I did not start out seeking Aged Care Reform. In fact, when I told people that I wanted to pursue a career in aged care, I usually got quite similar responses across the board.
“My Mum/Dad is in a nursing home. The staff are always so busy!”
“Mum won’t let me complain but…”
“I’d rather die than ever go into a nursing home.”
When I began to study for my Diploma of Nursing, on our very first day at TAFE, our lecturer asked us all where we saw ourselves as future nurses.
I said aged care, of course.
I told all my friends that one day I would own a nursing home. I was already planning my post-diploma study path in geriatric nursing – aged care was where I wanted to be.
Fast forward three years, and I don’t work in aged care. After a decade of working as a community personal care and disability support worker, I am now an Enrolled Nurse working in acute care.
I was rapt when I secured a job as a personal care worker while I was a nursing student on my work placement in a residential facility. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face! I hoped it would lead to future opportunities to work as an aged care nurse.
My determination to fight for change has been ignited by what feels like constant negative press
However, I lasted just eleven short months before I was sitting in my car outside work, crying and not wanting to go inside before my shift. I didn’t sleep. In fact, I was anxious and jumpy. I was short-tempered and stressed at home because I couldn’t be at work – at least not in front of my residents. My colleagues and I vented and leaned on one another constantly, but it was still like working in a pressure cooker full of stress, about to explode. There was no one particular reason that it was like that – there was a pile of problems, and there was no one to fix them.
I resigned just as I was about to graduate. It was terrifying to be jobless just as I was hoping to begin my nursing career. However, I had to do it. I knew I was close to burning out. It was the right decision for me, and my family, at the time. I still feel guilty about leaving my residents, and my colleagues to this day. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved that job every bit as much as I had always dreamed that I would.
I WAS ANGRY FOR FAMILIES AND RESIDENTS WHO WERE NOT ALL GETTING THE LEVEL OF CARE THEY DESERVED
I saw the potential to do great things, but it was just too much for one person to tackle. How do you begin? Where do you start? There’s never enough money, never enough resources. Staff aren’t all as passionate about their jobs as they could be. Residents don’t want to complain, families are afraid to be seen as troublemakers.
My passion for aged care has never abated even though I am currently not working in the industry. My determination to fight for change has been ignited by what feels like constant negative press about an industry that I know is full of good people, burning out just like I did. The reports of the suffering of residents in Oakden frankly sickened me – and then it only added to my absolute determination to be a voice for change.
Level of care
I was angry for families and residents who were not all getting the level of care they deserved, many of whom felt powerless and ignored, and I even read some reports of people being threatened when they tried to speak up about abuse or neglect.
We have based our reforms on the Senate Inquiry report
I was tired of hearing nothing but bad things about carers – the low paid, hard-working and least invested-in workers in the industry.
I was sad to see the droves of skilled workers, like nurses and allied health, leaving the industry in droves.
Most of all, I was fed up with the entire industry having such a terrible reputation that people said they’d rather die than face a future living in aged care services.
I joined with some friends to work on a campaign for aged care reform, and we were quickly inspired by one another to get to work. We began a petition, which has rapidly evolved into something else – a network of people associated in a myriad of ways with the aged care industry.
We are holding a rally in Adelaide on February 17th
We have based our reforms on the Senate Inquiry report: Future of Australia’s aged care sector workforce. There are a multitude of other reports out there, but this one touched on all of the points we felt people raised most often.
- Minimum Staff Ratios – for both nurses and care workers
- National Improvement and Consistency of Training Standards
- Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse
- Greater Commonwealth and State Funding Across the Industry
We are holding a rally in Adelaide on February 17th, 11.30 am at the Parliament of South Australia in the lead-up to the state election in March. Our speaking list is nearly finalised and frankly, we have been humbled by the incredible level of support we have received from the industry, individuals and political representatives.
We hope to see a strong show of support from the wider public on the day, as it is just the beginning of our campaign. We need volunteers to take up the reins in other states, we need more petition signatures, and we would also love to hear your personal stories, and support your own efforts to effect change. This is a huge undertaking, and we cannot do it alone.
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Please, join the fight for the future of our aged care industry. We are all ageing.