Co-developing a self-care resource with aged care workers
A blog post by Dr Anna Lane, Former Research Associate at ELDAC
Although recognised as important, aged care staff can find it difficult to prioritise their own wellbeing. As one registered nurse explained in our project discussions: ‘We work in an industry where we're here to care for others and often forget to take care of ourselves.’ The new ELDAC Self-Care Room will play an important role in empowering and enabling the aged care workforce to think about well-being and take steps in their own self-care.
Self-care is about looking after yourself. If workers practice self-care, their health and wellbeing will benefit, and they will be better prepared to cope with the stressors of aged care work. They’ll be better able to care for older people at the end of life. As explained by one personal care worker we spoke to in this project: ‘Self-care means looking after yourself in all respects of your health, whether your mental health, your physical health, your spiritual health … you need to fill your cup before you can help others, so making sure that you look after yourself first.’ (Home support worker).
How we developed the Self-Care Room
The first phase of the project involved a needs assessment. We conducted an environmental scan and a scoping review of empirical literature to understand the extent of self-care resources available for the aged care workforce and to determine whether there was a need for an ELDAC resource. We identified a plethora of resources developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to specifically help frontline health workers. Few resources were designed specifically for care workers, and we concluded there was an opportunity to develop an online resource tailored to workers operating at the nexus of aged and palliative care. You can read my previous blog post on the work we did to find out more about the need for a self-care resource.
The second phase of the project involved engaging with people working in the aged care sector to co-develop a prototype. Including aged care workers in the design process helped to ensure a good-quality resource was developed that is both useful and accessible. Our workforce participants informed our work alongside a task group of content experts.
The user members of the design group comprised 14 people from a range of occupational backgrounds, including registered nurses, clinical managers, personal care workers, a home support worker, chaplains, a clinical nurse specialist, a lifestyle assistant, and a consumer concierge officer. Engagement mechanisms included design interviews, show and share sessions, and a focus group. We had hoped to hold one or two design workshops in 2021 with staff located in South Australia but were forced to abandon this plan due to rising COVID-19 case numbers in the eastern states and emergent exposure site events in South Australia. Furthermore, the shift work nature of aged care work made it extremely difficult find a mutually suitable date and time to meet as a group.
Engaging with aged care staff was invaluable in finding out what is important and how aged care workers practice self-care or not. We learned what they liked and disliked about some currently available resources. Then we used this information and insights gleaned from the needs assessment, to develop some preliminary design concepts, which we took back to the design group for their reaction. In tandem, a prototype was developed iteratively and then tested with a group of intended users. They were able to explore the resource and provide feedback on aspects of design, navigation, and usability via an online survey. The resource build was finalised and made publicly available on 17 December 2021.
The Self-Care Room is now available to the aged care workforce. It offers a smorgasbord of information, downloadable resources, printable posters, online activities, and resource links organised by topic from which users can select depending on their time, needs and preferences.
What we intend to do next
In the next phase of the project, we will promote the resource and conduct post-release evaluation. We intend to monitor the performance of the resource and make improvements over time. We invite you to take some time to explore the Self-Care Room and let us know what you think.
The project was approved by Flinders University’s Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number 4652).
Dr Anna Lane, Former Research Associate at ELDAC