good call. Once some broader measures have been introduced that include hearing from the people involved, including, for example, the older person, the perspective of the people on the other end of the call, nearby staff, and others, you would also want to look at what was happening in the calls. Not all calls are good calls. The need to pay attention when measuring impact and whether to invest in spiritual care is an appropriate mirror of what it’s all about. This takes time, and collaboration – also part of the mirror.

We are always looking for opportunities to promote the growth of research in this area. Don’t forget to register for our spiritual care research intensive. Instead of face to face, we have split it into two short afternoon sessions. This is a joint effort with our friends from the Spiritual Health Association.

You will be hearing, now and in the days ahead, many stories related to the pandemic. Take a moment now – who do you have to tell your big stories to? Also take a moment to remember a wonderful story that has nothing to do with COVID-19, and be sure to share that, too.

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