“You deserve the highest community appreciation every day of the year, as you care for the older Australians who built the nation we cherish today. Thank you.”
Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care.
August 7 marked the inaugural Aged Care Employee Day, an initiative created by aged care provider, Whiddon Group. It’s a truly wonderful, and we think, necessary initiative. Despite the industry as a whole being under the spotlight recently – and not in the best light, unfortunately – it isn’t often enough that we look to the individuals that work toward creating peaceful and supportive environments for our beloved elders.
An aged care employee can come in many shapes and sizes with varying degrees of skills and experience. From registered nurses, new trainees, catering assistants, management and even HR the industry is rich in skill and experience. In Australia today there are over 300,000 individuals working in the aged care sector and despite some of the negative views of the industry surfacing of late, each of these valuable employees keep turning up to work to do a job that often goes without reward.
It takes a special type of person to work in this field. It is not easy work and it is definitely not glamorous. And, in the current climate, it’s neither very popular. But there’s 300, 000 Australians that call this a career.
Sure, there may be a few bad fruit that spoil the jam, but overall the aged care sector hosts some of the most caring and responsible workers you could find.
Skills and proficiencies are often varied across the board, but there are a few key traits we think make a good carer even better.
Whether you’re a registered nurse or a catering assistant, a great deal of responsibility comes with working in aged care. Ultimately, you are responsible for the welfare of some of our oldest and most cherished citizens. From administering pharmaceuticals for high care patients, to being the first friendly face a resident sees at the break of their day, each moment of a working day carries the responsibility to ensure our residents are taken care of in the best way possible.
The elderly have lived long enough to know how to take care of themselves, but if they’ve ended up in residential aged care it means they are no longer able to do so. Many residents, particularly those suffering from dementia, are no longer able to clearly decipher what it is they might need to make them more comfortable. Considering current staff ratio issues, chances are carers not given a lot of time with residents on their routine visits, and it comes down to initiative to figure out what the resident may need to make their stay more comfortable. You can’t train thoughtfulness. It requires a particularly natured soul to see the things others may not, and this is a trait a really good carer will have outside of their learned skills.
Perhaps you’re walking into a room to do a routine check, maybe to pick up a tray, or something easily managed in a short amount of time, and the resident has decided they would like to get out of bed. A good carer needs to be flexible enough to adjust their intent to support a resident’s current needs. Sure, the carer is no doubt under pressure to meet certain time restraints, but a flexible person can usually troubleshoot and figure out a way around the usual order of things to make room for an unusual request.
The elderly are a lot slower to think and move than most. They can also be forgetful and perhaps at times a little abrupt, which is entirely understandable given their circumstances. It’s very difficult to handover most of your control to a stranger, often without a choice in the matter. It takes a great deal of patience to navigate these situations, whether it be waiting for resident to get dressed, finish eating, or get comfortable. You may even find yourself hearing a twice or thrice told story. It is important for a carer to take a few deep breaths occasionally and practice some good old-fashioned patience. It’s not only the fundamentals of caring that are important, like eating, sleeping and administering drugs, but something as simple as feeling heard or being able to move at your own pace can be the pinnacle of caring for some individuals.
This one is pretty self-explanatory and encompasses all the attributes above. Our elders have been here –– living, learning and sharing longer than us. They have earned respect. It’s the one thing anyone working in a care industry needs to get his or her head around. A good carer will respect their clients. No questions asked. Respect first, and then, as Aretha says, take care, (Take Care of Business) TCB.