After 11 years of working in aged care, Donna Rowland has reached her limit.
The Victorian personal care worker is one of the hundreds across Australia struggling to meet elderly residents' basic care needs due to critical staffing shortages.
“I've got to the point where if people ask me about their parents coming in, say, ‘No, don't come in here. Don't come in,'” the 56-year-old told Aged Care Insite.
“We're exhausted, we're getting injured, but the hardest thing is when you look at a resident and they're just so sad, and you can't spend five minutes just to sit down and talk to them.
Donna, who works for one of Geelong’s largest non-profit health organisations, says a decision to cut shifts from higher-ups has led to the plummeting care standards.
Under new rosters, residents are being left in their own feces and urine for hours, personal care workers are working without breaks, and residents are having to pull dirty laundry out of their hampers because they have nothing to wear.
“I know it has been like that in a lot of facilities for a long time, but we've gone from having such wonderful care levels to it being a penny-pinching operation,” said Donna.
“We don't have enough cleaners. Our rooms aren't clean. We are having to clean toilets and vacuum rooms and wash floors and things like that on top of everything else.”
Australia's aged care sector is struggling, with almost a quarter of shifts going unfilled each week, according to National Disability Services.
Surveys by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have shown that 40 per cent of aged care nurses and carers are regularly working double shifts, with 20 per cent set to quit by next year.
Fed up with the horrific working conditions and cost-cutting, Donna says for the first time in over a decade, she is considering leaving her job.
“I went into this job thinking that I could make life a little bit better for some people, that I could make a bit of a difference,” she said.
“It is impossible to make a difference and it's impossible to make someone's life better when you just don't have the time or the access to do that.
“After 11 years, it just seems to be getting worse, not better.”
Hundreds of aged care and disability staff have quit their jobs in the past month due to exhaustion and burnout.
HSU president Gerard Hayes recently told SBS that in January alone, the union lost 100 aged care staff in NSW.
“Conditions for both staff and residents are deteriorating rapidly as COVID cases in aged care continue to rise,” Hayes wrote in a press release.
“We are hearing horrific reports from our members. Some facilities are so short-staffed residents aren’t being showered for days. Others are experiencing food supply issues.
“The majority of staff are exhausted and many are quitting. It is an unmitigated catastrophe."Do you have an idea for a story?
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