$1 million in projects to prepare workforce to care for older Australians

HammondCare and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will launch three major projects worth more than $1 million to better prepare the aged care workforce to care for older Australians.

Mr Butler said the projects would tackle many of the challenges aged care workers faced every day such as delivering medications safely, helping patients to live healthy, active lifestyles, and support people with complex needs.The projects are part of more than $10 million in Health Workforce Australia Aged Care Workforce Reform Funding announced by Minister for Ageing Mark Butler last week.

“As part of up-skilling of workers and job redesign, many of the projects will train workers who support aged care residents… to identify health and wellbeing issues early.

“By 2050 we expect that more than 1 in 20 working Australians will be an aged care worker, we need these workers to be as highly skilled as possible.”

All projects have been funded to implement evidence of workforce reform and determine what supports will be required to sustain the change and drive national uptake.

The HammondCare/UNSW partnership will conduct three out of 26 funded projects across Australia covering public, private and non-government organisations.

Building capacity for complex care

The first project, Building Workforce Capacity for Complex Care Coordination in the Community, is led by HammondAtHome General Manager Sally Yule. The project is designed to build workforce capacity in community aged care in South West Sydney to deliver a new model for provision and management of complex care.

Partners include HammondCare’s Braeside Hospital, SWS Medicare Local and the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, which will provide an internal evaluation of the project as it develops an innovative, evidence-based, sustainable workforce model.

Project Manager, Julie Flood, said, "The needs of older Australians receiving care support at home are growing increasingly complex and stretching the capacity of current workforce models to meet these needs.

"Frontline staff are telling us about their increased workload burden but at the same time they want to learn more in their role and have increased opportunities for skills development,” Ms Flood said.

"This project will address these and other needs by identifying gaps in the current workforce structures, reinvigorate connectivity in complex health coordination in community settings and redesign workforce models by establishing where change is needed and challenging traditional work allocation to better utilise enhanced skills.  

"This will be achieved without compromising client care, in fact our overriding passion is to ensure the care we provide is increasingly responsive to the growing needs of an ageing population, living at home."

Two other projects are led by the HammondCare and UNSW’s Hammond Chair of Positive Ageing and Care, A/Prof Chris Poulos.

Re-enabling aged care teams

The first of these is known as Re-enabling Aged Care Teams (REACT) and will focus on workforce redesign in residential care to increase capacity and effectiveness. HammondCare’s General Manager of Residential Aged Care, Angela Raguz and her staff will play a large role in the REACT project.

A/Prof Poulos said REACT would focus on empowering care support workers through increased skill levels to enable them to take a more active role in care planning and delivery of care. The project will also examine how teams work together within residential aged care and will develop models to enhance their effectiveness.

Focus on reducing functional decline

The final project is known as Focus on Function and its goal is to reduce functional decline of older people in the community through improved skills, expertise and knowledge for care support workers.

“The largest part of the aged care workforce are care support workers and they are also the people who provide care on a daily basis and are most familiar with their clients daily needs,” A/Prof Poulos said.

“This project aims to help the care support workforce to identify functional decline earlier in the older people they care for and give them tools to initiate the best management pathway.”

A/Prof Poulos said not only would increased skills and knowledge enable care workers to identify functional decline, but technology would be utilised to assist care workers in their day-to-day work and to share these insights along the correct management pathway. And importantly, the care workers would gain the knowledge and confidence to help educate the client in steps they could take to prevent functional decline.

Once again, the UNSW will play a key role through its School of Public Health and Community Medicine in providing rigorous evaluation of these redesigned workforce models.

Answering growing care need and workforce shortage

A/Prof Poulos said the importance of these aged care workforce reform projects could not be under-estimated as an ageing population sees more and more people in need of care at the same time as Australia faces workforce shortages in this area.

“We need to get beyond the model that when an older people declines in function we just go in and provide services or opt for residential care. Rather we need to equip our whole aged care workforce to improve people’s function, delay progression of decline and help them to be less reliant on care as they stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

“In order to do this we need to improve the capacity of our care support workforce to play a greater role, and make the best possible use of the professional health workforce such as nurses, doctors and allied health professions.

“Not only will this provide better outcomes for older Australians, it will also enrich the job satisfaction of this vital workforce sector which traditionally has a high turnover rate.”