I was very struck by an advertisement in a recent Sunday newspaper for a care home which said that ‘because we have taken the time to get to know Jim we know how passionate he is about football and what an important part this played in his life since his father first wrapped him up in a thick green and blue woolly scarf’.
What this advertisement is telling us is how important it is for us to understand an individual; what is it that makes us individual and that we need to have a greater understanding of what has contributed to a person’s life – whether it is food we like or what time you want to get up in the morning. What are the fundamental needs that have taken us through our life, guided us and built our strengths?
In discussing, implementing and understanding person-centred care it is vital that the spiritual dimension is included. Some of you might be thinking ‘oh dear is she going to talk about religion’ and I quite frequently get the response of ‘I don’t do God’. I am not talking about religion except in as far as it matters to the individual older person and it is not about what I believe but about what their needs are and how we should respond. It is the importance of paying attention to what matters to somebody.
Tom Kitwood emphasised that each person should be valued as an individual; understanding the values that were the mainstay of their lives and what had influenced their lives so that we see the person for what they are; as a whole person who’s got a history; built an identity and who has lived and experienced a whole range of things.
Person centred care is founded on the ethic that all human beings are of absolute value and worthy of respect no matter what their disability.
But spirituality is about the intangible elements that matter – values, relationship and critically, meaning and purpose. What is it that makes us get up in the morning; what is it that made anybody in this room want to get up this morning to come to this conference; what is it that enables us to get through the day. This is what we what we need to know and understand.
The World Health Organisation is very clear that if you’re looking at holistic health and well-being of an individual you have to think of body, mind, and spirit. We often talk about a spirited person or what lifts the spirit and it is these particular elements that we’ve developed in our lives that make the difference.
Many writers have spoken about meaning and purpose and Nietzsche said ‘he who has a why to live can bear almost any how they are living’. We need to ascertain what the ‘why’ is for individuals and I don’t mean we blunder around asking ‘why do you still want to be alive’ but through their memories begin to tease out the factors that have built up the why and what gives us meaning and purpose now.
Many carers are providing spiritual care but not realising it. It is not about an additional task but a way of weaving it in and realising individual needs.