Residential aged-care workers feel they need more support from employers to tackle dementia and depression among their patients.
In a study of more than 250 residential aged-care workers in Melbourne, researchers at the Institute for Health and Ageing found that employers needed to do more to boost staff confidence in dealing with the two conditions.
Professor Marita McCabe, director of the institute, said the prime reason researchers decided to look at organisational factors in the workplace was the fact that normal staff training in the detection and management of depression in dementia patients didn't seem to be working.
“We found that their knowledge increased, their skills increased and they felt better about their way of managing these major problems,” McCabe said. “[However], the actual detection and management of depression didn't improve and neither did the level of behaviour and psychological problems associated with dementia.”
The researchers questioned staff about this and found there was “a whole range of organisational barriers that prevented them from implementing this training". At the top of the list, McCabe said, were things like job stress and the fact that staff were simply too overwhelmingly busy to make time. They also needed more confidence in tackling these conditions.
To address this, the institute tried a different tack for training, in co-operation with 21 aged-care facilities. The new approach, which promoted teamwork across all levels of staff, was received well at Gold Age Australia.
“[The staff] were able to see different ways of doing things, different ways of working as a team,” Gold Age clinical operations manager Karen McCauley said.
Having staff work together in the identification and management of symptoms in a patient made the workplace an effective unit. This had practical consequences: a care worker on the floor not only learned to spot these symptoms, but also had the confidence to bring them up with their supervisors – who could follow up.
“If there is a tricky situation where a resident may be triggered through something that has happened in the facility, staff [now] have the skills to be able to deal with that without it escalating to a behaviour of concern,” McCauley said.
McCabe summed up the essential message of the project: “What we need to do is foster work environments that give staff members the autonomy and confidence to detect, manage and do something about these issues. Because otherwise, if that work environment is not conducive to this occurring, then [the care workers] are unlikely to implement the training we give them.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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