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Emotional needs of aged residents unmet: new study

Aged care workers say they don’t have enough time to meet older people’s emotional and social needs because they are so rushed and under pressure to provide basic physical care.

Workplace cultures in which staff are rushed and have little choice but to leave residents with unmet social and emotional needs appear to be standard, a joint University of NSW, Macquarie University and RMIT study said.

“Care workers routinely observe that older people’s emotional needs are left unmet in the system designed to support them,” RMIT’s Wendy Taylor said.

“In the aged care system today, overlooking older people’s basic social and emotional needs has become part of accepted business practices.”

Lead author Professor Gabrielle Meagher from Macquarie University said it was structurally difficult for residential and home care services to deliver person-centred care.

“The Australian aged care system has to meet increasing levels of demand, and to respond to the increasing complexity of need among older people related to daily living, behavioural issues or complex healthcare,” she said.

“But our research shows this has not been matched with appropriate funding, staffing levels or a mix of staff skills.”

The major constraints on quality care related to the lack of time workers had available to spend with older people, the high workloads and the inadequate staffing, said the report prepared for the Health Services Union and United Voice.

The authors said insufficient time and staffing in residential care partly explained the very high rates of social isolation and mental distress experienced by older people, along with the over-prescription of medication to manage distress.

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