A simple formula to cope

After spending nearly 30 years working as a chartered accountant, Hawthorn Community chaplain Kirsty Brown knows the simple effectiveness of two columns on the white board: assets and liabilities.

And she has applied this to emotions, which is proving to be a wonderful tool for staff and residents at the facility, many of whom are feeling the effects of prolonged lockdowns and COVID related stress.

This is another example of spiritual care in action across our Uniting AgeWell sites – and during Spiritual Care Week from October 25 – 30, it is timeous to shine a light on all the good work that is being done.

Kirsty has set up two whiteboards in the prayer room. One is festooned with post-it notes – each with one negative emotion written on them. Anger, fear, despair, rage, feeling inadequate, lonely and more. The second board is also covered with post-it notes each bearing a positive emotion – courage, joy, gratitude, mercy, kindness and so on.

Staff leaving work to go home after a shift are invited to take one or more emotions they are feeling off the negative board, and lay the post-it notes on the table. To park their worries – and actively strive to leave them behind as they head off home. And they are invited to choose one or more positive emotions from the second board to take home with them. A tangible reminder that this is what they are striving for.

The same applies to residents, who enjoy the symbolism of laying down their worries and emerging from the prayer room with a tangible reminder of the positive emotions they are wanting to strive for.

“It’s very simple, but it works well,” Kirsty says. “It allows people to recognise their emotions, and to choose the ones they hope to put aside, and the ones they hope to adopt. It helps them reflect and it empowers them to act on this.”

The boards have been up for a few weeks, and Kirsty keeps on replenishing the post-it notes. “I plan on leaving the boards up for a few more weeks. I think it’s a good tool, especially during lockdown when our emotions may feel more pronounced than during normal times.”

Kirsty, who started at Hawthorn in mid-July, works three days at the facility and the rest of the week as a Deacon at St Columbs Anglican Church in Hawthorn, where she will be ordained as a priest in November.

Scottish-born Kirsty worked as a chartered accounted in Glasgow before moving to Melbourne 25 years ago. Her mother is Australian, and Kirsty has always loved the country. She first worked in the Melbourne financial arena before becoming a business manager at two private schools.

But the calling to the ministry was strong, and she took long service leave to study theology. She started doing voluntary pastoral work at St Columbs and found herself drawn to older people. She knew that’s where she was meant to go.

“It is a privilege working with older people at Hawthorn,” Kristy says. “They have lovely stories to tell, interesting lives, it is wonderful to be able to be there for them.” She also plays the piano and sings, which means she can be self-sufficient doing services during lockdown, which is pretty handy.

Uniting AgeWell offers care that respects personal choice and individual expressions of spirituality, and encourages connectedness and community. A variety of opportunities are provided to encourage the finding of meaning, purpose, connectedness, hope, and to transcend loss.

Read more chaplain stories and find out more about Spiritual Care Week