The person within: exploring spiritually sensitive practice in community aged care

Author: Winsome Dunn

Dunn, Winsome, 2021 The person within: exploring spiritually sensitive practice in community aged care, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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This study explores spiritually sensitive practice within Community Aged Care and promotes the use as an enriching mode of interaction. Spiritual sensitive practice has come to the fore in a variety of settings such as hospitals, institutional settings, and palliative care, but integration within Community Aged Care is rather an uncommon phenomenon. This research advocates for spiritual sensitive practice to be included in such a setting as it encourages a compassionate person orientated approach.

The thirty people who participated in this study were drawn from the community, all aged between eighty and ninety six years of age, cognitively functioning, independently living within their own homes, but receiving some level of support via a Commonwealth Home Support Programme within South Australia. The types of care provided was predominately of a practical nature, for example personal care, shopping, and cleaning. However, this programme also offers allied health and as a social worker working in Community Aged Care my aim was to consider the potential use of spiritually sensitive practice. This study’s central premise was then to develop a structured interview schedule which was implemented to assist elderly people explore the ‘person within’. Existential questions were asked as well as questions on belief to facilitate discussants thoughts in sharing their inner selves whilst simultaneously nurturing self-actualization.

This study demonstrated the insight and value of elderly people’s responses through engaging in spiritual sensitive practice. It revealed how relevant this form of practice is for elderly people, and how discussants appreciated an approach that acknowledged their worth, an intervention that had meaning for them, facilitated connection, and how social work could contribute to this process. It is therefore recommended that social workers embrace spiritually sensitive practice to assist transform practice.

Keywords: Community Aged Care, Social Work, Spirituality, Spiritually Sensitive Practice

Subject: Ageing Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Keith Miller