“Thank you is not enough”: Aged care workers speak out

Aged care workers across Australia have been speaking out about the challenges they face working in aged care, and they are sending a clear message to the federal government: saying thank you is not enough.

For decades, the aged care sector has been understaffed, underfunded and underpaid, they say.

If the government was truly grateful for the work of aged care workers, it would fix the system, not just offer ‘empty words’, the aged care workers told United Workers Union.

“I have been a personal care attendant for 19 years and I love my job,” said South Australian aged care worker, Ehying.

“But the expectations on carers are too high and there’s not enough time to do the job properly. Thank you is not enough.”

“In a 12-hour shift I sometimes walk more than 25,000 steps as I provide care to those I care for,” she said.

“It’s nice to get the thanks, but give me the action,” said West Australian aged care worker, Melinda.

“We’re so short-staffed, we’re underfunded. No more words please.”

Queensland aged care worker, Diane, said, “Every shift needs more hands on deck. I’ve worked around seven and a half years in aged care and this was an issue before COVID as well.

“Residents love to have a chat. I want to ask, ‘how was your night’s sleep?’ and to listen to their response before whipping them into their clothes. But we are so rushed; there just isn’t enough time.”

In October 2020, aged care workers in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia attended meetings organised by United Workers Union to discuss the challenges they face and the solutions available.

“The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the broken aged care system for what it is,” said United Workers Union Aged Care director, Carolyn Smith.

“Understaffed, overworked and underpaid carers are expected to hold the system together. Yet there have been no concrete steps towards a permanent fix for aged care workers.

“Aged carers feel ripped off by the bungled retention bonus, pressured by bans on jobs without any thought of the impact on them or their centres, and ignored by government during the crisis.

“It’s no wonder aged care workers are saying ‘thank you is not enough’.”

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  1. My job of a personal care worker is a love/hate situation. I love to make a difference in the life of our aged care residents but from the moment you start at 7.am we rush to get as many residents up before breakfast as we can otherwise the rest of the day is even more rushed! I always try to wake them up the way I’d like to woken up but this is impossible when there is never enough staff to care for these people the way they should be cared for. The government is so out of touch with the real world it’s not even funny! I’d love for my residents to be able to enjoy a lovely shower each morning without being rushed! Shame on our government for allowing things to become so bad. You should be disgusted in yourselves.😔

  2. As the daughter of a 97 year old mum living in a Nursing Home, I so sympathise with PCWs. I visit mum every day so I see how rushed and busy these workers are. On mums ward, there are just two PCWs taking care of 20 residents. Of these 20 at least 6 need feeding. Mum is bed ridden so she is a 2 assist patient. Not only do these PCWs have to take care of residents, they also have to assist the kitchen staff (one cook looking after 2 wards (40 residents) by taking out meals to the dining room, or taking trays to individual rooms and feeding those who need help. So if my mum needs pads changing etc, she has to wait until meal times are over, all trays collected, before anyone can help her. She only gets one proper bath a week, has to make do with a quick wash down with Jenny Wipes the rest of the week. I can’t be there 24/7 unfortunately and I know how starved of company and interaction my mum is. Sometimes if one PCW rings in sick, the other one has to manage by herself with a ‘floater’ coming across from another ward. Night shift there is only 1 PCW on duty per ward, so if mum needs changing, again she has to wait until the PCW from one of the other wards can come to help.One particularly good PCW was so disillusioned with the system, she gave up her job and opted to work in the laundry. Less stress.
    PCWs need more help, certainly much better pay and the Government needs to listen. These is no incentive for more workers to come into the Aged Care business with conditions being as they are.

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