“To a better place”: The role of religious belief for staff in residential aged care in coping with resident deaths

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Here’s an update from Dr Rosemary Frey on a new publication from the End of Life with Dementia Research (ELDER) project

As populations age, staff in residential aged care are subjected to increasing amounts of stress and burnout.  Stressors include exposure to the declining health and deaths of residents they care for.  How do residential aged care staff members combat this stress?

Rosemary Frey and colleagues addressed that question in a new article published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine. The team looked at the impact of staff religiosity/spirituality on burnout. One hundred and thirteen staff members (Registered Nurses – RNs, Enrolled Nurses – ENs, and Health Care Assistants – HCAs) recruited from 50 facilities were interviewed as part of the End of Life with Dementia Research (ELDER) project led by Dr Michal Boyd.  ELDER explored the quality of end life for older people living in residential aged care facilities across New Zealand.

Staff members appeared to have distinctly different experiences of the role of religious/spiritual beliefs in their attitudes toward death and dying and this difference was reflected linguistically in how they described it. Religious belief strength did have an impact on how well staff members coped with death and dying.  Strong religious/spiritual influence and religious affiliation were associated with lower scores for burnout. Membership in one of the three religious/spiritual belief strength groups (strong belief/ minor belief/ no belief) did make a difference in the coping strategies employed by staff. In particular, staff in the minor influence group demonstrated both higher burnout scores and coping strategies which could be characterised as dysfunctional.

Results point to a need to implement formal processes for staff (e.g., debriefing opportunities and information on managing grief and loss, opportunities for self-reflection on values and beliefs). This may contribute to both staff well-being and to improved resident care.

If you would like a full text copy of this paper please contact: r.frey@auckland.ac.nz


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