Conference focuses on 'dignity in the final journey'

Catholic Healthcare director of mission Andrew Nee, left, Dr Dan Fleming, Rev Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay, Frank Clarke and Margaret Woods from Catholic Healthcare’s Mission team (Catholic Healthcare)

Spirituality in ageing and the ethics of end-of-life care were topics canvassed during aged care provider Catholic Healthcare’s recent pastoral care conference in Sydney.

“Dignity in the final journey” was the theme of the conference for Catholic Healthcare, which is a not-for-profit provider of residential aged care, community services, retirement living and healthcare in New South Wales and Queensland.

Catholic Healthcare’s Director of Mission Andrew Nee said, “Our conference, held every two years, is an opportunity for our pastoral care people and other like-minded individuals to get together and learn from each other’s experiences.

“Pastoral care is an essential part of Catholic Healthcare’s person-centred holistic approach. As well as helping those who are facing physical, social or emotional challenges, we explore

spirituality to help people make meaning of ageing and to be treated with dignity, especially at the end of their journey.”

The first keynote speaker, Elizabeth MacKinlay from Charles Sturt University, spoke about “Finding meaning in the experience of frailty”. Rev Professor MacKinlay spoke about the importance of spirituality in ageing, and how meeting spiritual needs improves mental health and wellbeing.

She said spirituality is the ultimate meaning mediated through relationships, the environment, religion and the arts.

With regard to frailty, Rev Professor MacKinlay said “we need to think beyond the biomedical model. We need to take a holistic perspective on frailty which encompasses physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions.”

The second keynote speaker, Dan Fleming from St Vincent’s Health Australia, spoke about “Dignity and ethics in end of life care: Considerations from Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying experience”.

Dr Fleming spoke about the implications of the euthanasia laws on Catholic aged care services. Delegates were asked to think about the excellence of care they provide and what it entails.

“The work of Catholic health and aged care services rests on a beautiful and courageous ethic of care, which is centred on the dignity of each and every person. We have a long and great tradition of providing excellent end-of-life care. Our focus is to ensure that our ethic of care continues to serve those who need it. The challenge is to uphold this tradition of care and to continue advancing it.”

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Dignity in the final journey (Catholic Healthcare)

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