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In the recently launched National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care, Meaningful Ageing Australia has added four key principles for the guidelines.  The third of these is that spiritual care is everyone’s business.  This means that providing good spiritual care is not just the domain of the dedicated Spiritual Care Worker, but everyone from CEO or Chairman of the Board to the Ancillary Staff and indeed outside supporters.

women-looking-at-beachA Philosophy, not a Program!

At HarbisonCare we have developed, over the last six years, a philosophical ethos in our community that spiritual care is literally everyone’s business.  We have developed a spiritual understanding within our staff, a dedicated team of volunteers, and visitations from students at the local Bible College for six months.  One of the other things we have developed in that time is the philosophical understanding that the resident is part and parcel of the delivery of spiritual or pastoral care to the people who are part of the community.

I am reticent to call this a program since, in my experience; programs are dependent upon people to ensure their continuity.  The idea behind what we have developed is that spiritual and pastoral support is engrained into the bedrock of HarbisonCare.  Residents visit other residents and even offer a listening ear to staff.  This is extended throughout the levels of care with wonderful examples of residents living with dementia offering a supportive ear to other residents living with dementia; and our independent living residents offering palliative support to families and residents at the end of life stage.

Asking the Hard Questions

Of course this philosophy has met with its share of obstacles and for you probably raises many questions.  Most of these were met with a simple common sense approach rethinking the concept of residential care.  The big question that is asked of our approach is: ‘What about privacy?’  The answer to this is that most of our residents have lived in communities where they were very familiar with their neighbours.  That is what they are in the care community.  Neighbours!  All of the families of our residents have been very appreciative of the support shown by the residents toward others.

One other big question about our philosophy is: ‘What about the professional boundaries for staff?’  It is recognised that our staff are entering the home as professionals to offer a service, but it is also recognised that many of our staff are the closest family that some residents have.  Our residents support the staff by asking them about their families and we encourage our staff to be honest.  If they are struggling, it is okay for them to share.  The Chaplain keeps an eye on possible dependencies forming, but we don’t want to stifle good spiritual support.

Out of this, our residents gain a sense of meaning and purpose due to the feeling of making meaningful contributions to the lives of others and being a genuine part of building the community which they have needed to call home.  I am pleased to say that HarbisonCare can truly declare that spiritual care is everybody’s business.

HarbisonCare is a community owned aged care organisation providing aged care services to the residents of the Southern Highlands of NSW and have recently become members of Meaningful Ageing Australia. Steven Clancy is the Chaplain serving the community and has been with the organisation since 2008.  For further information or to ask questions, go to ww.harbisoncare.org.au or email steven.clancy@harbisoncare.org.au