Holding on to the spiritual death, despite Covid-19.

By yesterday (April 20) Anglicare’s Newmarch House, in Sydney’s western suburbs, had reported two deaths and 41 infections with Covid-19. This follows six deaths at the Dorothy Henderson aged care facility in Sydney’s Macquarie Park, after infections there last month.

No nursing home wants to repeat that experience. So this means we double down on efforts to protect the frail elderly.

In Australia, we are lucky enough that out death rate from Covid-19 is low and our social distancing strategies are working. But this presents us with another dilemma. How do we ensure that the elderly living in social isolation don’t deteriorate and die from the consequences of their increased isolation – a very real possibility.

Ilsa Hampton, CEO of  Meaningful Ageing Australia, said in a recent statement: “Unquestionably our communities need our physical health to be protected and supported in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is now, more than ever, that we need to strengthen the inner resources of ourselves and others.”

Meaningful Ageing Australia is the peak body for spiritual care and ageing in Australia. It: “works to enable those who are supporting older people to be their best selves. We have a wide range of practical resources for organisations to activate on a small and large scale to develop and support capability in emotional support for older people. This includes building empathy, kindness, compassion and respect. All of these are fundamental to contemporary spiritual care.”

“Now, more than ever, we need connection to what matters most and to what sustains us. We have been greatly encouraged to see the many community and individual efforts springing up in response to our collective need for connectedness,” Ilsa said in her statement.

“Conversely, we have been deeply disturbed by reports of spiritual care being shut out when it is most needed,” she said.

“Drawing on examples from our members, we have created a short information sheet for service providers and others to be encouraged and inspired to keep spiritual care front and centre alongside clinical care. Download it for free – it covers opportunities to share, essential services, rituals, care packages and care for the team.”

Here is Ilsa’s download, which can be found via LinkedIn.

Barb Carter, National Accreditation Secretary for Chaplaincy Australia in NSW, said there are enormous pressures on chaplains at the moment because of the virus.

Chaplaincy Australia is “an organisation of the Australian Christian Churches committed to communicating the Christian faith in a hands-on, compassionate and meaningful way.”

 “Covid-19 has pushed our chaplains into rethinking and relearning. But this is what God always asks us to do, so we will find a way.”

“The really hard thing at the moment is the inability to have face to face contact. This has created real difficulties in the very moment when compassion most needs to be expressed – the time when someone is dying.

“So we have to find a way to show our compassion, without being able to touch or be in the intimate space with those we would normally serve,” she said.

The withdrawal of spiritual access close to death doesn’t just have an impact on the dying but it has a major impact on their families, Barb said.

“The ripple effect is really going to be a major issue, causing trauma in families,” she said.

“I spoke with a little girl who normally visits her grandfather at the nursing home where I visit in my role as a chaplain. It is very hard on her not to be able to talk to her Pa. For her it is terrible. But it is much worse for many of the elderly, particularly those with dementia who are very confused by it. This is causing trauma for them.”

“Our volunteers in the nursing homes can’t go in. But they’ve been allowed to ring and talk to their clients, so we are developing different  and new ways to communicate. And we are also encouraging people to do video meetings.”

“I always say to people, God speaks to us in a language that we understand. He speaks differently to you and me. He will speak to you in your language, and using technology to communicate with each other will be part of that. He is still there.” 

“He is our Creator God, who created all things. God is always creating and you can see this with every new rose bud that starts to open.”

“So He wants us to be creative in this time of Covid-19 as well. I firmly believe that if we use that creative side of being compassionate we will overcome the difficulties.”

To find out more about the work of Chaplaincy Australia, go to:


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