Over 45 and Working in Aged and Community Care

Report
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?

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