Have you ever wanted to find out what it’s really like to work in an aged care home – the real, nitty-gritty, day-in-day-out details?
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28 February 2023
| Aged Care Homes
To find out, we spoke to Julie, a care worker at BaptistCare’s Caloola Aged Care Home in Wagga Wagga, who has looked after elderly residents there for almost 25 years.
She’s cared for hundreds of residents and trained up many new, fresh faces. When it comes to residential aged care, she’s seen it all - not much surprises her. Even after all these years though, she still loves her job, finding joy in the difference her work makes to so many lives.
Here’s what she told us about life in residential aged care.
I usually work the day shift which starts at 7am and finishes at 3pm. It’s a pretty busy day and the hours fly by:
7am – 7:30am: RATs, sign-in, and handover.
On arrival, we may have to take a RAT test, depending on the current level of risk at the site.
We then sign in and collect our ‘Vocera,’ which is a bit like a modern-day pager. We can use it to message our colleagues across the building, and it also tells us when a resident has pressed the buzzer in their room.
Then we listen to a 10-minute handover from the Registered Nurses (RNs) finishing off the night shift. It’s important to know if anyone is fasting, for example, or they’ve had any changes of care or mobility.
7:30am – 11am: Resident rounds, morning tea, and paperwork.
After the handover, we get stuck in with our resident care.
We make our way around the rooms, assisting residents with showering, toileting, and getting dressed. Some residents need more support than others, and we may need to go back to the same resident several times.
It’s busy and so we always do our rounds in pairs, splitting off at times and working together when needed.
We get to know each resident as an individual, building relationships and understanding every person’s needs and preferences. Our care is tailored accordingly.
At around 10am, we stop to give residents morning tea, and we’ll also take turns in grabbing a 10-minute break.
If there’s time after morning rounds, I’ll update residents’ records and report on the morning’s activities, including things like showering and toileting. We’ll also note anything that appeared out of the ordinary.
Paperwork – or ‘computer’ work - takes about an hour per day, so we grab quieter moments throughout the shift to complete this.
11am – 1pm: Lunchtime
Most residents will come out of their room to eat and socialise with the rest of the community, which is lovely.
We help residents make their way to the dining room; some will come in wheelchairs.
We’ll sit and chat with residents over lunch, helping them to eat if they need that level of support.
After clearing up from lunch, our team will take staggered half-hour breaks around this time. It’s nice to have a breather after being on your feet all morning!
1pm – 3pm: Personal hygiene round, afternoon tea, handover.
In the last two hours of the shift, we conduct another round of resident checks, assisting with personal hygiene tasks, including toileting after lunch.
Residents will also need help repositioning, whether they are bed or chair bound.
During the last hour of the shift, I’ll play catch up with any computer work I haven’t got to yet, and then the team joins together in preparing and delivering residents’ afternoon tea for 2.30pm.
The next shift starts at 3pm, and so if there’s time, we’ll provide a short handover. Otherwise, the Registered Nurses (RNs) pass on any relevant information.
The next shift runs from 3pm until 11pm, and the night shift from 11pm until 7am.
BaptistCare really encourages work-life balance, and so the rosters are always prepared in consultation with our team.
There’s a kind of deep satisfaction in taking care of others – if you are someone who likes to nurture, this work is rewarding. The residents are in their final stages of life, and regardless of what choices they made in earlier years, during the time that they are with us, they need someone to love them. It’s our job to make their lives happy and comfortable whilst they’re here, and there’s joy in being able to provide that.
People often ask me this question. But in aged care, death is mostly peaceful. In a way, it’s rewarding to know that you have supported someone – and their family members – to experience a dignified, ‘good’ death.
Yes, as their care workers, we feel the loss, and particularly if we’ve built up a close relationship with them. And as a team, we experience this together and support one another.
As is the case across the industry, there is a shortage of aged care workers, and we do feel this gap on the floor.
COVID-19 has played a part in this of course, along with other factors such as low investment in the sector.
The job’s not for everybody. But if someone chooses to work in a similarly paid industry rather than aged care, I always challenge them to think about whether they are gaining the same deeply rewarding experiences and life skills as they would in aged care.
The best aged care workers are level-headed, sensible, and naturally caring people. They have buckets of patience.
More than anything, they are respectful. In this role, you are operating in someone’s most private, intimate space, and it’s so important to allow the person you are caring for to feel dignified.
Ultimately, we treat our residents in the same way any of us would want our parents, or grandparents, to be treated. It’s hard, tiring work, and isn’t for everyone – but those that stick with it will tell you it’s wonderful, and there’s nothing else quite like it.