A new guide for aged care organisations was launched on 29 September by Meaningful Ageing Australia. Tech Connect: Staying Meaningfully Connected in Aged Care, written by Beate Steller is a heartfelt and pragmatic response to a common problem in aged care.
It supports aged care residents’ spiritual wellbeing by connecting them with family and loved ones using technology/social media.
Pat, an 87-year-old who had been living in aged care for seven years, was devastated when she realised that she was too frail to attend her grandson’s wedding. Seeing this, Beate Steller, a spiritual care practitioner at Southern Cross Care’s Nagle Residential Aged Care home in Sutherland, offered to bring the wedding to Pat. Through compassionate conversations with Pat and her family and the support of appropriate technology, Beate was able to create an event that enabled Pat and her friends to ‘virtually’ attend her grandson’s wedding.
The Tech Connect guide provides an overview of the program: planning, implementation, and evaluation including an example of how to use technology to maintain relationships for older people with dementia.
As smart technologies are becoming increasingly used in aged care to monitor physical health and wellbeing, Tech Connect supports older people to maintain important connections with people and events that are most meaningful to them. The program is not just about the technology, but also the conversations that occur in the lead up to, and following, an event. Using Tech Connect is a spiritual care process.
While some events may be of a private nature, others can include the whole community, like Pat’s grandson’s wedding. The wedding was shown on a projector screen, and residents participated in a high tea, reminiscing about weddings they’d experienced. One staff member brought in her wedding dress as a conversation prompt.
Beate Steller, the author of Tech Connect, says “My work can range from assisting relationships with simple one- to- one skyping/messaging between a resident and family in Australia or overseas, to an event such as Pat’s family wedding.”
“It all serves a spiritual purpose of enabling the resident to feel connected, involved, valued and wanted in their family life despite being physically separated.”
“The isolation and loneliness that many older people feel in care motivates me to keep connecting and reaching out to our elders.”
“The Tech Connect program helps us understand and that the important things in life are the connections we make with each other and help them to happen.”
Ilsa Hampton, CEO of Meaningful Ageing Australia, says that “Many people who are committed to spiritual care are not comfortable with technology. This unique guide makes it possible for increasing numbers of older people to experience more meaningful connections by offering a practical and sensitive approach to the use of technology as a bridge-builder.”
Tech Connect can be implemented as long as there is a decent internet connection available, the support of leadership and the whole team, and staff with the appropriate spiritual care skills. Meaningful Ageing acknowledges that one or all of these will be a barrier for some homes to be able to participate.
Tech Connect is available now for Meaningful Ageing members and can be ordered from Meaningful Ageing at https://meaningfulageing.org.au/product/tech-connect-staying-meaningfully-connected-in-aged-care-a-leaders-guide/