This was a letter submitted to HelloCare by an aged care worker and advocate. These views are a reflection of her own and we believe it is important to give everyone a platform to share their opinion. 

I have been involved in healthcare for over 20 years, here and in the UK – first as a Healthcare Assistant/Personal Care Worker/Support Worker, and now as an Trainer & Assessor, teaching adults how to be Personal Care Workers/Support Workers.

I struggle internally with my current position because I know what my students are heading into – an overworked, underpaid, undervalued industry.

When I first started in this sector we were using bed rails and putting clients with Dementia in straight jackets, now chemical restraints are used instead with lap belts and Princess Chairs.  Not all places use these cruel and archaic forms of restraint, but even the better ones still have room for improvement, such as, design of the environment, education, higher staff ratios and technological advances.

In Residential Care in particular, staff cut corners – they don’t wash their hands or use hoist machines because there is no time to do the basic things, let alone spend quality time with people.

There is a total lack of privacy and respect, staff don’t always knock on doors and clinical staff will give medication when clients are sitting on the toilet. Also, there are still some facilities that don’t give residents their own rooms, and some don’t even have ensuites. This means residents have to be whisked down corridors to have a shower or use the toilet. Such places use communal all in one soap/shampoo/conditioner, and don’t provide clinical gloves for their staff – but food handling or such like instead.

I have witnessed broken blinds and no curtains between the beds. I have heard a man screaming out for eggs, but was told he couldn’t have any because it was not Monday. I reported my concerns to the Enrolled Nurse on duty, who did not seem to care – reporting the mantra of ‘it’s not Monday.’  I asked to speak with the Registered Nurse, but I was told there wasn’t one on duty, so I asked to speak to a more senior staff member, but I was told that they weren’t available either.

Another time a resident reported to me that they had been hit by a staff member. I told the Registered Nurse on duty, but they seemingly did nothing. Currently under the legislation that’s all I need to do, and the Registered Nurse does not need to do more if the person has Dementia (I believe this resident did have Dementia). However, without Mandatory Reporting of abuse and a proper investigation, how will we ever know the truth?

I have also been asked to fudge documentation for funding purposes, with residents not being allowed physical interventions or resources to enable them to stay on a higher care package. Plus I was paid under the award wage.

I reported these all the above concerns, and subsequently I was not offered anymore shifts.

My family and I had concerns about the Residential Aged Care Facility where my Nana was living a few years ago, so when the Aged Care Quality Agency visited I asked a relative to pass on my concerns, as I was unable to due to other commitments. Unfortunately my relative was fobbed off, and was asked to provide this information to the Complaints Team. I thought my concerns would have been of relevance. I question why these two agencies aren’t mandated to work together?

In the past when I was young and naive, I saw horrific pressure injuries, which I attended to instead of a nurse. Unfortunately, the industry still relies on young uneducated women and/or migrants, along with others who have limited employability options. This needs to change.

Recently I went to the Best Practice conference here in SA, and they had a panel at the end with a case study discussing the possibility of Elder Abuse. Everyone on the panel, except for one person, thought the case study was probably abuse and detailed what they would do about it. The person who did not think that the case study was abuse, was a person who was currently working for the Aged Care Quality Agency.

I wish I could say I was shocked – I was not. Even the one ordinary older citizen (not a specialist in aged care) thought it was abuse. Following the panel discussion I challenged the person from the Aged Care Quality Agency, which made them rethink their position and change their mind. I was pleased that this happened, but it should not take a room full of people to make this happen, being that this was a specialist in their field who should know what abuse is.

Maybe, this is because the Aged Care Quality Agency is currently a paper tiger who do nothing. Visits are usually announced and the surprise ones get tipped off. Organisations only have to have paperwork in order to pass, which is very easy to do or fudge. Plus, when noncompliance is discovered organisations don’t receive harsh enough penalties.

Because of this I, along with two other women have come together and formed Aged Care Reform to advocate for change in this sector.

With an upcoming state election in SA, we feel this a good opportunity to highlight these crucial issues, and would like to invite you to attend our rally on Saturday 17 February 2018 at Parliament House, 11:30am1:30pm:

If you can contribute in any way please get in touch.

Remember – we are all ageing.

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