Sep 02, 2019

How Can We Better Protect Aged Care Staff From Physical Abuse?

A recent spate of attacks on Australian hospital staff has highlighted the serious lack of workplace safety that those delivering care are being forced to deal with. 

This time last month, over 22,000 hospital workers in the state of NSW voted to strike due to concerns over workplace safety, and images of battered and bruised nurse, Amanda Treagus, made headlines recently after she was violently assaulted by an 18-year-old patient at port Lincoln Hospital. 

Unfortunately, aged care staff are not immune to these issues either, and while the average person may find it hard to imagine an elderly person becoming violent, staff who care for elderly people in the advanced stages of dementia will tell you that forms of assault can actually be a daily occurrence.

Stories of aged care staff assaulting elderly residents are quick to make headlines, but the reality is that there are a large number of aged care staff who can attest to being punched, kicked, verbally abused and spat-on by the people that they care for – yet somehow, this remains a topic that garners very little attention.

Chemical and physical restraint are tactics that can be employed to reduce the risk of a resident assaulting a staff member, but this presents an obvious moral dilemma, the legality of which is currently being discussed among the governing bodies of the aged care industry. 

Aged care staff are also asked to use calming strategies for certain residents as a means to reduce the likelihood of an assault, but these strategies focus on prevention to the residents and provide no security in the event when an actual assault occurs.  

Ascom Australia has been in the business of personal duress alarms for over 30 years and currently provide safety-solutions to staff working in high-risk environments like prisons and mental health facilities. 

And HelloCare sat down with their Managing director, Feargal O’Farrell, to find out more about what sort of things are available to increase the level of safety afforded to aged care workers and all other healthcare professionals. 

“It’s extremely disappointing that such a large portion of the people who make a living caring for others are subjected to acts of physical violence,” said Feargal. 

“We have a very long and proud history of providing wireless duress systems in the healthcare space, but unfortunately, the majority of aged care and hospital staff are still in a position where they are placed in risky situations with very little protection.”

Although personal alarms are not a new concept, current-day technology has dramatically increased the capability of theses type of alerts without compromising the practicality that is required from a handheld device. 

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Asom Australia’s duress alarms can provide the exact location of the person who raised the alert, as well as the open up a live voice channel from the device itself.

This gives those responding a chance to understand the context of the problem and then respond to the situation in accordance with the emergency procedures and escalation process procedures outlined by their organisation. 

“We offer a range of devices, but it really just depends on what type of solution is required to meet the task. We can provide a pendant-style device that is extremely light and affordable, but we also have devices that are larger and more durable that we use in very high-risk environments,” said Feargal. 

“Unfortunately, an individual may not have the chance to press the duress alarm in some emergency situations, which is why our alarms come equipped with a ‘man-down-no-movement’ alert, which raises an alarm if someone ends up on the floor – which then opens up a channel of audio communication.”

“Having the ability to incorporate live audio communication is extremely valuable in terms of safety because understanding the nature of a situation before you arrive on the scene allows those responding a real chance to prepare.”

Data has become a hot commodity in both aged care and hospital settings, as the collection of real-time statistics regarding workplace processes provide an insight into the current standard of care that is being delivered. 

And given the fact that quick response times for emergency alerts are so crucial to a person’s safety, having the option to track and record this data gives care providers a chance to understand where they can improve. 

“Our duress alarms are equipped with data logging technology, which can be easily adapted to integrate with a care providers existing system. Flexibility is a big part of being able to deliver care, and the solutions being used to address issues in the workplace need to be just as flexible in order to meet everyone’s needs.”


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