Despite the debates, it’s the day to say, ‘thank you’

By BINA BROWN

AS the debate between mandated staff ratios and quality of care rages on, it seems fitting that everyone involved in caring for the elderly should be recognised with their own Aged Care Employee Day which is being launched today (Tuesday, August 7).

The initiative to celebrate the nurses and care workers, cooks and hospitality teams, drivers, cleaners and laundry employees, volunteers, leisure and lifestyle officers, maintenance and administration teams, has been led by care provider the Whiddon Group with support from the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA).

“Through their work, these people often develop meaningful relationships with our older loved ones – becoming defacto family members in the process. Their dedication to what is a rewarding, yet regularly challenging profession in which they devote themselves to caring for others sets them apart,” says Whiddon Group chief executive Chris Mamarelis.

“We often rely on our strong community connections and engage families, friends and community groups to help care for older Australians, ensuring they achieve a healthy quality of life. But, this often means people who work in aged care are putting others’ needs before their own, which is why we need to celebrate their hard work,” he says.

The aged care workforce – paid and unpaid – will be more valuable as Australia’s population continues to age.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of Australians aged over 65 is expected to more than double to 8.7 million by 2056.

This translates to the need for more than 620,000 additional aged-care workers over the next 33 years.

The 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey shows there are about 366,000 aged-care workers in residential facilities and home care and home support outlets. The Productivity Commission has estimated that by 2050 the aged-care workforce will need to have grown to around 980,000 workers.

LASA chief executive Sean Rooney says it is important to acknowledge how aged-care workers make a positive difference in the lives of older Australians – 24 hours a day, seven days week, year in year out.

“This is something our industry is immensely proud of and our nation is very grateful for. Retention and turnover in aged care is a longstanding problem in the sector, reflecting the demands of the job,” says Rooney.

“Retaining and appreciating the right staff not only has important benefits for organisations, but also for the community, providing continuity of care for our loved ones. Therefore, making sure we take the time to show our appreciation is on all of us,” he says.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt praised the initiative.

“A proud and professional workforce is the foundation for quality aged care, with staff dedicated to their residents and focused on making caring a career of choice. You deserve the highest community appreciation every day of the year, as you care for the older Australians who built the nation we cherish today. Thank you,” says Wyatt.

Bina Brown is director of aged care solutions company Third Age Matters and is an occasional care support worker in a Canberra aged care facility

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