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Recognising those who care this Aged Care Employee Day

Wednesday 7th August 2019 is Aged Care Employee Day, celebrating the hundreds of thousands of people who work tirelessly in the aged care industry. It also serves as a timely and important reminder to make certain that we are supporting, educating and retaining staff – not only to provide the best possible care and service for those that require it, but to ensure that we will be able to accommodate anticipated future demands for aged care staff, which will increase over time in line with Australia’s ageing population.

As CEO of a group of aged care and retirement residences in Sydney and the Central Coast, an important part of my role is to ensure that our staff feel both respected and appreciated. Being proactive and ‘walking the talk’ by creating a ‘can do’ culture and being committed to ongoing investment is often not communicated nor implemented well. This can only be successful by providing effective channels of communication in order to best support and nurture our teams. Taking initiative in this area is vital for the development of both our staff and the wider aged care community. Our industry needs to prioritise putting measures in place that ultimately leads to securing and retaining committed and highly skilled people to ensure we are providing a superior level of care and service, and to avoid potential skilled staffing shortages in future.

The figures speak for themselves, with The Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that in 2017, people aged 65 years and over made up 15 per cent of Australia’s population. This is projected to increase to between 21 per cent and 23 per cent in 2066. There were 493,000 people aged 85 years and over in Australia in 2017, making up 2 per cent of the population. This group is projected to grow rapidly reaching between 3.6 per cent and 4.4 per cent in 2066. These figures demonstrate that aged care staff are required now more than ever before, with the need for highly skilled workers only continuing to increase over time.

Aged care employees are the face of our industry and make an enormous daily contribution to the lives of older Australians. This includes all those who are involved in care and service including, but by no means limited to, registered nurses, enrolled nurses, care staff, chefs, hospitality, maintenance and administration staff, and those who provide activity programs to ensure residents are physically and mentally stimulated and encouraged to continue their important contribution and role in the community.

Aged care employees are often an important connector between residents and those most important to them, providing comfort and support particularly during the initial days of settling into an aged care community and ongoing as care needs change.

The close relationships that I see forged between staff and those they care for are truly rewarding. Dedication to such a fulfilling but at times challenging profession is what makes those in aged care worthy of our recognition and respect, as they continue to contribute both their energy and time to our ageing community.

As someone who is fortunate enough to find myself in a leadership role, it is my personal and professional commitment to ensure that I am putting plans and actions in place that let our teams know that I am dedicated to nurturing, mentoring, educating and retaining staff. Committing resources to each team member’s career development is key to ensuring we are providing the best possible care and quality of life for our residents while supporting personal growth for our staff.

It is important that staff have access to ongoing training, guaranteeing that they can perform at a level that meets or exceeds the expectations of residents, their families and loved ones. Providing a sustainable and effective system for staff, including training, reward and recognition, and giving staff the opportunity to grow within an organisation will go a long way in ensuring job satisfaction and longevity amongst those committed to aged care.

Investing in our aged care employees is an investment in the future of our industry, and most importantly, an investment in those we entrust, respect and appreciate for their commitment in providing care and service to our older Australians.

Kerry Mann is CEO of Cranbrook Care.

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