“Sign of the times”: Personal care workers taking on the work of lifestyle coordinators

Residents playing bingo

When an activities coordinator resigned from the aged care home where she was working, she was never replaced. Now, it’s up to personal care workers to step in and organise activities for residents.

HelloCare became aware of this situation through a post on our Facebook Aged Care Worker Support Group.

“I worked for a facility for the last eight months and they had their lifestyle coordinator resign. Now the boss is arranging that all carers have to manage lifestyles as well as care,” the group member posted.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” she wrote.

Anton Hutchinson, whose family has owned Canberra Aged Care for more than 25 years, told HelloCare that asking personal care workers to organise and facilitate activities is “a sign of the times”.

“I think if you were trying to keep your doors open, and you had to look around to see who is the most expendable – while maintaining care, respect and dignity, and all things we’re trying to maintain – someone blowing up balloons or knitting or bingo, they would be on the chopping block first off,” he said.

Hutchinson acknowledged this fact was a “scary” reflection of the state of the industry.

“It’s bloody hard at the moment to keep the doors open,” he said.

Carers perform “holistic” care

The carer who posted the comment told HelloCare the decision not to replace the lifestyle coordinator appears to reflect management’s “holistic” model for carers which, simply put, means personal care workers perform a range of activities that are usually performed by specialists, such as physio and lifestyle activities.

The quality of the activities residents take part in are “very low,” she said.

“A reason to get up in the morning”

Angelika Koplin, principal consultant with Aged Care Strategies and Support, told HelloCare lifestyle or activity staff perform a “very important role in residential aged care” and are “very important for residents’ emotional wellbeing”.

“In my experience, a resourceful and committed activity coordinator organising a varied and individual program can make a big difference to a resident‘s day and increase resident satisfaction with care and services provided. 

“Personal carers should ideally be involved in lifestyle activities and events, and work together with lifestyle/activity staff to provide meaningful activities for residents,” Koplin said. 

“However, organising, sourcing and planning an individualised program takes time and experience, and can usually not be accomplished as an ‘add on‘ to personal care,” she said.

Koplin said allied health services, such as activities, haven’t been factored into the new funding model which comes into operation in October 2022. 

While she said not every home needs to employ an activities coordinator, every home should employ “dedicated social support staff, allied health staff, resident liaison staff, and so on, to enable residents to live the life they choose. 

“Thankfully a great activity and lifestyle program is no longer about bingo once a week,” she noted.

Despite all the changes occurring in the sector at the moment, Hutchinson said the government still hasn’t addressed the key problem: funding. The new funding system is “a year away,” he said, exasperated.

With so many homes struggling to remain afloat, Hutchinson said he wouldn’t judge a manager that didn’t replace an activities coordinator when they resigned.

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  1. Do you mean to say that its better for residents to sit in a chair dribbling into their lap, or sitting in front of a blaring tv with a blank expression on their face, or pacing up and down corridors with their Walker with nowhere to go is better for them, while management say it’s a sign of the times. That manager needs a good swift movement….or karma visit when they find themselves dribbling into their lap. They need to leave the caring business to others who care and can employ their brain to solve the problem with respect to the residents!

    1. Carolyn, I didn’t suggest for a second that this was “better” or even if it had been done.
      However most would agree that their loved ones clinical needs, showered, changed, meals etc are imperative and while lifestyle is important it naturally takes second place.
      It’s unfortunate that these choices have been thrust upon the residential care sector by an uncaring liberal government that slashed funding and has lied to the country for ten years.
      I don’t condone any staff cuts but some are essential and others not so much but it’s better than closing down and having nowhere for the residents to live.

      1. This is not new. Lifestyle operate during the day on weekdays only. None on weekends or in the evening when some residents would greatly benefit.
        Personal care workers and nurses are expected to pick up the slack on the other times, it’s just expected. Carers and nurses are very busy on their shifts and do not have the time or experience to be lifestyle coordinators. Also, lifestyle staff are very hard to find, it’s not an easy role

        1. Heather,
          I work as a lifestyle assistant in a MSU in South Australia, 4pm to 8pm. I work weekends, public holidays, not matter what day my roster falls, like carers. My employer also has lifestyle assistants on during the day. I work for a NGO, Not For Profit. Perhaps the ” for profit” sites have less??

  2. They have work out get care staff to do everything. lifestyle coordinators Get paid more then care staff So just get them to do it all. If you don’t work in aged care you have know idea what going on. Care staff are Treated appalling. It’s not the government that done this it’s the disrespectful management care staff are look down on its slave Labor

  3. I question if it’s a sign of the times? 10 years ago Community care workers were performing multiple job roles, Personal Care, House Cleaning, Medical eg wound care , Nutritionist, grocery shopping and cooking AND respite activities coordinator , gardening, card making,etc 🤷‍♀️

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