Abused, harassed, intimidated and left in tears…and that was just me today. We have heard a lot about the abuse in Aged Care Homes and so we should, our elderly deserve respect and kindness.
But what about me as their carer? Should I also be given respect?
I am well educated working on my third degree, I've worked for over a decade managing projects to alleviate poverty around the world in challenging situations like famine, I have raised children and managed without any family support… and yet here I am crying…again… after a shift in Aged Care.
In my first week in Aged Care I was sworn at by other workers for being too slow (I was, it was my first week), I was told there's a 'no lift' policy – yet was asked to 'hug' residents into standing positions (residents that weighed at least 2 x my weight being a potential back-break for me). I was hit straight across the face by a resident suffering with advanced dementia and told "oh yeah you'll get that" with no additional training or support given (I have never been across the face hit by anyone). And today I was told to stop talking to residents "and do my work" – I was… as I was talking to residents… which I thought was the whole reason Aged Care existed? Them?
So please tell me… where is the fault?
- Is it with me – the 'newbie' who is being hit like a ping pong ball by all the 'experienced' staff – should I be rougher, tougher & stronger as I am instructed, or can I just be me?
- Is it with the other carers who are worn out, stressed out and find no enjoyment in their jobs as hours and pay keeps getting cut for a very physically and mentally demanding job so take their lack of patience out on us – the newbies (we all can feel it).
- Is it with the superiors who should be kinder to the carers? More supportive? Do they set the tone?
- Or is it with their superiors, this elusive 'management' I keep hearing about that keep cutting costs lowering staff morale.
- Or is the government to blame, the lack of funding into Aged Care meaning companies profit off the elderly as workers are told to not even spend 5 minutes talking with them to 'cut costs' and fill up beds.
Have they even spent a day in my shoes?
Perhaps the greatest disappointment for me, hasn't been the abusive residents, it hasn't been the tiredness from cleaning up faeces found on walls, on floors, in gardens, or even from racing from one room to the next checking on all the falls risks as buzzers rise – my own grandparents died of dementia, so my compassion for them runs deep….
My greatest dissapointment has been from my co-workers, workers that have spent a day in my shoes, that know the stresses of the job, but continue to abuse, to harass, to swear and intimidate me for no other reason than 'I'm new'.
If we can't even be kind to each other, what else is there? Is respect really that hard?
So as I finish my first month in Aged Care wondering if I will continue, please… if your one of the thousands of Australians who work there too, show some kindness to those around you. Show some respect. Stop with the condescending. The pride. Don't respect me because 'I've earnt it', but simply because we are all in this together. I'm not trying to prove myself to you to get your respect, I'm trying to build rapport with the residents, to get their respect and work in a people-centred way. Respect should be a given. Period. For no reason at all. I wish your harsh words and condescending looks didn't sting me, but they do.
As we care for the elderly remember that for most we are the only human touch they will get all day, the only warm smile or gentle stroke, to many elderly residents we are the face of humanity.
If you have family in Aged Care homes, please…visit. If its too awkward in an uncomfortable setting take your elderly out, just a drive down the road. Share a cup of tea. Just turn up. Ask the questions on your mind.
If you're in management, please, we need more staff so we can talk to the elderly about the weather, the day, the clothes they may want to wear.
Give us time to care, to stop and chat, isn't the elderly's mental health just as important as physical?
Take care of your workers, so we can take care of the elderly.
But for now - we are it. The carers. We are their everyday world. So let's turn up and be in this together. Kindness, love & respect. Is it really too much to ask?
From a carer who signed up to care for the elderly… but instead is being harassed by other carers. If that is you, please dig deep a find a place where mutual respect and love exists. Or find another job.
Source: Anonymous aged care worker