The workers we trust to look after our mums and dads are changing – and struggling

Nursing home worker Chanmakara Sun Photo: David Mariuz Nursing home worker Chanmakara Sun in Adelaide. Photo: David Mariuz
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Chanmakara Sun has been a registered nurse in an Adelaide nursing home for about three years and is already planning to leave.

“The amount of stress and work is getting too much and we battle every day and the pay is horrible,” he said.

Mr Sun said the home for 90 patients – most of whom have multiple chronic illnesses including heart and kidney failure and dementia – is constantly understaffed. During the day he has three enrolled nurses to help him medicate, monitor patients and dress wounds. He also manages 11 carers who are not qualified to do more than bathe, feed and change the elderly residents.

At night this drops to four carers. A patient once climbed out of his bedroom window without staff realising: “We found him hanging over the fence after 10 minutes but that could have been prevented if we had enough people to make sure all the residents are where they are supposed to be.”

Reports of cognitively impaired patients kicking, punching, spitting and biting staff grew every month.

Mr Sun, 26, recalls one nurse who quit the job after two days, saying it was “too much responsibility”. She had come from the better resourced public hospital sector, where there had been one nurse for every four patients, and there was always access to a doctor, not just the weekly locum.

The problem: the qualifications of staff have changed

Doctors and nurses say a growing proportion of aged care workers are unregulated and underqualified to care for Australia’s ageing population.

Department of Health figures showed the proportion of registered nurses in aged care fell by nearly 30 per cent per cent between 2003 and 2012. In that time, unregulated “personal care attendants” grew from 57 per cent to 68 per cent.  This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.