The findings of the Royal Commission will not be a surprise to many working in the sector.

The title of the Interim Report is ‘Neglect’, which at first glance looks to be aimed at those providing direct care and support. However, the Foreword provides a clear insight into the focus of the Commission and issues on multiple levels. It is not just about uncovering substandard and, in some cases, horrendous abuse, it is also shining a light on our drift as a nation into an “ageist mindset that undervalues older people and limits their possibilities”.

Bored young woman sitting at her desk in front of the computer

On reading the document, it is also clear that the authors also view key impacts on aged care to be the level of funding for aged care in Australia, and how those funds and programs are managed.

Where the report discusses staffing, the emphasis is on highlighting how staff working in the sector are “undervalued, underpaid and insufficiently trained”, without necessarily blaming the worker who is often trying to do their best.

We’re not saying that there have been no incidents of abuse, including neglect, at the hands of care staff: it’s been well-highlighted through the Royal Commission.

I feel for the residents who have experienced poor care, for the families who have been frustrated when they have tried to address incidents and have not been taken seriously. We want to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and to do this we need to ensure that they are not deliberately abused, and neither are they unintentionally harmed.

But to do this we also need to make sure that the people working in the industry are acknowledged for the work they do, as well as having the skills and knowledge to provide quality care.

I recently read a thread of responses to a comment someone made on an aged care industry Facebook page. The person, a support worker in a facility, noted how they were “over” the lack of respect shown to them by residents and their families. This set off a whole string of comments from other people in the industry who had similar experiences. They noted instances where families had used inappropriate language, where they referred to them as servants, and encouraging the resident to use and abuse them because, after all, “you’ve paid enough for their help”.

I can see how this attitude would lead to staff feeling devalued, where these trained workers see that they are not appreciated for the care and support they provide in the face of often confronting tasks and challenging ‘consumers’.

I believe that the majority of support workers are doing a great job, or at least they want to do a great job. It’s sometimes the support mechanisms that fail them though.

Actively promoting respect from support workers and management towards consumers and their families may also help in building a sense of ‘reciprocity’ from consumers and their representatives to engage in mutually respectful communication and support. We will explore this approach in more detail in another post.

Last week, we noted how smaller organisations can be more agile and respond to the needs of their residents or clients. However, a consistent theme appears to be ensuring that staff receive relevant and up-to-date training.

As consultants travelling to some of the most remote aged care centres, we find that access to training is not consistent across the country.

I'm hoping that reform generated from the Royal Commission will lead to improvements in the training provided to staff in all areas, especially in the rural and remote sector.

I'm hoping for better resources from organisations who are well-funded to develop these.

I'm looking for trainers who can impart knowledge effectively and understand the current reforms, and the impact this has on rural and remote services; who will do more than show a video and write the answers up on a whiteboard for learners to copy down.

I'm hoping that people in training roles are both skilled and able to properly engage with staff in a culturally appropriate way, and that goes for all people and cultures.

Here at CDCS, we also recognise our own responsibility to the industry and the staff working in it. We realise we need to be working with Registered Training Organisations and developing appropriate resources, using the knowledge that we’ve gained from 30+ years of working in rural and remote areas. We need to take our knowledge of what works, what engages people and what the current and future gaps are and use this to benefit those working in the sector.

We’ve already started this process by developing tools and training resources, such as industry-specific toolbox talks, info shares and care planning guides aimed at supporting those working on the front line. The feedback from organisations using our tailored staff handbooks has affirmed that these illustrated resources are assisting staff in understanding their roles, responsibilities and the programs they are working in, better and faster.

We’re looking forward to the release of a set of plain English and visual Storyboards next month based around the new Aged Care Standards, that we have developed with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. The feedback we’ve received from field testing has been very positive and we know they will be a great asset for indigenous services, as well as being useful for CALD organisations.

Over the Christmas quiet time we have a large body of work planned to update and work on even more resources that will support people working in the aged and disability sectors, but we'd like to hear from YOU.

If you’re a support worker, a coordinator, manager or training provider let us know where the gaps are. If you have ideas for resources you think would improve staff knowledge and skills, let us know by contacting us. A quick email is fine or give us a call – we’d love to have a chat and get your insight into where you feel there are gaps in resources or training.

If you have time, we’d love to have you complete our short survey on staff training and resources so we can better tailor these to meet your needs. It should only take you about 3-4 minutes to complete and we would really appreciate your input. Click here to complete the survey.

If you can think of someone else who might benefit from this article, please send them a link. We’d appreciate it! And if you’re looking for more helpful resources to keep your service or organisation compliant, why not check out our Total Quality Package resource hub? We have culturally appropriate, tailored resources that are designed to make your job simpler and help you provide quality care to your clients. Click here to find out more.

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Donna Cross & Carrie Akhurst
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