The purpose of this paper is to describe a series of surveys undertaken for The Abbeyfield Society to assess the nature of spiritual needs and care in its homes, and outlines their findings in relation to practical and policy implications.
Over the course of ten months, 35 homes representing a variety of sizes and locations were visited, and 100 interviews of approximately one hour each were undertaken with residents, managers, care workers and volunteers. These were guided by a semi-structured questionnaire, and included observations on the accommodation and facilities. An analysis of the transcriptions resulted in four reports with consolidated recommendations.
The analyses indicated that the factors contributing to spiritual wellbeing can be described in “clusters” relating to family, friendship, memory, time, listening, resilience and sense of self and place; but the common factor underlying all is the nature of the relationships formed in the home. It is almost impossible to separate out spiritual flourishing from physical or mental welfare, and therefore important to observe the interplay between them.
An environment in which the key contributing factors are nurtured, can be defined and described in concrete terms, and these can then be taken into account when forward planning.
While national policy on care of the elderly is subject to a range of drivers, of which holistic health is only one, this study does challenge some assumptions on which current policy is based.
The purpose and methodology of the surveys enabled a very wide range of views and experiences to be synthesised, providing information and insights firmly located in the voices of people who are directly affected by practice and policy.
The author is grateful to The Abbeyfield Society for commissioning and supporting this work.
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