May 23, 2023

What advice can I give clients and families as a carer?

As a carer, you are required to protect clients from risks of injury or harm that you can foresee or anticipate with your knowledge of the client and awareness of your own abilities and limitations. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Giving advice as a home care worker differs from being a residential aged care worker
  • Clients and families tend to ask home care workers more questions than those working in residential aged care who have a clinical team working alongside them
  • All aged care workers should help where they can but avoid touching on clinical and personal matters such as health-related concerns or financial advice

Sometimes it’s hard to know what you can and can’t say to clients and their families as an aged care worker.

The nature of being an aged care worker means that you are often in many personal situations with clients and their friends or family which can also expose you to their private or confidential information. You may also find yourself in situations where you are confronted with requests or demands for services or advice that are out of your realm of responsibility.

Not everyone understands the clinical limitations of being an aged care worker and while you may be the face of care to clients and their loved ones, you should refrain from giving assistance or advice outside your role. This includes giving advice on personal or clinical matters such as financial advice, relationships or decisions around health-related issues.

Clinical staff such as General Practitioners (GPs), nurses and specialists should be providing the answers to these queries. But as an aged care worker, it’s in your nature to try and comfort and ease concerns coming from those you care about and their loved ones as they navigate the aged care system.

So, what can you say? And where do you direct your clients’ questions?

Home care workers vs residential care workers

The advice you can give as an aged care worker varies between those who care for clients at home and those who care in a residential facility. 

As a home care worker, you are often the person your client meets regularly – making you the first port of call for enquiries, queries and concerns. This means clients and their families tend to ask home care staff more questions than those working in a care facility. 

Most questions may be around navigating the aged care system or the systems outlined by their provider, such as accessing My Aged Care or enquiring about how to transition into residential aged care.

Aged care expert and consultant, Paul Sadler, said home care workers should be as helpful as they can without delving into any specific clinical advice.

“If it’s within your competence to answer a query, be as helpful as you can,” he said.

But in residential aged care, it’s a bit different. In this setting, care staff are part of a team-based model that can help answer questions promptly. Led by a team of nurses, residential aged care workers can go straight to them with queries or concerns from clients and their families and can speak with the nurse.

“In those circumstances, most often residential aged care workers would not be encouraged to get into lengthy discussions about aspects of the resident’s care and would refer that straight to the RN or manager,” Mr Sadler explained.

If the RN cannot help, treating GPs and specialists often attend facilities for appointments with residents, so urgent medical queries can be pushed through to them. 

Utilising aged care workers’ expertise

The Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program is the framework being implemented in residential aged care facilities across Australia and aged care workers play a vital role in keeping that structure afloat.

Created to ensure quality end-of-life care is being provided to residents, elements of the program require input from aged care workers when touching base with residents and assessing their palliative care needs. 

One of the assessments that are part of the program is a symptom assessment score instrument, designed to be used daily by aged care workers with the person they’re looking after to assess symptoms such as pain levels.

This assessment is supported in tandem with other clinical assessments undertaken by an RN but if there is a change in a client’s symptoms, that also sends a referral to the RN so they can further examine the changes. 

“That’s an example where we are relying on the skills and experience of the aged care workers and their knowledge of the residents to actively engage in monitoring changes in symptoms linked with palliative care.”

Have you been put in a tricky situation by a client or their loved ones? Let us know in the comments below. 

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