LPNI Health Topic – May 2017


Connectedness in terms of spirituality and spiritual care

Spirituality is the way we seek and express meaning and purpose; the way we experience our connection to the moment, self, others, our world and the significant or sacred. (adapted from California Lutheran Homes Centre for Spirituality and Ageing)

The definition of connectedness is a feeling of belonging to or having affinity with a particular person or group.

These are some definitions to have in mind when spending time with older people or people with a life-threatening illness.  In our church environment we take it for granted that people have a relationship with God.  Have you ever asked what is most important to a person when they are facing their own death or when they are encountering change?

A person’s wellbeing is affected when they are disconnected from what is important to them.  When a person moves into an aged-care facility there are many disconnections.  Consider their disconnection from their faith community, their family, friends, pets, their possessions, and their home to name a few.  As nurses, it is important for us to consider this and the implications these disconnections have for people and how we can care for them better if we anticipate their loss and facilitate reconnection wherever we can.

The best way to find out about a person’s connections is to do an assessment.  Meaningful Ageing Australia is Australia’s peak national body for spiritual care and ageing. It is a not-for-profit body that supports organisations and groups to respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of older people, their significant others, and their carers. It is about to release a spiritual screening tool called ConnecTo.  This tool is designed for use as a person enters a residential aged-care facility.  It has been designed in such a way that it can be used with people of any faith or no faith.  The tool can also be useful in circumstances such as in the community or in palliative care.

There are five realms of connection to consider in a spiritual assessment: connection with self, nature, creativity, relationship or ‘something bigger’.  The tool uses a visual map that can be used with the person, or with their proxy in the case of dementia.  Spiritual distress can then be identified using this assessment tool and appropriate referrals can be made.  This is a tool that can be utilized by parish nurses.

Spiritual care is much bigger than religious care, faith support and rituals.  It is about connecting with people on a meaningful level.  This builds relationships, and minimises loneliness and isolation.  It may even give the opportunity to share the good news and bring hope.

Meaningful Ageing Australia can be found at http://meaningfulageing.org.au/

Angela Uhrhane

Pastoral Care Nurse, Lutheran Aged Care Albury NSW (Australia)