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Why a self-care tool is needed by the aged care sector

Why a self-care tool is needed by the aged care sector 493

A blog post by Anna Lane, Research Associate at ELDAC

The ELDAC Technology and Innovation team is working with aged care staff to develop an online self-care resource.

What is self-care?

Self-care can mean different things to different people, but it is important in maintaining your physical, emotional and mental health. A recent Australian study looking at self-care in the context of palliative care created the following definition: Self-care is a proactive and personalised approach to the promotion of health and wellbeing through a variety of strategies, in both personal and professional settings, to support capacity for compassionate care of patients and their families. (1)

Why does self-care matter to the aged care workforce?

Self-care can be seen as a strategy to protect health professionals and aged care workers against burnout and compassion fatigue and to build resilience capacity in the workforce. Aside from the toll on workers’ own health and wellbeing, burnout is harmful to the aged care sector because it is associated with higher staff turnover and workforce shortages, as well as lower quality care. (2, 3, 4)

Promotion of aged care worker wellbeing requires a whole of system approach. Whilst individuals have a responsibility to take action to maintain or preserve their own wellbeing, employers can promote a culture where workforce wellbeing is prioritised, and self-care behaviour is normalised.

The relevance and importance of self-care in aged care is observed in policies and standards. Standard 9 of the National Palliative Care Standards appeals to employers to support workers with self-care: “Staff are trained in self-care strategies and advised on how to access personal support.” (5) Standard 7 of the Aged Care Quality Standards requires aged care providers to employ a workforce that is “skilled and qualified to provide safe, respectful and quality care services.” (6) To meet this obligation, providers may choose to invest in resources that support workers with self-care.

Aged care workers are considered a priority group for self-care support. The aged care sector is increasingly relying on care workers to meet the growing demand for residential and home care services. At the same time, they are an unregulated, lightly trained, and multicultural workforce operating under considerable job demands, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the demand for aged care services will continue to increase among older adults, and care workers will experience death and dying regularly as part of their normal work activity. Consequently, aged care workers may be vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue and may need support to survive and thrive in doing this important work.

Are resources currently available for aged care workers?

It is argued that to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. To support aged care workers with self-care, a range of quality online resources have been developed and made available for their use.

Many of these resources were developed in response to COVID-19 and to support frontline healthcare workers, which includes people working in aged care. Some of the resources targeted at aged care workers include those developed by Phoenix Australia, which is one of four organisations providing a Grief and Trauma Response Package to the aged care sector. Phoenix Australia offers wellbeing and self-care resources to aged care managers and workers through dedicated websites.

In collaboration with Dr Jason Mills, Palliative Care Australia has developed the Self-Care Matters (Aged Care) resource for aged care workers in residential facilities and community settings. The resource comprises a self-care planning guide with video, five informational videos and three audio clips and “explores self-care within the important context of aged care, where palliative and end-of-life care are increasingly vital”. Other self-care planning resources and tip-sheets are provided by palliAGED, National Ageing Research Institute, and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, among others.

How can ELDAC contribute?

Digital technologies and platforms such as ELDAC can contribute by increasing the accessibility of resources that support self-care action at individual and organisational levels. As part of the Technology and Innovation program of work, we are creating an online self-care resource. It will help aged care staff identify their self-care needs and provide interactive and practical tips and resources to address those needs. Digital technologies also have the advantage of being interactive, which can facilitate worker engagement with self-care knowledge and behaviours.

We are interested to learn the views of aged care workers.

Do you work in aged care? What do you do or need in terms of surviving or thriving doing this work? Share your comments with us by emailing eldac.project@flinders.edu.au or submit your expression of interest to support us to design the self-care tool on the ELDAC website.

References

  1. Mills J, Wand T, Fraser JA. Exploring the meaning and practice of self-care among palliative care nurses and doctors: a qualitative study. BMC Palliative Care. 2018;17(1).
  2. Westermann C, Kozak A, Harling M, Nienhaus A. Burnout intervention studies for inpatient elderly care nursing staff: Systematic literature review. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2014;51(1):63-71.
  3. Chenoweth L, Jeon Y-H, Merlyn T, Brodaty H. A systematic review of what factors attract and retain nurses in aged and dementia care. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2010;19(1-2):156-67.
  4. Dijxhoorn A-FQ, Brom L, Van Der Linden YM, Leget C, Raijmakers NJ. Prevalence of burnout in healthcare professionals providing palliative care and the effect of interventions to reduce symptoms: A systematic literature review. Palliative Medicine. 2021;35(1):6-26.
  5. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Aged Care Quality Standards fact sheet 2021 [updated 3 May 2021. Available from: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/resources/aged-care-quality-standards-fact-sheet.
  6. Palliative Care Australia. National Palliative Care Standards, 5th Edition. 2018.

Self-care resources for aged care workforce

https://www.phoenixaustralia.org/aged-care/aged-care-managers/

https://www.phoenixaustralia.org/aged-care/aged-care-workforce/

https://palliativecare.org.au/resources/self-care-matters-aged-care

https://www.palliaged.com.au/tabid/4316/Default.aspx

https://www.anmfvic.asn.au/coronavirus/self-care

Additional self-care resources:

Beyond Blue - Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service - Essential services, https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/impacts-on-my-work/Essential-services

Black Dog Institute - TEN – The Essential Network for Health Professionals, https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/the-essential-network/

Pandemic Kindness Movement, https://aci.health.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/kindness

 

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Anna Lane, Research Associate at ELDAC

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