“More needs to be done and it needs to be done fast.” – Ending Violence In Aged Care

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A nurse in aged care tells a story that is unfortunately more and more common. The NSWNMA Report into Elder Abuse in Residential Aged Care found 90% of staff have been subject to some form of aggression from residents and 61% fear repercussions if they report the abuse.

I have just read an article a work friend of mine shared regarding violence and abuse at the hands of our elderly residents.

I work evenings in a memory support unit and struggle immensely with the violent and aggressive behaviours that I am faced with almost every shift.  Two days ago, I was attacked by a resident who ripped my uniform to pieces, punched and kicked me, spat in my face, tried to bite me and wiped faeces on my face and body.  Last week, I was pinched and scratched by another resident, who drew blood, then punched me as I tried to leave. This behaviour is a regular occurrence that happens to myself and my co-workers.

I am always sad because I understand most residents don’t understand their actions and the behaviours are most of the time caused by pain or frustration. But what saddens me more is that on the very rare occasions when I have worked up enough courage to speak out or to ask for guidance, the situation is viewed as comical. It is perceived that this is part of my job. I feelit’s an unwritten rule that workers should “cop it sweet” because residents don’t always understand.

At my workplace, workers are given additional support if they are experiencing domestic violence. Our enterprise agreement gives allocation for time off work for workers to get themselves out of these situations. But there is no support whatsoever for violence in my workplace. The concept of it being acceptable for this to happen to care workers is ridiculous. Although I have requested it several times in the past, I have never received education and training on how to defend myself appropriately.

When I experience violent behaviours I am required to document them via incident forms and although I mark that I received no injury, this is never the case. My bones may not be broken, my skin is not cut but my arms, my legs, my back and stomach are all aching today. My breast is bruised, my hands are scratched and my shirt is ripped. I am heartbroken that I have given my life to care for others and have no support in return. My husband is heartbroken to see me come home in tears each day and there is nothing he can do to protect me or keep me safe.

Each night I leave work, already pressed emotionally and physically. I’ve worked short, missed my tea break and wet myself a little bit because I didn’t have a chance to use the bathroom. The staffing issue within the aged care industry is simply horrific and I can’t help but to think to myself “Is it any wonder?”.

I wish I knew a solution and I wish we could all work together to show compassion and support to our care workers. I take comfort in knowing I am not alone. But that is not enough. More needs to be done and it needs to be done fast.

Thank you for listening to me.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, please get in touch here: nurseuncut@nswnma.asn.au. Whether it was something that occurred in a single shift or about your entire career so far, we want to know.

If you’d like to get involved in the NSWNMA’s aged care campaign to make ratios law, sign up here.

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