Over 45 and Working in Aged Care Results of a pilot study Background Using the Australian aged care sector as a case study, this study is part of a large project that aims to: ◦ Provide a detailed understanding of the factors that promote or hinder the retention in paid work of women aged 45+ ◦ Develop a model of employment decision making that is relevant to the unique circumstances of mature age women ◦ Generate new policy frameworks to strengthen labour security in the aged care sector. Background: Tackling the Invisibility of Older Women in the Labour Market There a large knowledge gaps on mature age women in the workforce due to a lack of... A) data & B) theoretical frameworks sensitive to gender and age differences and able to capture the complex array of reasons for supplying caring labour Background: The Big Project Will.... Assemble available data on women’s employment after age 45 Collect new quantitative data via a 2stage survey of aged care nurses and carers aged 45+ Collect qualitative data from carers aged 45+ The Pilot Study Collected qualitative data via interviews with 14 carers/nursing assistants ◦ employed in 2 Western Australian aged care agencies ◦ ranging in age from 47 to 79. The interviews.... Focused on the women’s feelings about their work ◦ Can we talk about some of the things that you enjoy about your work or that make your work difficult? ◦ How do you feel about working in aged and community care? Attempted to get the women’s perspectives on their experience as an older worker ◦ Could you tell me how your experiences of work now are different from when you were younger? The results.... Provide new data on many issues relevant to the paid care work roles undertaken by older women Elaborate on existing themes in the feminist economic literature on caring labour ◦ Relationships ◦ Social value Focus attention on the meaning, significance and risks of the relationships between the carer and care giver for the (paid) care giver No country for old women I’ve got an aunt who I talk to about it a little bit but she worked in aged care herself and she hated it. She sort of just says “I know how you feel” and of course she’s a great one, she says “And you know there’s nothing else out there for a woman of your age”. That really helps. And all you can do is say, “Well probably that’s very true.” No country for old women Just at the moment it’s not even hardly money because of me getting only a few hours so that’s not even helping at the moment. I’m not in a position where I could even retire before the retiring age because my super [pension] is virtually negligible and I lost most of whatever I had from the crash just in the last couple of years. So I have no option. I have to work until I retire. “To Care is to Relate” You get to know every one of them intimately so you’re not only just there helping them with the day-to-day things; you’re actually involved in their life but not that you take it home but – you know what I mean – if they have a period where they start to talk about their family and all that, which might only last for a minute, you actually know that history part of them because you’ve been there with them before so you can still interact with them. Two minutes down the track they can’t remember that they’re 90 and they’re in a nursing home and they might be waiting for their mother to come and pick them up. It’s really hard to describe but you just love them to pieces. Caring is an important source of wellbeing for care workers I feel it’s very worthwhile – you get a lot out of it from the people by allowing them to stay home and I look at it that if I come out of a job and they have smiled at least once in the day, it’s been worthwhile. It means I’m occupied but I’m giving something. I’m giving a part of myself … Achieving good relationships involves skill and effort You know the ones that you can’t do that (laugh and joke) with; the ones that you have to help a little bit more because of dementia and that type of thing, so you can work with 18 people in the day and you have 12 different behaviours, so you’re actually not multi-skilling, but ‘multipersonality’ to suit that particular person that you’re working with at that time. Good relationships need time If some of them need more time with you that it would be nice if we could get more funding to instead of an hour rush in, clean the kitchen, clean the bathroom…. “But I’d just like you to talk to me today” – you wish you could have the hour and a half because that means you’ve cleaned everything and you’ve got a bit more than ten minutes to sit down and say “Tell me, what did you do for the weekend?” “Nothing I haven’t spoken to anyone” “Oh well, got to go now” and that’s it. “Well I’m sorry Darl, I’m off. Bye”. Not all relationships are positive. I try to get past it some days, I do. It depends on how my back’s feeling or [if] the client’s in a foul mood and blames you for something, and sometimes I just find I don’t really like working with clients particularly. I have to be honest that it is the clients, but I make the best of it and I certainly get on well with the ones I do work with. I really wouldn’t like to continue doing it until I retire. I really wouldn’t. I find it too demanding Relationships raise the emotional stakes of work Some things are never going to be easy to put into a little box and say “I’m not going to deal with you anymore”. .....The funeral I’m going to this afternoon, I saw him last Friday – not this Friday, the Friday before. He died Friday afternoon. Perfectly alright when I saw him in the morning. Better than he’d been for ages and then he was gone. So that was a bit hard to deal with. Relationships can create ‘traps’ for care workers I did at one stage – oh, 18 months or so ago – put in my resignation ... and I was all systems go and then I was like a little kid – I couldn’t say goodbye to my clients. I just could not leave those people so it was a panic fax went through to my co-ordinator at the time and “Ring me because I need help” Acknowledgement and reciprocity are important You know, we’re human beings – we’ve got emotions and it doesn’t matter whether it’s this job or whether it’s in your home with your children. You say “you’re doing a good job” and I know they say to me before I go out the door “(Name), you’ve done a perfect job again. Thank you.” Pretty well every morning this one particular one… “Thank you for what you’ve done today for me, thank you (name).” So I’m happy to go back there the next day. Low pay also diminishes carers’ sense how the community values their contribution They could go to Subway and make sandwiches and get more money than they get looking after people’s lives. Community perceptions that body work is dirty diminish some carers’ sense of their work’s value It’s all tied into that “how do other people see my job” and I’ve said people see it as quite a demeaning sort of a job. So that affects me. That makes me feel dissatisfied a lot in life I suppose and I hope that doesn’t reflect on the way I do my job. Research Directions Further work on the experiences and opportunities for older women in paid work ◦ Their particular economic vulnerabilities, including those associated with being involved in care work Further work on the communicative elements of aged care work ◦ How these affect outcomes for care givers and receivers ◦ The determinants of “quality” ◦ How can they become less invisible and poorly rewarded?