We invited members of our community to share their experiences and perspectives of aged care services. Disclaimer: These stories have not been independently verified. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of Aged Care Reform Now and are shared for information purposes only.
I started working in aged care in 2016, and while it’s always been a hard job, back then it was still possible to do it to a high standard. Since the current federal government removed a lot of funding, standards have fallen a long way. Shifts go unfilled, instead of 3 carers to look after 20 high care residents, there’s only 2. Instead of having 1 cleaner per wing, there’s sometimes only 2 or 3 to take care of 5 wings, so all rooms and communal areas get a cursory clean instead of being cleaned properly (a scary prospect in the age of covid). Even now, with everything that’s come out during the Royal Commission my facility is cutting Registered Nursing shifts and expecting the Registered Nurses left, who are already staying back hours after their shift ends, to somehow manage all that extra work. Extra cleaners added specifically for touchpoint sanitizing under Covid funding are diverted to make up for the lack of staff serving dinners and other tasks.
The worst part is that with apathetic management only focused on keeping costs down, standards slip even further. In the kitchen, staff will stack trays in the dishwasher one on top of the other to get more done at the same time, but it just means the dishes don’t get washed or rinsed properly and if you don’t rinse a cup before making a coffee there’s a layer of detergent on top. Hard boiled eggs with a strict use by date of 48 hours after opening are labelled as expiring in 72 hours, then when that use by date is imminent the eggs are mashed and mixed with mayo for sandwiches and somehow miraculously are given another 72 hours to be used. In both cases after I reported the issue to management they said in no uncertain terms it was inappropriate and they would speak with those involved, yet it still keeps happening.
Activities provided by the Lifestyle staff are a joke, despite those staff doing the best they can with limited time and money. Basic, low effort activities like walks, bingo, and coloring are the norm. The few residents who are young enough to qualify for NDIS funding are provided with much better activities, but I shudder to think how they will suffer when that funding stops.
Working in aged care right now is heartbreaking. We work in this sector because we care about people, and want to make the twilight years of our residents comfortable and pleasant. As a result of spending so much time with them, we build relationships and get close to them, so when they are neglected due to the lack of staff we feel it. We feel guilty that we can’t do more, but we are under pressure from management to complete an unreasonable number of tasks (too many tasks to get done properly in the time provided, let alone leaving any time to give our residents the attention they crave).
Working in aged care right now is scary and stressful. We hardly have any social life, for fear of being infected with Covid and going to work asymptomatic. Aged care needs to change. We need root and stem reform, not lip service and a bit more funding. Aged care needs to be the #1 issue in the next federal election to make that reform happen.
Do you need support? OPAN provides free services to support older people and their representatives address issues related to Commonwealth-funded aged care services and informs people of their rights and responsibilities: 1800 700 600 or opan.com.au