Blog Resources

Change management to enable meaningful connections in aged care

As we all know, all humans are, to a greater or lesser degree, social animals. Connection with others is an important part of our wellbeing and spiritual care toolkit. The recent Aged Care Quality Standards have recognised that, and now demand all providers to implement, measure and prove that they provide this as part of the holistic care they offer.

With such formal requirements, how do aged care providers go about integrating and implementing these requirements into an already stretched system?

One way of undertaking this is to use a change management approach to understand the current situation, the goals aimed for, and the resources and inputs needed to integrate holistic care for all individuals. Meaningful Ageing Australia has an evidence-informed resource, called Leading the Elephant: Using a Change Management Approach to Support Integrated Spiritual Care in Aged Care.

The guide helps to unpack the process and provide clear markers for organisations to begin following. Utilising the metaphor of the elephant and the rider, the resource shows that change management is not just about a rational, planned and structural process (symbolised by the rider), but also an emotional, ‘inner self’ journey (symbolised by the elephant). As organisations are made up of people, with large networks of other people, it would be foolish to ignore the emotional impact, both positively and negatively, of any potential change. After all, how likely are you to control a real elephant from doing what it really wants to do?

During the initial research of the material, when we came across the metaphor of the elephant and the rider, from Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, we just knew we had to adopt it. Whole-of-person care pays attention to both the inner and outer realities of the individual; why would it not be true for organisations? Change is not just structural and functional; it is highly emotional and often personal. It can be like walking a tightrope to get it right.”

Applying the principles of change management to the aged care sector, especially with a view to spiritual care, this new resource provides the background and understanding needed, along with a suite of practical Action Plans to help with the organisation’s thinking: all informed by the best evidence available. The resource was produced with input from service providers (RAAFA WA, St Andrew’s Village, UnitingCare Qld, Mercy Health and Catholic Homes) and began as an RMIT student project co-supervised by Meaningful Ageing Australia and the National Ageing Research Institute.