'Rushed and pressured' aged care workers say it's time for industry overhaul

Time pressures on aged care workers are leading to elderly clients receiving an 'unacceptable' level of service and care, according to some in the industry.

Teresa Hetherington wants to see the “care” put back into care worker.

Ms Hetherington has been a care worker for almost two decades but says time constraints and cost pressures are slowly eroding the most important parts of the job.

“We don’t have time to care anymore,” she said.

“It’s entirely task-oriented.”

Aged care worker Teresa Hetherington says it is increasingly difficult to provide individualised care.
Source: SBS

Australia’s aged care system has been put under the spotlight after a series of scandals in recent years, with a recent royal commission hearing of a “rising torrent” of concern in the sector.

Ms Hetherington said time pressures on the job reduced service quality and stripped clients of their dignity.

“We’re focused on the fact that we’ve got such a short period of time to do the job and get out,” she said.

“I no longer have the time to check if this one wants to wear jeans that day or that one wants their hair done a certain way.

“It’s ‘put your hair in a ponytail put you in a tracksuit and get you out the door as soon as possible’.

“That's unacceptable for most of our clients - it removes their dignity and the quality of their life.”

Royal Commissioner Lynelle Briggs says there is a rising torrent of concern in Australia's aged care system.
Source: AAP

A new survey by Australian academics has found aged care workers are under pressure to provide even basic needs for clients.

University of New South Wales researcher Dr Natasha Cortis said 90 per cent of more than 1000 care workers surveyed felt impacted by time pressures.

Care workers felt "rushed and pressured" just to provide basic physical care needs, the survey found. 

“Workers did talk about having to deliver care 'on the clock' and being timed and being under surveillance of their mobile phones,” Dr Cortis said.

Macquarie University Professor Gabrielle Meagher said lagging staff numbers had led to a deterioration in service quality.

Professor Gabrielle Meagher says funding and staffing levels have fallen behind, leading to a degradation of service.
Source: SBS

“There’s been no net resources per older person that’s increased in terms of staff in residential aged care, and, in fact, there’s been an absolute decline in size of the home care workforce.”

Earlier this year the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard a series of harrowing stories detailing abuse inside Australian care homes.

Commissioner Lynelle Briggs said Australia’s aged care system should be simple to understand, easily navigated and accessible to all.

"But, there has been a rising torrent of concern that the aged care system is faltering in certain areas of safety and quality and that it may not be fit for purpose," she said.

"We need to ensure that all Australians have confidence the system will deliver for them and for their families."

The royal commission is due to hand down its interim report next week.

Published 24 October 2019 at 11:28am, updated 24 October 2019 at 4:35pm
By Steve Trask