A young woman has described the brutal daily workload she and her colleagues face in the aged care system — and the way the gruelling job leaves them “exhausted” and “broken”.
Tahlia Stagg, from Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast, posted about “a day in the life of” an aged care worker on Facebook recently.
The post included a shocking breakdown of the tasks and stresses she encountered in an average work day, beginning at 6.30am and ending after 3.20pm, when she’s “in overtime. Unpaid overtime”.
She explained that her post was “not a dig at my workplace” or the job she loved, but rather an attempt to show “the reality of aged care”.
She argued recent media coverage of abuses in nursing homes “will have you believe that aged care workers are negligent, incompetent, and lacking in skills”, but that while “there’s a few stinkers in the bunch”, most were passionate about their careers and the people that depend on them.
Ms Stagg said she was asked to take down her original viral post, which received 78,000 shares in just two days.
However, she decided to repost it on July 19 — again attracting tens of thousands of likes, shares and comments — in an attempt to “make waves” and stand up “for the elderly, and for aged care workers”.
AN AVERAGE DAY:
According to Ms Stagg, her shift begins at 6.30am, leaving her with 90 minutes to get 11 of her 24 residents “washed, dressed and ready” for breakfast at 8am.
“Let’s break that down. That’s eight minutes and 18 seconds per resident,” she explained.
“In eight minutes, I must use a lifter to transfer each resident from their bed to the toilet, from the toilet to the shower, wash them, shave them, dry them, moisturise them, dress them, comb their hair, brush their teeth, apply hearing aids, dress their wounds, transfer them to a wheelchair, tidy their room, make their bed, empty their bin and wheel them to the dining room. Eight minutes!
“Meanwhile, in their bedrooms, the other 13 residents lay waiting for their meal. These residents cannot walk, cannot communicate, cannot feed themselves. They require spoon feeding, can only drink through a straw, and have difficulty swallowing.
“These residents have not yet been touched since the shift began, because the residents with the verbal and physical behaviours take priority. They have not yet been cared for, because in a ward of 24 high care residents, four nurses can only do so much.”
Ms Stagg referred to the half-hour after breakfast as “code brown o’clock” — a time when all residents “want the toilet at once”, meaning one nurse is tasked with the medication round, and another with collecting breakfast trays.
The other two “are running, answering multiple buzzers and toileting several residents at a time”, a period so frantic they regularly miss out on their break time and often aren’t able to use the bathroom themselves.
She said “all personal care would ideally be completed by 11am, leaving just enough time to start preparing for lunch”.
“That leaves six minutes and 15 seconds per resident to attend to their personal hygiene,” she wrote.
“This of course is best case scenario, but throw in a fall, a broken hip, a skin tear, a death, a vomit, an upset visitor, or an accidental poop of the pants, and the time left for each resident is shortened.”
At 12pm the lunch rush begins, followed by the “busiest time hour of the shift” at 12.30pm.
“24 residents all to be toileted, repositioned, checked for pressure sores, or returned to bed,” Ms Stagg posted.
“An hour is not enough to get this round done, but it has to be. Two staff are going home at 1pm, and the other at 2. After that, you’re on your own.”
While she’s due to clock off at 3pm, Ms Stagg explained that she rarely left on time.
“Who are you kidding! You can’t leave until the paperwork’s done.”
Throughout the confronting post, Ms Stagg also describes the pressures caused by demanding relatives, troublesome residents and the emotional toll of the job.
“They don’t see us hold the hands of a man with Parkinson’s to ease his shakes just for a moment … They don’t see us go home as a broken shattered human who has seen more in one day than a lot of people will see ever,” Ms Stagg wrote.
“We are working harder than you know. And feeling like your best is just not good enough sucks.
“We are not incapable, we are pressed for time! You only hear about the negatives, but please believe the majority of us have good hearts and look after and love your family members as our own,” she posted, signing off as an “exhausted care worker”.
The post has received an outpouring of support from fellow Aussies, who thanked the young woman for sharing her experience.
“There is no excuse for the shortage of staff and the pressure that you are under,” one Facebook user wrote, while another argued that “If aged care companies profiting off the aged spent more and profited less this would not be as it is.”
Fellow workers in the industry also posted that Ms Stagg had been spot on in her description.
“You’ve summed up an aged care workers day exactly, it is the hardest, most exhausting and sometimes unappreciated job, but also is the most rewarding job there is,” one woman wrote.