Battling the ‘stigma’ of aged care
Aged care workers should be appreciated and recognised more for their commitment and care for the elderly, says Susan Ginty.
“I am an aged care worker” is a statement many may find hard to express these days, says RN Susan Ginty.
Susan works at an aged care facility in Sydney.
A former theatre nurse, she “fell in love” with aged care when she returned to nursing after a decade-long stint running a hotel.
She says many aged care workers feel “demonised” in the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Commission into Aged Care and “an aggressive media that only focuses on the negative stories”.
Sydney’s Newmarch House facility was subjected to “trial by media” during its COVID-19 outbreak, she believes.
“The media bombarded us with images of distressed families unable to see their relatives and the ‘inadequate response’ of Newmarch House.
“Meanwhile Premier Gladys Berejiklian used further negative phrases such as ‘aged care must lift their game’.
“There was nothing positive said about the many nursing homes and thousands of nurses and carers working hard and giving really good care to their residents.
“The virus had just spread to Australia and mistakes were being made in many sectors, such as the cruise ship fiasco, hotel quarantine errors and the government itself not taking control of the issue.
“Governments and the community were unprepared for this silent killer.”
Aged care workers continue to feel stigmatised by the media, she says.
“We are mentioned in relation to outbreaks and lead cluster-related morbidity charts.
“We are mentioned in relation to elderly abuse perpetrated by a very few people in relation to the total aged care workforce.
“We are mentioned in a gruesome account of a domestic murder where the public is informed that the perpetrator is ‘a worker in aged care’.
“The public take all this on board and aged care workers are seen as being uncaring or callous. This is so far from the truth.”
Susan contrasts the “stigma” of working in aged care with public appreciation for hospital staff.
“Hospital nurses are hand clapped en masse, have teddy bears put out on verandahs in appreciation, are thanked by politicians and portrayed with angel wings on advertisements – accolades which they truly deserve.
“However, all nurses have the same goal – to help the sick or dying – regardless of where they work.”
Susan says staff at her facility have worked hard to take extra steps to safeguard residents against COVID-19.
Susan says it’s impossible to know if these measures will prevent a COVID outbreak. However, “families of residents are very thankful their parent or family member are in a well-run and caring facility”.
“Our facility is not unique – there are so many great nursing homes with wonderful staff who give their residents genuine warmth, compassion and kindness.”