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August 11, 2011

The 2011 PC Report on Aged Care – who cares? Very soon, no one.

by Prue Miller

The PC report on Aged Care assures an anxious public that very soon there’ll be no one left to do the caring.

Seriously? This is what they commission came up with? It has left me nodding my head in disbelief that so much effort and passion was put to the commission in the shape of submissions, and the result is this: more rules, less care, no hope.

Who gives a rosy rat’s backside whether or not you are paying 24% of this, or 15% of that for accommodation in a less defined facility (playing with words again….) if no one is there. You may as well stay at home and rot, at least it’ll be familiar chaos.

The report gives less than little attention to the fact staff don’t want to work in the industry, and that is what will bring it to it’s knees..

Perhaps it would have behooved them to spend time thinking about that, rather than suggesting that in-room hoists will make one iota of difference to a disenfranchised, generally female, generally part time workforce who cared enough to give it a go, but left after just 6 months. It’s NOT just the back breaking work.

I think a great quote in the report is from a submission from  Amaroo Care, in respect of the laughable wages:

While aged care workers may have a passion for their work in making a difference for the elderly they care for or support, it remains a sad indictment upon our social values when an entry level zoo keeper attracts a  base rate of $19.50 per hour for tending to animals while an entry level personal carer or support worker only attracts $15.90 per hour for providing care to our elderly in accordance with a new Australian industry award that came into effect during July 2010. (sub. 98, p. 14)

What did the report say? In essence it said the Commission couldn’t make any difference at all to wages and flick-passed the issue to another government body (the Australian Aged Care Commission). Of course they’re rushing around trying to sort that one out right now. Yeah, right.

It did however recognize that wages were low, disproportionate, and inadequate, forced upon a labor force that had a ‘poor bargaining’ position. But just to re-iterate, they can’t do anything about that.

What would have really irked those who work so hard in this area is the frankly outrageous notion that all the industry had to do to attract staff is sell the ‘positive aspects’ of a career in aged care. And what are they you may well ask? Well, one was the positive benefit of getting the chance to become familiar with the aged care resident.

To which I say, if I wanted to make friends I’d go to Zumba classes.

Making friends in aged care is actually not a positive. How could it possibly be, when one day you know you will be zipping those same people you have cared for into a crisp white death shroud, ready for the funeral home. Carers grieve, they do, it’s just that no one dares recognize the personal cost of doing the job. It’s not cool to cry.

These are the working conditions that nobody wants to talk about.

Difficult working conditions for an office worker means they have to contend with the air-conditioning that is set too low, or the canteen running out of soy milk, or having to walk all the way across the office to recycle their paper. Difficult working conditions in aged care means being punched in the stomach by a dementia patient, having to wipe peoples’ bottoms while they swear at you for taking too long, or stroking some poor lonely soul’s forehead while he dies in front of your eyes.

What are they doing about that?

The report suggests importing immigrants to do the work. Sure, it might mean they are under qualified, have little linguistic ability and frighten the bejesus out of the aged residents…but they won’t kick up a stink about poor wages, shortened shifts or patient ratios.

The last and most brilliant piece of logic to emerge was that it would be better for everyone if people didn’t actually go into aged care. That would solve the all the issues. Just stay home, it’s so simple.

The ideal Australian Aged Care model: stay home, we’ll send someone over – as soon as they get off the plane.


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