News & Events

Close look at aged care work

April 15, 2018

The Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria has welcomed the development of an Australian aged care workforce strategy, saying it will help the nation to dispel myths and stereotypes about aged care and older people.

The OCAV submission builds its arguments around the five imperatives laid out by the workforce panel: why aged care matters, industry leadership, mind-set and accountability, current and future industry workforce organisation and education, industry attraction and retention, and translating research and technology into models of care and practice.

Australia has an ageing population. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population is expected to increase from 24 million in 2017, to over 35 million in 2056. In 2015, there were around 3.5 million older Australians aged 65 and over, equating to 15% of the population, with this percentage steadily rising.

“These figures show why the aged care industry matters. Older people are a significant and growing part of the health care system. Ageing well, with dignity and independence, is something everyone deserves,” CEO Phillip Wohlers said.

In his view, old age is changing: older people are keeping well longer but are also more susceptible to chronic disease which can be kept in check by medication.

“At OCAV, we believe that Australia needs a whole-of-government, industry and community effort, across the health, education and training, human services and employment portfolios, with a focus on the needs of the consumers of aged care,” Mr Wohlers said.

“A well-planned strategy will help Australians to resist the tendency to discuss ageing in terms of frailty, dependence, Alzheimer’s, care programs and old folk’s homes. These are the symptoms of ‘old age’ which is an entirely different concept and for most will represent only a few years.”

OCAV is calling for a strategy to allow those involved in aged care to plan better, allocating funds where the trends and emerging issues are, while ensuring there are adequate funds for current needs, whatever these may be.

“Currently staffing costs are the main outgoings for any aged-care facility. This is not just about funding but also attracting potential people into the workforce, as well as better training and education,” Mr Wohlers said.

The OCAV submission highlights that the 2013 audit of registered training organisations highlighted that 90 per cent of aged-care courses did not comply with training standards under the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Nevertheless, says the submission, due to limited funding and pressure to meet profit targets, managers employ personal-care attendants (PCAs), rather than nurses. This creates both the potential for poor work standards but also a problematic perception: currently PCAs are not valued or recognised for their contribution, and the potential they bring to the aged care industry.

“At OCAV, we encourage PCAs to begin their enrolled nursing qualifications while with us, and have strong links to hospitals such as the Austin for smooth transitioning,” Mr Wohlers said.

The reality, according to OCAV, is that aged care needs to be prepared for: an increase in the number of people living with dementia, with a multitude of chronic diseases, and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

“Ageing in aged care will mean more than medical interventions, it will mean promoting preventive health measures – including therapies such as art and music,” Mr Wohlers said.

However, he says that much depends on the aged care provider and their commitment to innovation. Good ideas and best practice models are hard to come across because of a lack of sharing.

The OCAV submission says that the ageing population will drive the need for a much larger and more diverse workforce and the needs of a diverse older population, and that a national strategy is required to ensure there is a sufficient workforce in terms of both numbers and skill levels.

There also needs to be a greater focus on career pathways that take into account the ongoing need for part-time work in what is a heavily female dominated sector, with women making up 84 percent of the workforce.

“OCAV would like to see a national approach taken to pay and conditions which includes benchmarking pay against comparable industries and understanding the variations in pay across the industry in addition to the other factors that are equally important as part of employment arrangements,” Mr Wohlers said.

Our submission can be found here:

Dorothy Clayton has felt very much ‘at home’ since she moved into Braeside Park nine years ago. Now, Dorothy, the village’s volunteer pastoral care worker, tries to ensure that others also feel a sense of belonging in the Berwick village.

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