An aged care nurse shares her story of working in the sector through COVID-19
I work night shift in an aged care facility. There are 100 residents over three floors, with ratios of up to one staff member for 40 residents.
At this facility, we do not have laundry, kitchen or cleaning staff. Nurses and AINs are expected to do this, on top of caring for our residents. We do not have extra staff to clean, we struggle to get full staff on every shift. It was stressful in the past, but COVID-19 has added to those stress levels.
My facility is now in “lockdown”, which supposedly means no one is allowed in or out unless it is staff, doctors, or essential services. Our residents are very frightened – they see and hear all. They can’t physically see their families. Phone calls are just not the same for them.
The scariest part of it is what we don’t know. We don’t have access to face masks and gowns as we are told that this is not needed. Most of our PPE is locked away. We don’t know if we’ve come in contact with someone who has been infected with the virus, or if we are passing it on to our residents by not wearing masks.
Each shift now has to attend to “environmental cleaning” and document this on resident’s notes. This means cleaning every surface, with what we are told to use by management. We do not know if this is effective, as soap and water is recommended.
I become concerned when I find out a resident is catching a taxi to go shopping and not telling anyone. Or a resident on end of life, their families coming in, not knowing where or who they have seen.
However, there are moments (as rare as they may be) when I can sit with the residents during the night, have a chat and a cuppa to try and ease their anxiety and stress of the unknown. I would love to spend all night just being there for them whenever needed, but unfortunately, most times I am needed elsewhere.
Sometimes, I am made to feel like I am just a number, but when I see a smile or have a chat with a resident, it does make this all worth while.
I continue to hope that conditions will improve for these wonderful people that I care for. Because without them none of us would be here.