Demand for aged care services have reached unprecedented levels, but potential workers continue to be turned off by stigmas surrounding older people and the aged care sector.
Former aged cared nurse turned teacher at Albury’s TAFE NSW campus Rachel Hodges said there was a clear bias against elderly people and aged care work, which prevented people considering the field.
She said regionally there was already a skills shortage, which with the ageing population will reach drastic proportions if more people don’t enter the industry.
Miss Hodges said unfortunately many people see the aged care field as simply bathing or assisting incontinent people.
“There’s a misconception, people don’t really understand that it’s not a glorified job by any means but it is rewarding,” she said.
“It can be confronting for students when you demonstrate how to shower someone... but it’s all about helping someone. You’re making sure that person is comfortable.
“People need to turn it around and see it as a positive experience – people doing something good.”
In 2010, the federal Department of Health and Ageing said the aged care workforce would need to triple by 2050 to keep up with the ageing population, but the industry is struggling to attract young workers and meet the rapid expansion needed.
The department found low pay rates were also a factor in the skills shortage being faced regionally.
But for Albury’s Melisa Kinateder aged care is a perfect fit. She initially was interested in youth work but seeing her grandparents navigate the health system and the need for workers inspired her to change paths.
The 24-year-old completed a Certificate III Assistant in Nursing course through TAFE NSW, and is keen to start her job hunt.
“I wasn’t expecting it but I found aged care really rewarding, I absolutely loved it!,” she said.
Miss Kinateder said going into her course and placement she had the same reluctance many people do about assisting people with their personal care, but promptly changed her mind.
“At the end of a day, they are a person who needs assistance and very quickly it went from something that could have been uncomfortable to something that was doing something for them and just another.
“Interacting with the older people is the highlight… all the residents have a history.”
Miss Hodges said more people need to ditch the stigmas and consider aged care to ensure the system can cater to an ageing population with higher life expectancy.
“There is a great need to look after older people, they’ve done enough in their lives for us, now it’s time for us to be a bit kinder back to them because they’re not stupid and just because they’re older doesn’t mean they can’t talk, or they’re all deaf, or they don’t understand,” she said.
“You can learn so much from every person.”
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