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Holistic wellbeing central to pastoral care at Benetas

14th June 2021

Moving into a new aged care environment and adjusting to a different way of life can be challenging at times. That’s why it’s reassuring to know you have the support of a dedicated and caring team - both for residents and their family members.

One way this is achieved at Benetas' residential aged care homes is through non-denominational pastoral care.

Pastoral Care Practitioners are available to residents when they're needed to help with any issues they may have, coming to the role with vast experience and commitment to the wellbeing of residents.

Practitioner John Harper, a former pastor and chaplain at a homeless shelter, with the CFA and several schools, believes pastoral care is about providing emotional, mental, and spiritual support.

“It’s amazing to just listen to what some of our residents have to say. They have had remarkable lives and it’s an honour to allow them the opportunity to simply talk about it,” says John.

The main component to pastoral care, according to John, is being empathic and just being available when needed, “I work three days per week but when the demand is there, I love to help where I can. In fact, I probably get as much out of it as the people who call on me.”

What is pastoral care in aged care?

Pastoral care puts you first by offering you support and care where it’s needed most, but it’s not necessarily about formal religion.

The implementation of pastoral care is entirely dependant on the home and according to palliAGED, an evidence-based guidance and knowledge resource about palliative care in aged care, pastoral care workers (or practitioners) may use empathy, listening, reminiscence, or simply being with residents to become engaged and assist them to live well.

Anne Altamore, a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist, has been working as a Pastoral Care Practitioner with Benetas for the last four years.

“I see my role as being a facilitator. I ask the residents I work with what makes them happy. Once I know, I do my best to accommodate their needs.

“During the pandemic, I was talking with a man who told me he felt trapped and that it was causing him frustration. With full cognitive ability, he wasn’t able to leave his room due to the lockdown and he dearly missed his social outings. I asked him what brought him comfort and he told me he loves art and used to like looking at a banksia painting in his aged care home which had since been removed.

“I knew what I had to do to help him self-soothe and I made some calls and arranged to have the painting hung up in his room,” Anne says.

Pastoral care is available to residents should they ask for help by referral from aged care employees or by request from a family member.

How pastoral care can help you

While there’s no set formula to pastoral care as it can be used for many things, aged care residents often reach out for help in the following areas:

1. Support

    If you’re experiencing a particular issue or concern - like seeking a resolution from the past or a family disagreement - Pastoral Care Practitioners can offer you the support and encouragement you might need to reach a conclusion that benefits you.

    2. Talking and listening

      Sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt conversation or to be heard to feel better and that’s what pastoral care can do. “We provide a safe space in which residents can talk privately where they will be free of judgement and enabled to find clarity,” says Anne.

      But it’s not necessarily just a conversation between practitioner and resident, pastoral care opens up opportunities to form deeper relationships between residents through social events like the Men’s Den and BBQs.

      3. End of life care

        Anne believes the role of pastoral care is vital as residents begin their “final journey” and seek peace as they near the end. “I’ve helped several war veterans full of guilt who needed to find inner-calm in their final days. While this is not an easy time, residents take great comfort in it.”

        4. Being available to residents when needed.

          It’s not uncommon for Pastoral Care Practitioners to be found wandering the communal spaces saying hello. John has taken it a step further and sometimes goes to Benetas' retirement village, Dalkeith Heights, across the road so these residents become familiar with him too should they transition to aged care at Dalkeith Gardens at a later point.

          The role of pastoral care during the pandemic

          Pastoral Care Practitioners played a pivotal role in keeping aged care residents healthy and motivated during Victoria's 2020 lockdown. At the height of the lockdown, practitioners were working hard to ensure residents experienced the least amount of disruption to their lives as possible.

          The pandemic also resulted in significant stress to the families of residents who were unable to visit their loved ones. “I’ve had many family members reach out to me to express their gratitude for making sure their parents were safe and secure in such trying times,” says John.

          During this time, Pastoral Care Practitioners provided a calming physical presence and organised things like video calls from residents to loved ones to help keep families connected.

          Pastoral care is a valuable service residents have access to at all Benetas homes. It can be utilised to best suit your needs and offer you the help and support you require.

          For more information on our pastoral care services, or to book a tour at one of our residential aged care homes, please call 1300 23 63 82.