One would never imagine that working in aged care puts a person at risk of violent assaults and verbal attacks.
But for some aged care workers, this is a reality that comes with the job – something that no one should ever have to face.
In Australia, up to 95% of healthcare workers have experienced verbal or physical assault while on the job.
And within three months, more than 1000 nurses across Australia experienced violence during their shifts.
In some cares, nurses are bitten, struck and spit on regularly by elderly residents, usually ones with dementia who may be agitated or confused.
Sick days that were taken on account of “accidents at work” have also risen steadily since 2005.
An international research found that 80 per cent of aged care workers in Finland experience violence from their patients
The research chief, Timo Sinervo explained that the situation is dire, “it would be easier to respond to the situation if there were a reason for the violence, but there is none that we have found”.
An estimated 193,000 people in Finland have diseases or disorders that affect memory.
This European study suggested that the violence is often linked to the residents’ dementia symptoms – as well as saying that adding more staff would not improve the situation.
It was found that people in home care would also resort to violence in some situations, and were more likely to do so than people in residential aged care.
As one nurse pointed out, some residents are placed into aged care because their families being unable to cope with their aggressive behaviours.
Many of the attacks and abuse were not reported to authorities or even the managers at the facility. In fact, police are practically never involved when it comes to elder violence.
Some nurses even said that they didn’t tell their own families and loved ones about the ordeals they faced, “it is an occupational issue and we are duty-bound to secrecy.” said one nurse anonymously.
The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals says that only the most heinous attacks are reported.
Kaija Ojanperä, from Union of Health and Social Care Professionals, explained that many nurses choose to not report violence or abuse they experience because they are used to the behaviour or they do not believe their case would lead to any concrete measures.
In most aged care facilities, there are considerable less staff working night shifts than during day shits.
One of the anonymous interviewees said that “nighttime is the worst”, because any potential incidents are to be faced alone.
If a nurse were to be attacked or knocked unconscious, it may be hours before any help arrives.
Though facilities may be aware of the potential dangers, the lack of staffing ratios and budget means more staff will not be added at night.
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