Villa Maria Catholic Homes: long table talk

Monday 22 October 2018

Villa Maria Catholic Homes
Spirituality is more than religion – maintaining identity in Aged Care
There is a push, a growing dialogue around perceptions of ageing and the realisation it is a crucial part of life which is largely ignored through fear or denial.

What should be the coming together of a long journey of discovery, the final stages of life can be diminished through perceived shame of admitting vulnerability. Venturing into unknown territory as the fear of relinquishing independence and negotiating the Aged Care system, pushes us into unfamiliar territory.

Identity is key to successfully transitioning to old age and like any stage of life, preparing for change so we can live successfully to end of life.

Meaningful Ageing Australia believe attitudes need to change and so do many who work alongside older members of the community.

In the latest Long Table Talk, hosted by VMCH, the discussion was around spirituality in ageing and the realisation, spirituality is not just about religion.

The second in a series of industry discussions, guests hear from a speaker, over a meal and rich conversation about the topic at hand.

Ilsa Hampton, CEO of Meaningful Ageing, led the discussion around attitudes to ageing as society generally views ageing as ‘taboo’ or a ‘no go’ zone until push comes to shove.

Meaningful Ageing have had some success in influencing conversation around identity and spirituality with changes to the new Quality Standards, in particular Consumer Dignity and Respect. But how can understanding your own identity and spirituality lead to more successfully negotiating the aged care system and being discerning about the type of services you will feel most comfortable with.

It begins with unpacking identity, says Ilsa. Distinguishing between:

Social identity – how others see us, groups we are involved with
Personal identity – how we see ourselves
And spiritual identity, which is the thread that runs through all of these.
Many people go through life without self-reflection or understanding what makes them who they are, but having strong likes and dislikes.

To expect a person in the final stages of life to suddenly enter a reflection on what makes them who they are, is confronting.

Some of the simple questions Ilsa says can generate thought about identity include:

  • Where do you and your people come from?
  • Where does your name come from?
  • Have you ever thought of changing your name? Why?
  • Did you grow up with rituals? Do you have pleasant, neutral, or negative memories of them?
  • Were you raised in a spiritual or religious tradition?
  • Are you still practising? If not, why? What changes, if any have you made?
  • How did your family of origin mourn and grieve loss and death? (above adapted from Multicultural Counselling Workbook, Leslie Korn 2015)
  • What are your bedrock convictions?
  • How has this changed over time?
A push in recent years to develop an industry approach to person-centred services, goes some way to honouring identity. Asking purposeful questions so clients can reflect on questions of belonging, relationships, feeling valued, are more prevalent today. However, the round table discussion, sited the need to further explore organisational practice to enhance opportunities so people can be cognisant of turning points in life, bringing with them the essence of identity.

The idea of discourse and not diluting people’s experience by generalising personal experience is a challenge for the sector, particularly in light of the ever-present question of funding, viability and sustainability.

Narratives around Palliative Care, misunderstanding the role of Pastoral Care and the further need to value roles, played strongly in the discussion.

The evening posed more questions than answers, but highlighted the need for organisations to operate in an evolving space and push against traditional views to meet the needs of a diverse, ageing population.
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