Providing support for mental health issues within the Aged Care workforce

Blog posts | 27.04.2021

Simon Sentance

Kineo Courses, Product Owner at Kineo AU

As learning providers in the Aged Care and Healthcare space, we are continually growing our knowledge and understanding to ensure we are offering the most relevant and effective training solutions to professionals within the sector. 

To help increase our insight into the unique challenges currently facing Aged Care providers, we recently conducted a research study, interviewing a range of industry experts on the topics that matter to them. 

One key concern repeatedly raised was around mental health issues in the Aged Care workforce, with many of the people we interviewed believing that the increase in workplace pressure faced by staff was not being adequately addressed (i.e. in terms of support and resources available for those who may be struggling with mental health issues). As one provider stated, “We could do better, we need more”. 

Mental health issues within the Aged Care sector (and the workforce at large) are no longer the elephant in the room. There is growing understanding of the impact stress, anxiety and depression has on the Aged Care workforce, with decreased productivity and absenteeism being just the tip of the iceberg. It’s more important than ever for aged-care providers to shine a light on the systems and training that may or may not be in place to support mental health issues in Aged Care. 

Our research highlighted a need for clear strategies to initiate conversations with co-workers about mental health issues and to help identify when initial concerns are part of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. 

A need for openness 

Having the right support for aged care workers is a key factor to getting to the heart of the matter says Professor Nicholas Proctor of UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences, an organisation playing a major role in clinical governance within aged care facilities and the development of training resources. Encouragingly he thinks that people in the sector are becoming more open and supportive of each other at this time: “I’m seeing many more conversations about being an Aged Care worker and supporting people in the sector; I’m seeing Communities of Practice; I’m seeing a coming together of people”. Professor Procter also underlines the importance of clarity and openness for organisations when communicating with their staff as a way to build trust and diffuse anxiety at this challenging time. “Message the coherence and understanding you have of the situation. Message honestly about the complexity of the situation as much as the direction that you, as an organisation, have in going forward”. 

Effective training and support 

In terms of effective training required for organisations to address mental health issues within Aged Care, our research has shown us that when it comes to challenging topics such as mental health, it’s not necessarily the ‘what’ (i.e. the training content) that matters, but the ‘how’ (i.e. the mode of delivery). A number of key points can be considered to ensure that support and training in this area is engaging and genuinely lands with people. These include:

Ensuring that training in this complex area is varied and flexible  

Interspersing interactive elements within more traditional learning modes e.g. role play scenarios. 

Ensuring that training is tailored to the wide range of issues that may present themselves. 

According to Professor Nicholas Procter from UniSA, Clinical & Health Sciences it’s also vital that any training and support given in this area is imbued with compassion. “Make time for your staff; connect with your staff; listen to your staff…Deep listening in times like these can go a long way in getting to the heart of the matter and knowing what’s needed to improve a situation. And these are often low or no-cost improvements for organisations to make”. 

Helping Aged Care workers to help themselves 

As a final takeaway, it’s important for organisations to encourage their staff to take steps to look after their own mental wellbeing at this time. Professor Procter’s advice to workers would be to ‘go gently’, both with themselves; the way they prepare their work-plan; and how they interact with colleagues. These are messages that can and should be shared widely within Aged Care organisations at this time. 

He expands on this by saying: ‘The compassion you bring to the care of the older person…turn that compassion onto yourselves. Take care of yourself, have a plan and [consider] the things you need to do to look after your wellbeing. Because when you look after yourself and have compassion for yourself you’re more available for others, and most importantly, you’re more available for the people you care for”. 

Kineo Courses to support these challenges include Aged Care focused topics on Aged Care Quality Standards, intercultural communication, nutritional needs, oral care and our most recent featured course: Elder Abuse and Neglect Training: Reporting Abuse and Serious Incidents in Aged Care.   

Simon Sentance

Kineo Courses, Product Owner at Kineo AU

Simon looks after the Kineo Courses product offering in APAC. Simon and his Adelaide-based team are taking a big step beyond the cookie cutter approach of many off-the-shelf eLearning products available today. Their goal is to develop workplace online training designed to drive behavioural change and deliver measurable impact for your business.

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