The mental health of home care workers should be a priority as parliament considers the future of the aged care workforce, an organisational psychologist and academic has said.
Associate Professor Denise Jepsen from Macquarie University said anecdotal evidence suggested high levels of depression and anxiety among home care workers and limited awareness and access to support.
Dr Jepsen’s preliminary research showed around 50 per cent of home care workers interviewed about their work reported they currently or recently had anxiety or depression.
Home care workers also had poor awareness of any internal support available through their employer or from external organisations such as MindSpot, CRUfAD, Lifeline or beyondblue.
The casualised and mobile nature of the care workforce meant they were also difficult to reach for targeted education and training.
Dr Jepsen said there was a need for further research on the prevalence of mental health conditions in the home care workforce, and effective employer strategies to support their wellbeing.
It was also necessary to investigate the impact of their work and conditions on their mental health.
Working remotely with limited face-to-face contact with colleagues could limit opportunities to debrief and for supervisors to identify when workers were not coping, she said. For many aged care workers, dealing with grief as part of their work was also not formally recognised.
“We do not wish to be alarmist, but employee mental health is not something we should shy away from as this sector grows,” she told the senate inquiry.
Dr Jepsen recommended an annual survey be undertaken to investigate the mental health of the workforce and their working conditions, which over time could measure the impact of programs to improve employee mental health outcomes.
“We need to take care of the workforce that is taking care of clients in their homes,” she told Community Care Review. “Let’s make sure that we do the best we can by them because we are going to need to attract more people and retain them for longer.”
Last month beyondblue launched a free online course for aged care workers, which includes a module on promoting workers’ mental health.
beyondblue: 1300 224 656, Lifeline: 13 11 14
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