From board member to gardener, in Australia’s aged care we are all on the brink | Anonymous

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I’m often asked by people what it is that keeps me in a role with both nursing and management responsibilities in residential aged care. So many amazing people who used to stand beside me have succumbed to the pressure and moved into community aged care. Some have moved back to nursing in hospitals or even into the retail sector. Others have stayed in the sector but shifted to homes within the public sector, or larger aged care groups, where they feel more protected from the squeeze.

I am still hanging in there but I am feeling the fear and tension tightening again with my battle-weary friends and colleagues who work in residential aged care.

That grip has returned with winter and with Covid pervading our Melbourne suburbs, and I am again feeling small and powerless. At work we are trying to find our feet in the face of too many risks and not enough resources.

It didn’t surprise us when the royal commission into aged care quality and safety found that older people thrive in smaller communities which are cottage-like and have tasty home-cooked meals and workers who nurse, care, clean and cook for them as if they are doing it for their own mum or dad. Our older people like to look out the window at gardens and grounds and watch the people they know emptying the bins and coming inside and fixing the broken door. They thank us and we melt as their knowing eyes can see the strain, can see that we carry a worrisome burden that just won’t go away.

I’m not sure if they understand that our worry is for them and that our fear is that we will be found as wanting as some politicians and media portray. That we won’t be able to protect them from feeding tubes and body bags.

Most of our team leaders are nurses too. We want to heal and nurture. From manager to cleaner we all want to reassure our residents. Again we find ourselves scared, worn out and feeling as though there are a hundred things to do and all of them are overdue and none of them is unimportant.

Yes, Brett Sutton, Covid is a beast and we want to keep it from our doors and windows and protect our residents. We want to be diligent in applying the discipline of infection control but we are short on time and money because aged care only gets the scraps that are left over from the healthcare table. We fear non-compliance, sanctions and complaints almost as much as Covid.

Our government’s plans to make our community of residents and staff 1A candidates for Pfizer vaccines was such a happy surprise – and then it stumbled, and then it fell over.

We were fortunate that our residents are mostly vaccinated before Covid reappeared in Victoria, but our staff were left confused and waiting. Most gave up. Those few residents who missed out, or have joined us since, just couldn’t get a straight answer, and some of our team started to go into the regional centre nearby and make their own arrangements. Why has it taken the arrival of Covid for our government to release the resources to get the vaccinators back on site? We all hope it is not too late but we are grateful. We do see a spark of light.

When I trained to become a nurse it was the camaraderie of being in a group of carers that compelled me. It was the black humour that comes with being in a role where we deal with death up close. We stay because we want to be the people who are present in those quiet and frail moments that the glossy brochures don’t portray.

It doesn’t help to have the government infighting start again. No one has covered themselves in glory, not commonwealth nor state. Pitting the public, private and not-for profit aged care sectors in Victoria against each other isn’t going to help. We can’t rise up by pushing others down.

This is my plea from the heart to the politicians and bureaucrats who are holding the purse strings tightly. Please let common sense prevail and give our sector the direction and resources it needs to move beyond survival behind the barricades.

From board member to gardener we are all on the brink. Will we stay or will we go? Don’t fear, families of residents, we will stay on guard and not willingly let you down.

The author is a registered nurse manager in regional Victoria. Her article is a personal reflection

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: From board member to gardener, in Australia’s aged care we are all on the brink | Anonymous

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