An aged care worker tells us what it’s really like
Jude Clarke has been working as an aged care worker for 48 years. She says she still loves her job, but she’s so tired. She got into aged care to care but there’s no time to care anymore.
She believes it needs to change. And so do we.
“It’s such a stressful environment”
When Jude started working in aged care, she could take the time to care for people. She used to sit with the residents and make sure they were ok. Not these days.
“That’s something I miss. We don’t get to nurture anymore. All the care has gone out of aged care. It’s such a stressful environment.”
Jude had a defining moment recently. She entered a woman’s room to do her meds. This woman was usually cheerful and independent, but when Jude asked if she was ok, she said she wasn’t.
“I said to her ‘why didn’t you ring the bell?’ but she said we’re so run off our feet that she didn’t want to bother us. I asked her what the problem was, and she said: ‘I am so lonely’.
“It made me feel so neglectful. She has the right to have her time but because she’s independent and takes care of herself, she slips through the cracks,” Jude says.
Carers like Jude end up using their lunch and tea breaks to spend time with the residents so they don’t have to justify the time for simply ‘caring’.
“That’s why carers are so tired,” Jude says.
“We’re just exhausted.”
Unfortunately, we hear this problem time and time again. Aged care workers are forced to spend their limited time on noisier, more demanding patients. It means less demanding patients don’t get the care time they need.
Not enough staff and not enough money
Compounding the exhaustion is the fact that so many facilities are short staffed. On our website Aged Care Watch, it’s one of the major complaints from aged care workers like you.
One staff member at an aged care home in Western Australia reported that a resident had had an accident. The worker got into trouble for giving her a shower before taking her to the dinning room. The worker was then told to ‘shut the f*** up and do my job’. This facility was understaffed.
Another staff member from Stanthorpe, QLD reported that not enough staffing led to residents missing out on planned lifestyle activities and staff doing unpaid work.
These reports come to Aged Care Watch every single day.
One of the main reasons there isn’t enough staff is that the industry isn’t attractive enough.
“The pay is a big thing for young people,” Jude says.
“I do everything I can do to make myself a better carer and I’m paid $26.70 an hour. If I was working at Maccas at night, I’d probably be on more.”
It’s all about funding
Although there are many reasons elderly residents aren’t getting the care they need, Jude believes the fundamental problem is lack of funding.
“I spend more time doing notes and justifying my time spent in each area.
It’s easy to say I spent 15 minutes on wound care or I showered someone. But if I put in my notes that I sat with that lady for 10 minutes because she was needing it for mental wellness, that doesn’t come under anything for funding. It shouldn’t equate back to dollars and cents. It should equate to caring,” Jude said.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care said $50 billion in funding needs to go into the sector in the next 5 years. So far, the government has committed $17.7 billion.
“And there’s no accountability. We’re all getting pretty pictures on the wall which can help attract more people into the facility. But there’s no good bringing them in if there isn’t enough staff to do the work.”
What do we need?
Aged Care workers across the country have endorsed five key demands. They are:
The Morrison government must take responsibility for the aged care crisis facing older Australians.
We need a government that works hard to keep older Australians safe. They need to address the short-staffing we face and make sure profits aren’t put ahead of quality care.
A care time guarantee
All older Australians deserve to be cared for in a respectful and safe way. A care time guarantee would make sure aged care workers have enough time to care for every patient.
A decent wage and recognition of skills
We need to value the amazing work that our aged care workers do for older Australians. That means paying them more and training them with the skills to do their job.
Job security: one job should be enough
We need a secure workforce where aged care workers have enough hours to live on. They need to have the security to build strong relationships with residents, allowing them to provide quality care.
Respect for aged care workers in the workplace
Aged care workers go above and beyond to care for older Australians. We need to give them the respect they deserve.
What can you do?
If you work in Aged Care, you have a powerful role to play in improving the sector. You can join the union for aged care workers and get the support when you need it.
You can also join our digital strike force. We’re taking online actions every week to amplify our campaign and drive change.
Next time you encounter an issue at work, register it on Aged Care Watch. Every post helps us increase community awareness and put pressure on decision-makers to fund more care-time.
Do you want to bring back the care in aged care? Join your union and help change the aged care sector for the better.