Aged care homes are places where our most frail and vulnerable older people live. How do we ensure the highest possible standards of care in aged care homes? Some claim a consumer driven and market based residential aged care system will provide ‘world class’ care; others claim we need effective regulation, government intervention and increased transparency to prevent neglect in aged care homes.

In recent years, there have been numerous heart-breaking stories about aged care homes. When stories about inadequate personal care, neglect, abuse and negligence are reported in the media, the aged care industry dismisses these stories as ‘one-offs’. But are they?

To answer this question, we need to hear from people who have first-hand experiences in aged care homes – residents, relatives and staff. They know what day-to-day life is like in aged care homes.

I recently asked relatives about the aged care home they visited. By sharing positive and negative views about aged care homes, and suggestions about how residents can have the best possible quality of life, relatives provide a rich source of experiences to inform policy. I have also interviewed residents.

I am now seeking the views of staff who work in an aged care home. Staff are often hard working, dedicated people doing a very difficult job for not much pay or professional kudos.

Managers, nurses, personal care attendants, kitchen, activities, reception, cleaning and maintenance staff are encouraged to share their first-hand experiences of working in an aged care home. We need to listen to staff’s experiences of their day-to-day work in an aged care home. We also need to know more about the working conditions in aged care homes.

There are around 2,700 aged care homes in Australia. Although many are excellent, some operate without enough staff. Unlike childcare centres, hospitals and schools, there is no federal legislative requirement for aged care homes in Australia to have staff-to-resident ratios or skill prerequisites.

Should ratios be introduced? Or are most aged care homes adequately staffed?

Would you recommend the aged care home where you work to your parents?

These are the type of questions that need to be answered to ensure an evidence-based approach to aged care policy.

Staff who participate in this study will be asked to reflect on what you like about your work, and what you don’t like. I am also seeking ideas for improving residents’ quality of life. If you could change three things in the aged care home in which you work, what would you change?

The survey begins with open-ended questions. This gives staff an opportunity to say as much or as little as you like about whatever you want.

All information will be kept confidential. No identifying information about you or the aged care home where you work will be published.

If your first language is not English, you may answer questions using your first language.

I am also collecting information about staffing levels in aged care homes. What is the ratio of registered nurses-to-residents in the aged care home in which you work? Is a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day?

The more survey responses I receive from staff, the stronger the findings. The findings will be used to lobby for improvements in working conditions for staff in aged care homes. Improved working conditions are not only important for staff but will also ensure a better quality of life for residents.

If you would like to share your views, please click here.

Image above: A carer stops for a chat as she passes through the lounge room.

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