Everyday Angels: Aged carers given boost

Everyday Angels: Aged carers given boost

29 Sep 2009

Thousands of blank postcards are finding their way across Victoria as part of La Trobe University’s new research project, Everyday Angels, which aims to recognise the valuable care provided by staff in aged care.

post cardAround 300,000 staff are estimated to be employed in the aged care industry in Australia and these workers are among the country’s worst paid and most undervalued.

The Australian Nursing Federation estimates a full time residential aged care nurse can earn up to $340 less per week, on average, than nurses in public hospitals and to make matters worse, the Federal Government has proposed further wage reductions.

The Everyday Angels project aims to boost staff morale in the aged care services sector by getting patients, community members, and staff in the industry to share a positive story about the care they receive on the back of a postcard.

‘It would be lovely to hear some positive messages about care work and that you are caring so well for someone that they think you’re an angel.’ says Elizabeth, a registered aged care nurse who has worked in the industry for 30 years.  ‘It’s such a rewarding profession, but there are too many negative stories.’

‘One of our residents who had dementia used to gently pat my face — it was her way of thanking me and showing that she cared,’ says Elizabeth.

The project is being funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and La Trobe researchers are working with The Melbourne Institute of Experiential and Creative Arts Therapy, The University of Ballarat, and the National Ageing Research Institute.

La Trobe’s Dr Catherine Barrett, the project coordinator, says Everyday Angels is a way of celebrating the achievements of staff in what is a very demanding job.

 ‘We could interview people or conduct a survey, but the idea of the postcard engages people’s interest,’ Dr Barrett says.

Everyday Angels aims to build on the work of a study conducted by Aged and Community Services in Australia that found while the community held aged care staff in high regard, the staff members themselves didn’t see this.

‘Everyday Angels is a way for staff to see the positive effects of what they’re doing and celebrate the contribution they make,’ says Dr Barrett.

The research team hopes to receive at least 365 postcards, one for everyday of the year, from all across Victoria.

One postcard reads: ‘Therese — you honoured my father, respected him, made him laugh, made him a birthday cake.  You are an angel.  I will always be grateful.’

Another postcard reads: ‘As a doctor in aged care, I’m looked down upon by colleagues in ‘real’ medicine.  But when I made my patient continent again, and improved her quality of life immeasurably, that was as rewarding to me as anything I did in the emergency department or operating theatre.’

Self addressed and stamped postcard packs can be ordered from the Everyday Angels website to be sent back to the research team once they have been filled out.  Stories can be shared by anyone working in aged care, by people receiving aged care services and by members of the general community.

In April 2010, the team will create a report and posters based on the themes identified on the cards, and this information will be made available to the aged care industry.

Over 30 postcards have already been received by the team, most written and decorated by older people receiving aged care service, and they are available to view on the Everyday Angels website: www.everydayangels.org.au.  




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