An aged care Enrolled Nurse speaks out

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Earlier this year, a study showed there’d been an increase in preventable deaths in aged care. Kylie’s an aged care nurse and had a sceptical reaction to this study. Aged care is a complex area and there are so any factors at play. Here’s what she thinks.

Kylie: I’m 14 years in aged care … started as a pca and am now an enrolled nurse.

We can continue to point fingers at aged care facilities but until the government puts ratios in place and funds facilities properly, improvements are never going to happen. Recent changes to ACFI mean that getting full funding for a resident that needs it is near impossible.

The study points out three causes for premature deaths – falls, choking and suicide.

Falls: Due to increased services and support for the elderly to remain at home, we are now getting more and more residents that are far more frail and suffering from dementia – we are not allowed to restrain residents (chemically or physically) without very strict protocols and procedures being in place. So how do we stop them from wandering and consequently falling? Increase staffing levels? Nope, the government doesn’t fund enough for that. Restrain them? Illegal and unethical. Remove walking aids so they don’t walk … you’re joking right? They will just walk without them, increasing their risk of falls. So now we demand minimal staff to watch residents with compromised mental state 24/7 like eagles and catch them when they fall … oh, but we are taught not to catch them because it can put both the person trying to catch them and the person falling at risk of injury.

Choking: Again we are now getting residents at the worst of their disease proccess – dementia, CVA, Parkinson’s, etc. Factor in that you then have families who want them to continue to eat and drink a full ward diet because thickened drinks and vitamised meals are bland and unappetising, and the resident agrees… Do we let them starve or do we give them a normal diet? As professionals we explain the risks till we’re blue in the face, we give them the right diet and then you walk in the room and the family has left them a big box of chocolate and the resident is munching away like a kid in a chocolate factory.

Suicide: I must say in 14 years of aged care nursing I have never had to deal with this (I’m certainly not saying it doesn’t happen), but let’s take a look at the government again. The government actually stops funding for professional psychiatric help to any resident not deemed low care, all costs are then on the resident. However, if this resident was at home they would have access to funding through an EPC. So their mental health has to be managed by us nurses who have minimal training in mental health because we are aged care nurses.

All this and we want to blame the aged care facility? Get a grip … nothing is ever as black and white as some would have you believe.

Do you work in aged care or have relatives in aged care? Do you agree with Kylie?

7 COMMENTS

  1. Agree 100%. Worked Aged Care for over 20 years, first as AIN now almost completed Uni to become an RN. I have watched the care disappear to nothing that resembles quality care. The workload has increased but the staffing levels don’t. Many now are there because they need to work and make money, come to work, do the job and don’t think outside the square just do what you’ve always done regardless of the residents needs/ wants or condition. A trained monkey could do the same job. Unfortunately patient care is a secondary consideration, the all important paperwork takes precedence over all else. There is no way I will be staying in Aged Care after graduation, I’m not spending 5 years at Uni to be spending 99% of my shift doing paperwork, I’m not a ward clerk. Shame really because I love the residents and enjoy being with them.

  2. I couldn’t have said it better. Agree with Kyle and Gail. I worked in aged care for twenty three years and must say I am glad I retired when I did. Government rules and regulation have ruined a wonderful working position. Must admit I loved my time as a carer but over the years have seen so many changes and most not for the betterment of the residents or the staff. The ratio of staff to residents is a joke in most places, and casual staff instead of full timers do their best but really don’t get to know the residents so can’t recognise changes that happens to their care needs. The residents were like family when I worked there but it has become a business where money is the most important need. Now I realise institutions need money to be able to run efficiently and that is what Managers are put in place for, but with unrealistic rules and regulations, workplace
    Health and safety issues that have blown out of all proportions it is becoming not a very fulfilling job to be employed in. God bless all our residents and can only hope someone wakes up and fixes all the glitches in Aged Care across the board.

  3. Totally agree with all of this!! Adding that, in the short period of 4 ½ yrs, have seen suicide attempts, being begged to help them die, and with too few staff, at least four residents on 15 minute checks for their falls risk, violent to others behaviour, suicidal thoughts and absconding!! That’s just the tip of the ice burg!!! People on the outside have absolutely NO IDEA!
    I, along with many others in this “job” , could write a book! In fact, I think I will!
    By the way, I love my job! Go figure!

  4. She pretty much sugar coated the problems.
    I’ve been a nurse for 17 years and have witnessed a lot over the years.
    I’ve always done my best to ensure I look after my patients to best of my ability.
    I have seen some awful passing of my patients over the years. The trauma endured by the family watching a family member die an excruciating death. With a lot of factors contributing to it. The doctors lack of caring, bad nursing, incompetent RN, family members that think they know what’s best.
    The staffing ratio makes it hard for staff to spend any extra time with our patients once all of our personal care and tasks are done.
    A lot of families dump their loved ones in a Nursing home and pretty much forget about them.
    I could go on and on.
    But changes are desperately n ended.

  5. I am now retired registered nurse , I have worked 48 years in nursing industry with the last 12 years in aged care facilities.
    The government & media need to spend a week in the life of high care or dementia resident to see how they lovingly cared for by conscientious staff. The other topic that is not considered that the residents are very elderly with advanced medical conditions & are well into the eighty-nineties years of age. If these residents had stayed at home their life span would be a lot shorter due to depression, undiagnosed medical conditions, higher increase of falling, in adequate diet.
    Yes the paper work or time spent updating on computer is unbelievable. I know from experience a 8 hour shift was always 10 hour slog. No overtime payed, just dedication to looking after elderly folk to make their end of life the best possible.

  6. Have you seen the massive profits these places are making by cutting down on staff.? If greed wasn’t a factor I believe staff could enjoy doing their hard job much better. Aged Care should not have been de regulated. Just look at what they have you done to the education sector. All the rorting with students left without diplomas and money hungry providers enriching themselves. The TAFE system has been decimated so that these greedy barons could make money on the backs of young people. Now it’s the same in aged care and wouldn’t matter how much money the government through at them they would still seem to make even bigger profit for their shareholders.

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