Almost one in two home care workers have suffered a workplace injury, more than half have been abused and almost three quarters have been in situations where they have felt unsafe in a client’s home.
A survey commissioned by the unions representing aged care workers also found an overwhelming majority of home care workers didn’t think they have enough time to provide quality care, and most say they are dealing with increasingly complex care needs including an increase in clients with dementia.
Eighty-five per cent said they were forced to say “no” to clients because of a lack of time, 76 per cent said they had to hurry clients, and almost all said they weren’t able to stop and chat with a client because of their workload.
The survey of 5,000 aged care workers also reveals four out of ten home care workers plan to leave the aged care sector within five years, citing overwork, stress and emotional toll.
“These findings are shocking, but sadly not surprising,” said Health Sector Union National President Gerard Hayes.
Ninety-two per cent of home care workers said they don’t have the time to offer the social and emotional support their elderly residents and clients need, and 38 per cent plan to quit aged care in the next five years.
Three quarters of in-home carers said they had seen an increase in more complex care needs during their time working in the sector, with 76 per cent reporting an increase in dementia.
Ninety per cent said there weren’t enough home care packages to provide adequate care.
Forty-five per cent of home care workers have suffered a workplace injury, the report reveals, 69 per cent have been in situations in the homes of clients where they felt unsafe and 60 per cent reported workplace abuse.
Eighty-two per cent said more training would help in the delivery of quality care.
Sixty nine per cent of home care respondents were over 50 and 90 per cent were female.
“This is a real eye-opener – here are 5,000 of our aged care workers telling us all just what is happening in their sector,” United Voice Assistant Secretary and Aged Care director Carolyn Smith said.
“The workers caring for elderly Australians are in a truly shocking situation.
“It’s heartbreaking. Workers and those in their care deserve so much better. These workers can’t wait for the Royal Commission to report – they need a workforce strategy and investment now.”
Australian Community Research (ACR) Director Karen Luscombe, who directed the research for the HSU, said it showed a stressed and exhausted aged care workforce.
“The care needs of elderly care recipients are increasing because people are managing to stay at home longer, there are more people with dementia, but the number of staff has stayed the same or gone backwards.
“Workers want to deliver quality care but can only deliver basic levels of care when they are so hard pressed. It’s leading to the concerning situation of worker burnout with experienced staff planning to leave the sector.”
Andrea Layton, who has been working in aged care for 20 years, was one of the respondents in the survey.
She described her job as physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and said she had developed repetitive strain injuries in her back, feet and shoulders.
The constant change the sector was undergoing was also stressful, she said.
“A lot of my co-workers tell me they anticipate leaving the sector within the next few years because of these issues. They’re workers who are experienced and highly skilled carers, so it is very disheartening.”