There is a very fine line between turning the other cheek and having people walk all over you, and nobody understands this better than those who work in aged care. 

We as a society expect aged care staff to treat older people with dignity and respect, but some of the emotional and cognitive impairments that often come with old age can result in that level of respect not being reciprocated by residents. 

In many cases, particularly when dementia is involved, aged care staff put up with both physical and verbal abuse from residents, and are then expected to smile and continue delivering quality care. 

Hearing phrases like “I pay your wages!” and being referred to as “slaves” are definitely not new to veteran aged care staff, but according to some, there has been a noticeable increase in that kind of behaviour following recent changes to the aged care standards.

Online reports reveal that some staff feel as though residents have begun treating their nurse call button like a “little silver bell’ that is used to summon a butler, rather than an alert system.

One staff member even recalled a resident being reffered to as a dog when asking a resident if she would like some assistance.

Whether or not these attitudes are a reflection of changing attitudes towards what is expected in aged care, is open for interpretation.

But if new standards in aged care require a change in attitude from providers and their staff, then it’s not far fetched to imagine that there would be some residents who have picked up on this and might be taking things a bit far.

Families of aged care residents have often held unrealistic views regarding what aged care providers are actually capable of, and some staff believe that the new standards and media scrutiny has only heightened these expectations. 

Empowerment & Feedback 

The level of scrutiny that has been placed on the aged care sector over the last 14 months has revealed a number of atrocities, shortcomings, and failures that large portions of the general public were completely unaware of. 

This increase in societal awareness has empowered many within the industry to finally speak up, while vindicating the opinions of others who have spent decades pointing out the industry’s problems and trying to have their opinions heard.

The dam wall of silence has finally burst, and it’s only natural that these attitudes would filter down to residents in aged care and their families.

When you consider the fact that the Royal Commission’s Interim Report described a fear of retribution as being one of the driving forces of a lack of resident feedback, an increase in criticism from residents and families may actually indicate an increase in trust. 

But that probably doesn’t mean a lot to the hardworking aged care staff who are constantly asked to endure with no indication of reprieve.

Policing negative comments and verbal abuse from residents that are directed towards aged care staff would be near on impossible, but acknowledging what aged care staff goes through by increasing their pay would go a long way in proving that we value what they do.

Personal Care Assistants are the backbone of the Australian aged care industry, yet they receive less pay than people working the registers in supermarkets who don’t shoulder anywhere near the same level of risk or responsibility. 

While nurses in aged care who care for the most vulnerable members of our society earn up to 10 or 15 percent less than those in the acute health sector.

How can we possibly believe that older people are valued if we fail to see the value in the work of those that care for them?

-This article has been edited 

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