Reality check — what working in aged care is really like.
If the world of advertising and media were to be believed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that old people don’t exist. In reality, Australia has an ageing population and the number of people aged 65 and over is predicted to double in the next 40 years. This means we’re going to need more aged care facilities and qualified staff to look after our loved ones in their twilight years. And it’s a job that requires a very special kind of person. The kind of person who has the empathy, stamina, and resilience to care for the emotional and physical needs of elderly people. If this sounds like you, you might be asking yourself: “would a career in aged care suit me?” To help you answer this question, we spoke to students studying Certificate III in Individual Support to find out what life in aged care is really like. Here’s what they had to say.
Why did you decide to work in aged care?
“Before studying at Skills Training Australia I worked as a housekeeper. This wasn’t satisfying because I wanted to interact with people and make a different to their lives so I decided to take a new direction. I’m happy to say that it’s been a great decision.” Adeline.
Has the reality matched what you thought it would be like?
“I thought I’d have more time to get to know and talk to elderly residents. However, in my experience as a Personal Care Assistant, I’m usually pressed for time because I work in a large care facility. While I really want to stick around for a chat, I do feel a bit of pressure to get around everyone and stick to the schedule of where I work. This can be frustrating because I want to be able to listen and build better connections with my patients.” Pauline.
What’s the most rewarding part of the job?
“Making an old person feel good about themselves. Sometimes I can be showering and dressing them and I’ll say, ‘you look beautiful today’ and I can see it really lifts their spirits. I know that this small gesture has made a big difference to their day, and for me, this is the best part of my job.” Jenny.
“You don’t go into aged care for gratitude because a lot of time patients can be quite rude. Don’t worry, you learn not to take it personally! However, when you do get a thank you from someone who’s grateful for your hard work and care it feels really good.” Angeliki.
What’s the toughest part of the job?
“Working in aged care has certainly makes you realise that growing old is not for the faint-hearted. Many of my patients are quite depressed and get angry when their health deteriorates, and sometimes I find working in this environment quite tough.” Joanne.
“While you know it’s an inevitable part of life, death is always hard to deal with. While I’ve learnt to be emotionally resilient, I still get upset when patients pass away.” Chanchira.
“Dealing with the attitudes of some staff is challenging because they can be quite stuck in their ways. While Skills Training teaches us the most up-to-date policies and procedures, sometimes my colleagues want to do things the old way or cut corners. This is when you must stand up for yourself. It can be hard but knowing that we’re taught best practice gives me the confidence to make sure we do things the right way. Also, I know I’ve always got Lauren [my trainer] in my corner if I need support.” Pauline.
Has studying and working in aged care taught you valuable lessons about yourself or life in general?
“Yes, to treat people like I’d want to be treated myself. If I’m lucky I’ll grow old and I really hope that if I need residential care I’ll be treated with the same kindness and compassion I give to my patients.” Nthabiseng.
Studying and working in aged care can be stressful, how do you manage this?
“Taking breaks is really important. If you need a sick day or a rest from study do it because you’ll cope better when you go back.” Jade.
“I find the [Certificate III] classes a real source of support. When I started the course, Skills Training ran some good team building activities to help us get to know our fellow students. As a result, I feel close to people and comfortable reaching out if I need help and support.” Lisa.
“Lauren is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. No joke, I’ve never loved studying so much thanks to her! I also know that if I’m struggling or stressed she’s there for me. Even when she’s on holiday she takes calls if we need help.” Adeline.
What kind of personal traits do you need to be successful in aged care?
“You need empathy, patience, resilience and genuine passion because it’s a tough job. You must be honest, good at dealing with conflict, and prepared to speak up when things aren’t right to make sure your patients get the dignity and care they deserve. Don’t get into aged care if you’re lukewarm about it because in this sector you really need to care to succeed.” Rosemary.
If you believe you’ve got the personal attributes and passion to work in aged care then get in touch to see how we can help get the qualification you need for the job.