Tag Archives: Senior Care

Award Wages for Aged Care Workers in Australia

Having just returned from Australia,  I’ll be devoting several upcoming blogs to my research and fact finding with how Australia is advancing in aging and dementia care, as well as dementia and age friendly best practices.  I found their award wages for aged care workers to be one significant difference from the US and worthy of discussion.

Award wages and workplace rights and responsibilities are managed by the Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman. An employee’s minimum pay rate can come from an award, enterprise agreement, other registered agreement, or the national minimum wage.

Employees must be paid for all the hours they work including the time they spend in training, team meetings, opening and closing the business, and working unreasonable trial (what is equivalent to overtime in US) shifts.

An entry-level Aged Care Worker with less than 5 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of AU$44,000.  An Aged Care Worker with mid-career experience which includes employees with 5 to 10 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of AU$46,000.  An experienced Aged Care Worker which includes employees with 10 to 20 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of AU$46,000.  An Aged Care Worker with late-career experience which includes employees with greater than 20 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of AU$48,000.

Although the healthcare and aged care systems differ from the US, I found that we are all experiencing the same challenges of a rapidly growing aging population.   Workforce shortages, rising costs and changing policies are certainly a global concern.

Employee turnover in Australia is less significant than the US.   While this is  likely due to higher wages,  they also have in place required  training for all care workers, of which dementia care is included.

In late 2016 Dementia Training Australia rolled out Dementia Essentials which is delivered by Alzheimer’s Australia nationally.

The three-day course provides attendees with extensive knowledge of dementia, as well as focusing on person-centred practice, communication strategies, developing appropriate activities, and responding to unmet needs.

AGE-u-cate’s Dementia Live™️ and Compassionate Touch® programs have been overwhelmingly received in Australia and we are excited to be working with providers from across the country in expanding our presence in the coming year.

I learned that while we differ in how our “systems” work we all want to deliver high quality care to our aging populations.  We all have challenges and are learning and growing from each other.

Next blog I’ll be talking about Australia’s amazing Men’s Shed program, so stay tuned!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.

www.AGEucate.com

Please Don’t Forget the Hot Fudge Sundae… and other Dining Tips

As my mother’s Parkinson’s Disease progressed,  it was very apparent that food and the mealtime experience became more important to her.  So much so, that I remember saying “Mom’s still finds joy in yummy food”.  That said, her “yummy” was not always the healthiest, but we wanted her to be happy.  We knew that healthy foods were important, but probably not as important  as the joy of witnessing her with excitement dig in to a chocolate fudge sundae with extra whipped cream.  Now THAT was a  quality dining experience!

At some point, certain foods either don’t appeal to older adults due to medications, loss of taste sensation or because it becomes too hard to chew and swallow.   Finding the balance between “healthy” and “joy” hits home as we see our loved ones world get smaller and they have less to look forward to on a daily basis.  The dining experience to us was wherever it happened to take place.  That might be at the dining table,  sitting up in bed, or relaxing on the patio.   As a family we expected that experience to include:

  • Food that was visually appealing – a colorful mix and variety on the plate.  Too much food turned her off, and she would simply push it away.  So less was always better.  If she wanted more she would ask for it
  • A relaxing environment with minimal chatter and over-stimulating noises, especially TV
  • One or two people to engage with while eating.  Much more than that and it became to distracting and we noticed she would eat less
  • Foods that were easy to pick up with fork and spoon, easy to chew and swallow.  That meant small pieces, fish instead of meat, pasta that could be picked up easily with a fork (spaghetti noodles were a disaster!), and food within easy reach
  • Condiments and spices nearby that she could ask for you embellish her food and someone to help her with this
  • Never EVER forget the dessert

Whether your loved one is living at home or in a community based setting, the environment in which they are eating , the details of how the food is presented and ease of eating as independently as possible is very important.  It can be one of their few joys in life, so pay attention to the the little things, because they often so important.  Instead of looking at it as a chore, what a difference it would make if it were viewed as an experience.

And please don’t forget the hot fudge sundae…

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a  passionate advocate for older adults and their caregivers.  

www.AGEucate.com

How Five Minutes a Day Can Transform Care for Older Adults

Time is precious.  Staff is in short supply.  Family caregivers are stretched to the limit.  Just taking care of the basic needs  is hard enough, so five minutes a day seems – IMPOSSIBLE!

Humanizing care is the core of the person-centered philosophy initiative sweeping this country.  Dignity, respect and understanding the needs of any aging person is a culture change that I believe with enough stakeholders will transform care from the medical model that has driven our health care system for far too long.

If holistic care is the core of this belief, then education and tools for those who care for our older adults is paramount.  Tools that are feasible, effective, and will be sustained within the organization.  So, how can five minutes a day change someone’s dignity or sense of respect?

Engaging and communication are absolutely  essential elements that must be integrated into our staff training and family education plans.    These tools are incredibly simple to use, yet often overlooked because we are concentrating on the box checking (aka meeting regulations and requirements).  While charting is certainly important, let’s not overlook the essential elements of engagement and communication.

Here are 10 examples that can transform a person’s dignity, self-respect and value in five minutes a day:

  1. Remove words of endearment (honey, sweetie) and refer to them as they would like to be: Mrs., Mr. Sarah, Fred.  This takes one minute to ask another staff member, family or even the patient!
  2. When speaking, look at the individual in the eyes, talk clearly and slow down!  You don’t have to shout (no one likes being yelled at!).  This small gesture tells another person you are engaging with them because you want to engage.
  3. Use gentle touch on the hands, shoulders, arms or face to develop trust and show the person you genuinely care.  Touch will induce chemical changes in the brain that induce relaxation, reduce stress and many other benefits.
  4. Ask a person something about them.  It may be about their family, or what they did in their career, or a hobby.  Learn one new thing about them every day.
  5. Compliment and smile!  “You have a lovely blouse on today, Mrs. Smith.  I love the spring colors”.  “Mr. Jones, I appreciate your smile – it really lights up my day!”
  6. Practice mindfulness – being centered and in the moment when you are with your care partner.  When one is distracted or stressed, it shows!  Deep breathing or meditation can and should become a part of every caregiver’s daily de-stress routine.
  7. Pay attention to your body language and expression.  Clenched teeth, rolling eyes, closed arms all tell another person you don’t want to be where you are.
  8. Learn what music your care partner enjoys and throughout the day, play this music to set the tone for whatever the circumstances.
  9. Take a 5 minute walk outside and enjoy nature – it calms the soul, reduces anxiety for both care partners, not to mention the healthy shot of Vitamin D!
  10. Accept the moment and that no matter what positive things you do as a caregiver may not always be helpful that day.  Tomorrow, however is a NEW day!

Pam Brandon is  President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training® Institute and a passionate advocate for changing how we care for older adults.

www.AGEucate.com

Caregiver Burnout: What to Look for and How to Help

burnout - ngste CLosing sleep, poor eating habits, irritability or short tempered – these symptoms may start small and snowball quickly into what is referred to as caregiver burnout.   Professionals and families need to know what to look for and how to help caregivers.  It’s a serious matter and growing, as more families are caring for their loved ones at home with little or no help.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.  Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able to do – either physically, emotionally or financially.

Guilt is a huge problem with caregivers, especially those who are caring for someone with dementia or other chronic illness.  As I reflect on my many years caring for my parents, I think guilt was the over riding struggle.  Like most caregivers, I felt guilty when I was not spending time with my parents, and when I was caring for them I felt guilty that I wasn’t with my children and husband.  It was a constant balancing act – and more than often I felt that I was on the low end of the teeter totter.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to symptoms of stress and depression:  They may include:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and social activities
  • Irritability
  • Altered eating patterns
  • Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs
  • Frequent headaches or sudden onset of back pain
  • Impatience
  • Loss of compassion
  • Overreacting to criticism or commonplace accidents
  • Resenting the care recipient and/or situation
  • Wishing to “have the whole thing over with”
  • Feeling trapped
  • High levels of fear and anxiety

Playing the “if only games; saying over and over “if only this would happen; or “if only this hadn’t happened”

It is critically important that senior care professionals understand what to look for when they are talking with families.  Symptoms may start slowly but can quickly snowball into a serious situation. Protecting our older adults from neglect and abuse means a watchful eye and being able to guide families with support and help the need.

A few sources for help and assistance are:

      • Social workers
      • Faith based counselors
      • Family Caregiver Support Groups
      • Area Agencies on Aging (hotline 800-963-5337) (www.n4A.org)
      • Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900) (www.alz.org)
      • National Elder Abuse hotline (800-677-1116)

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www.ncea.acl.gov

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Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and creator Dementia Live™️ experience, helping caregivers worldwide to better understand dementia and aging, transforming professional and family caregiver’s ability to better care for our older adults.  

www.AGEucate.com