By Greg Pullen
Shepparton Villages interim chief executive
Today is a national day of thanks for aged care employees.
It is so very apt that we shine a spotlight on aged care workers while we are in the throes of a global pandemic that poses the greatest threat to the very people they care for, our elderly.
It is the front-line aged care workers who are bearing the brunt, now more than ever.
It is often said that not all superheroes wear capes; throughout the pandemic, aged care employee heroes have been wearing masks and gowns, carrying brooms and mops and are fronting up daily to protect the most vulnerable.
In Australia, 360,000 aged care workers — no matter their role — help more than 1.3 million Australians access aged care services and continue to remain safe, healthy and connected.
We have been watching the cases unfold in Melbourne and metro aged care facilities, and our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues who are battling as hard as they can, as well as with the residents and their families.
The reports from some homes are confronting and distressing; we cannot deny that.
However, it is easy to sit in judgement without really understanding the true extent to which most dedicated and caring employees are going to protect the elderly where they can.
At Shepparton Villages and other aged care facilities around the Goulburn Valley our aged care employees, from nurses and personal care workers, to administration, servery and cooking, cleaning and domestic, leisure and lifestyle, gardening and maintenance staff have been working tirelessly to keep residents and each other safe. So far, we’ve had success — but there for the grace of God go we.
We have all experienced a tumultuous six months, adapting to a new way of providing care, while also sustaining the connections between those we care for and their loved ones or to their wider community.
The spotlight on aged care however is not new — prior to COVID-19 there was considerable negative media around aged care homes on the back of distressing footage and reports of neglect and abuse.
We firmly believe that poor performers and negligent operators need to be called out and held to account.
However, to lump all aged care in to the one poor performing bucket is simply not fair. The majority of aged care providers do an incredible job on very tight funding arrangements.
I am confident that the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care will support the need for additional funding.
Indeed, the Jun 15 edition of The Medical Journal of Australia contains a peer-reviewed article entitled Australian Residential Aged Care is Understaffed, that makes the point very well.
The article also includes the statement that “registered nurses and allied health professionals are required to spend a disproportionate amount of time on paperwork for funding purposes.”
This is further complicated by increased compliance and infection control measures being taken as a result of COVID-19.
Not all providers are funded for these increases, and many, like Shepparton Villages, take on the extra compliance and more, because to do otherwise would be to contravene the very essence of our mission to care for the most vulnerable. We simply won’t compromise on care.
Today we give a shout out to our heroes — our aged care workers.
The message is simple: Thank you for caring.
● You can make an aged care worker smile today simply by saying thanks. Send an email to your local aged care, or leave a message on aged care social media sites. It just may help an aged care worker get through the day.