Corinne Richards is our Aged Care, Disability, and Community Services Training Coordinator at Inspire Education. She supports our students who are undertaking a number of Community Services courses including aged care, disability and community care.
Before Corinne became a trainer, she worked in the aged care and disability industry for 22 years, supporting our older generation as well as those living with a disability.
She continues to have links with aged and disabled persons, especially with vulnerable and at-risk individuals in the care sector.
So what’s it like to work as a support worker in the aged care and disability industry?
We asked Corinne to tell us about her experience working in this rewarding sector:
Getting into an aged care career is probably the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve had.
I had the opportunity to provide aged care services for the same elderly clients regularly, which meant I could build strong relationships with them and their family members – it’s hard not to get attached.
1. Aged care workers provide person-centred support. Do you have an example of what that means and what you learnt?
I have learnt so much from the elderly people I have supported and feel honoured to be a part of their life journey. I was a personal care worker for Mary, who was the matriarch of a rather dysfunctional family.
At 94 years of age, she still continued to support her family in the best way she could even though she required 24-hour care for herself. She was just amazing and really showed me how important family can be and the importance of supporting each other through hardships.
2. What’s it like providing support for people with disabilities?
While it can be difficult to work in the aged care industry, every day offers an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those I supported —whether it is on personal care, physical demands, emotional support, or mental health.
I remember JT who was a young man finishing his last years of high school. He had cerebral palsy, used a wheelchair and was the head of a gang at a local high school known for its diversity and low socioeconomic standing.
He was consistently very disrespectful to his teachers and would leave class every day to go home early. He was at high risk of not achieving a good academic standing and, as a youth worker in the area, I was asked to work with him.
After developing a rapport with him, I eventually found out that the answer was simple. Due to his cerebral palsy, JT was unable to undo the uniform shorts he wore when he wanted to go to the bathroom.
He was so embarrassed by this that when he could not “hold on” any longer, he would swear at the teacher and leave the room to go home where his grandmother assisted him.
His grandmother was elderly and never mentioned this to anyone. Simple fix – I bought him some school shorts with an elastic waist and he never missed a day of school from then on.
JT went on to become the highest achiever in several subjects when he graduated. He worked very hard with the remaining members of his gang to change their attitude towards education as well.
Never assume you understand why someone is behaving the way they are – take the time to learn.
3. Is working in the aged care industry and disability sector a rewarding career?
Being a part of our elderly community at this time in their life or working with people with a disability to develop and maintain skills to have the best life possible, is such a privilege and is very rewarding.
I found the industry genuinely cares, not only about the elderly people they support but also about each other. I still have some great aged care worker friends from my time working in the aged care sector.
4. How many hours do aged care workers work?
The work hours for aged care workers are quite flexible – casual or full-time, depending on the role. And over the next 10 years, at least 17,000 more aged care workers will be needed in Australia each year just to meet basic standards of assisting clients and providing ageing support.
The current average salary is around $1,265 a week. However, a recent Royal Commission report made 148 recommendations to overhaul the aged care system, including boosting pay and conditions for aged care workers and health professionals, so that’s really encouraging and backs up what many aged care and disability workers and facilities were already thinking.
5. Earlier this year, the Australian Government announced a $17.7 billion aged care package in response to the alarming findings of the aged care royal commission. How does that make you feel?
I can’t emphasise it enough – the aged care industry is desperate for workers who are willing to provide support services. The fact that the government has committed so much money to it, shows just how important and valued the disability and aged care sector is.
6. So why did you decide to leave the aged care and disability industry?
I wanted to pass on the valuable knowledge and skills I’d gained over the years to the next generation of aged care workers and people wanting to provide individual support.
The aged care and disability sectors need people who are committed to making a positive difference to our ageing population, individuals living with a disability, and our community — that’s what it takes to become an aged care worker that’s genuine, competent, and compassionate.
People who genuinely have the well-being of our older generation and the vulnerable at the centre of their minds are the type of people that the individual support industry desperately needs.
It is a community responsibility to ensure we assist people to live their life as independently as possible and to achieve their life goals.
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