• Rewarding careers in aged care

    Opinion piece by Richard Hearn, former CEO Resthaven Incorporated for Boomer section, The Advertiser, 27 November 2017

    For work with a sense of purpose—making a real and tangible difference in the daily lives of older people—working in aged care is a valuable and personally rewarding career choice.

    Resthaven CEO Richard HearnIn recent months, I have read a plethora of reports and reviews at state and federal level regarding aged care quality, workforce issues, restrictive practices (restraint) and obligatory reporting of abuse. Recommendations from these reports aim to ensure that aged care services are both flexible and responsive, offering safety, quality and choice for individuals with varying needs and expectations.

    Whilst well intended, the challenge for government with such reviews is not to over-regulate and use up precious resources in red tape and complexity, nor reduce service choice or innovation. Implementing excessive regulation with a ‘policing’ mentality regarding compliance can be counter-productive, and risks creating a disincentive to work in aged care.

    I affirm the importance of working with older people and emphasise the need to consider it as a career choice. There is high demand, and many interesting and challenging career opportunities exist.

    I encourage people to see past negative stories that link being older with decline, disability and sadness, and infer that working with older people is negative, tough and lacks reward.

    Older individuals actively participate and contribute to our community. They are deeply valued. When in need, they must be able to access trusted, quality services that suit them and their lifestyles.  Even when very frail, an older person remains an honoured member of their community and family—retaining their rightful place as a person of dignity and worth.

    I believe the great majority of people who engage with aged care services have a positive experience, with genuine staff who understand the importance of the good work that they do and who are committed to supporting the people they work with.

    Undeniably, the support offered by family carers and friends is invaluable and should not be taken for granted.

    Minister for Ageing, Ken Wyatt AM MP, recently spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra. These words struck a chord with me:

    Valuing older people for who they are, not just in terms of economics, but for what they have done and continue to do—as grandparents, mentors, volunteers and givers of knowledge and experience…

    And that there is a “…fundamental need for human kindness and touch, and company and good judgement of trusted care and health professionals.”

    The important contributions that older individuals make to the fabric of our society through their experience and wisdom are of great value and cannot be easily measured.