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MEDIA RELEASE 12 October 2020                          Attention: Aged Care, Royal Commission

Meaningful Ageing Australia calls for recognition of existing staff who are supporting the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of older people receiving aged care services.

CEO Ilsa Hampton comments that “whilst the Royal Commission’s special COVID-19 report has rightly positioned resident connections and wellbeing as front and centre, there is an unfortunate silence around
existing staff roles that are focussed on emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Our ability to survive great hardship in life is intimately connected with our sense of meaning. This is why providing functional and clinical care is never enough. Spiritual support roles are focussed on each resident’s experience of meaning, purpose and connectedness.”

“There are members of the aged care workforce who are there, fully kitted up in PPE, holding people’s hands and creating space for residents to talk about what is on their heart. These roles come under different titles, for example, resident wellbeing, spiritual care worker or pastoral carer. They are no longer limited to religious functions. We just don’t have enough of them, or where they are there, they don’t have enough hours to meet the need. Quite often they play a role in staff support also.”

“All staff have a role to play in resident wellbeing, even whilst attending to other important practical tasks that need their attention. We are also aware of professionals and others who have volunteered to step into this space as they could see the emerging need. We have an extensive range of resources enabling organisations to upskill all staff to incorporate emotional and spiritual support into their daily work.”

Meaningful Ageing Australia has today written to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety requesting recognition of existing spiritual wellbeing roles and opportunities to upskill all staff. This work must always be aligned with Aged Care Quality Standards and the federally funded, and inclusive, National Guidelines for Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

At the beginning of the pandemic, fearful for older peoples’ emotional and spiritual wellbeing, Meaningful Ageing issued a free guide (Spiritual Care in COVID-19) to prompt organisations to consider ways to
incorporate holistic support in a range of ways. Their second COVID-19 resource made available to all organisations, Wearing Masks with Heart, was adapted from work undertaken by personnel at Stamford
University. Masks with Heart humanises mask-wearing and can be easily implemented in environments where PPE does not have to be changed after every visit. Meaningful Ageing’s most recent COVID-19 resource, Visiting People in Lockdown, provides tips to enable people to feel connected whilst enduring forced time in their rooms. All the resources were developed in consultation with organisations who had experienced COVID outbreaks and where resident emotional and spiritual wellbeing was actively supported.

Meaningful Ageing Australia commends the Royal Commission’s statements that “older people must always be at the heart of the aged care sector and of any response to any event affecting their physical and mental wellbeing…[and that] the aim of providing real, tangible and meaningful assistance to people must be our primary, overriding and constant focus.”

Meaningful Ageing Australia is in strong agreement with the Royal Commission that “maintaining the quality of life of those people living in residential aged care throughout the pandemic is just as important as preparing for and responding to outbreaks.”

Meaningful Ageing Australia’s free COVID resources can be downloaded from here: https://meaningfulageing.org.au/covid-19-and-meaningful-ageing-australia/
Media enquiries: Ilsa Hampton 0425 758 277