Caring for the carers – How can you better manage care staff?

March 9, 2018
Care staff provide so much meaningful support - so it's up to employers to offer the same to them.

Care workers are the unsung heroes of our nation. Often sitting out of the same spotlight that other healthcare professionals enjoy, care workers provide much-needed support to our loved ones when we aren’t able to. Over 900,000 older people received community aged care in some form during 2015-16, according to Department of Health data. With 130,263 workers employed in home care roles over the same period that’s an average of more than seven clients per worker.

With paid care workers spread thin, their contributions to the well-being of our loved ones seem all the more impressive and meaningful. Unfortunately, what some may not realise is that in many ways, carers are putting their own health on the line to support older people. When a worker enters any home or healthcare facility, they’re arriving at a workplace that can present a huge number of hazards.

Risks care staff may be exposed to

When a worker enters any home or healthcare facility, they’re arriving at a workplace that can present a huge number of hazards.

As care workers move between multiple homes to work with a range of clients, they are required to adjust to each space as they arrive and identify potential hazards. Here are just some of the many risk factors to be found in a home care workplace

Injuries sustained completing manual tasks 

A carer’s job can include strenuous physical activity like assisting with transferring, bathing and dressing clients, moving furniture or performing domestic chores. When these require overreaching, handling heavy loads, bending or twisting, injuries can occur – either developing through gradual wear and tear or happening suddenly.

Aggressive behaviour

Emotions tend to run high in care environments. Even clients with the kindest of hearts have the potential to react strongly, especially when mentally impairing conditions such as dementia are present. Meanwhile, family and friends of a client also have the potential for verbal abuse where a worker is perceived to have made an error.

Simple housework undertaken by community carers can contain a number of risks.Simple housework undertaken by community carers can contain a number of risks.

Occupational stress

Unstructured work days, low control over the mode of daily tasks and emotionally distressing situations can lead to a severe build-up of stress. Furthermore, when working with older or at-risk clients, loss of a life is a very real possibility that can have significant emotional ramifications for a worker.

Infection

Diseases and other infections may be contracted by care workers through contact with a client or client’s possessions. For example, a client may have soiled laundry containing contaminated body substances. A worker must exercise extra caution around ill clients.

Slips, trips and falls

Slippery surfaces and obstacles in the home can pose just as much risk for an aged person as for their carer. When clients experience dementia or are unable to complete housework, low obstacles or spills are more likely to persist and might not be seen before a worker is prone.

Driving risks

Driving clients to their destinations is a significant part of care, as it encourages otherwise stationary persons to socialise and participate in the community. When workers are tired, vehicles are poorly maintained or clients are volatile, the threat of on-the-job accidents poses a major risk.

When considering the risks of care work, the most important thing to remember is that the majority of working hours will be spent alone or with a client who may not necessarily be able to help if problems occur. This means that care workers must often navigate these risks by themselves.

Potential impact on the individuals

Care work can be extremely rewarding, however, experiencing a workplace injury can have a huge impact on the worker.

Care work can be extremely rewarding, offering employees varied work days and genuine connections with clients. However, experiencing a workplace injury, be it physical, mental or emotional can have a huge impact on the worker. Following an accident, an employee may need time to regain strength and normality all while feeling the strain of the incident.

Strain can be financial, especially if a worker was unable to receive an income during the recovery period. It can also be emotional – loss of confidence may hold the worker back from finding normality after the incident, and in the case of more severe events, conditions such as post-traumatic stress may occur. Loss of sleep, temperament changes and additional medical costs can further exacerbate the hardship created by a workplace incident.

Finding a connected solution

With Tunstall's myCareTrack app, lone workers can have support on the line in no time.With Tunstall’s myCareTrack app, lone workers can have support on the line in no time.

Bearing in mind the risky nature of solo care work, how can employers provide peace of mind and ongoing support to workers? Connected solutions are the answer.

Tunstall’s myCareTrack is a personal safety app designed to work with existing Android and iOS systems. Using GPS location functionality, the app makes monitoring your staff’s safety easy and accurate. myCareTrack features periodic check-ins with Tunstall’s response centre and when calls are not answered after three consecutive attempts, escalation will take place to ensure your staff are safe.

Workers can also make use of the Bluetooth emergency alert pendant or in-app SOS button to immediately contact the response centre for assistance.

Tunstall can provide a tailored monitoring solution for your specific business requirements, providing a safer work environment. Get in touch today to discuss connected solutions for your staff.

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