Welcome Aboard! Flight attendants become “Visitation Assistants” in aged care homes

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard across all industries. One in particular is the airline industry. As coronavirus spread across the world, flights everywhere were grounded, leaving the thousands of people employed by airlines out of work. 

“I struggled in the beginning. I was like ‘This is my life, this is all I have known and it’s been taken away from us’,” Louise Mathers, who has worked in aviation for 30 years, told The Age. 

“We all started to feel quite fragile about our jobs and Virgin went into administration which didn’t help matters. When I saw all the aircraft lined up on the tarmac on the news in April, I was devastated.”

After her workload was reduced from 140 hours a month to just eight, Louise began looking for extra work wherever she could. 

“I felt really useless. Aldi said no to me and my son worked there,” she said. 

But when she saw a post on a Virgin Facebook page looking for visitation assistants in aged care facilities, she jumped at the chance. 

Developed by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), in partnership with Altura Learning and DASH Group recruitment, the programme trains people, and places them in homes for up to eight weeks, alleviating some of the stress on aged care workers facilitating visitation in the homes. 

“Visitor assistant services are contributing to scheduling, assisting visitors with PPE [personal protective equipment] requirements and hand hygiene as well as helping residents to use technology for remote contact,” said federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, in The Age. 

So far, the programme has seen 148 people trained and already out on placement, many of whom come from a background in the customer service side of the airline industry. 

“This employment program is playing a crucial role in assisting our aged care providers in one of the most challenging times of our generation and will prove to be a valuable solution going forward,” said DASH Group National Manager Aged Care Sarah Buckley.

“Our program is already being used by Residential Aged Care Facilities to ensure residents and their families are able to keep in touch and support aged care staff. This program is an excellent reflection of how Older Australians are being supported to maintain their relationships with family and friends whilst living within a residential aged care home.

“We already have glowing feedback from the providers and also the Residential Aged Care Visitation Assistant themselves.

“We are offering a unique opportunity for those who have fallen victim to cutbacks in industries such as hospitality and tourism, to keep working and offer their vital skills in an industry that needs it the most.”

Louise has enjoyed the experience so much, she took a voluntary redundancy from Virgin last month, and has started a Certificate III in Aged Care. 

“Communication between residents, families and friends is critical and these specially trained staff already have great experience in helping and working with people,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.

“Also, as all relevant State health authorities allow more visiting in aged care, these visitation assistant workers will further assist the linking of families and residents.

“While it is critical to maintain the safety of residents, it is also important to facilitate family and friends visits in a safe way as the rate of COVID-19 cases decline throughout the country.

“This is about providing the most vulnerable members of our community with continuity of care, through supporting care professionals. It is not in any way intended to replace Certificate III qualified staff.

“We would love to see them undertake a Cert III in Individual Support following this, should they desire to remain in our sector, as they derive meaning and satisfaction through caring for older Australians.”

Employers and RACVA candidates can register at www.dashgroup.net.au/agedcare

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