Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA May-Jun 2013 Contents "If your organisation takes health and
wellness seriously, you are more likely
to think about your health. If you know
someone will give you a health check up,
it makes you reflect on your own fitness,"
A/Prof King has been involved in the
2007 and 2012 aged care workforce census
and surveys conducted by NILS. She
tabled the results from the latest survey at
the Tristate conference in February.
The results show 90 per cent of
respondents reported between good
and excellent health, A/Prof King says.
"Recent hires, of less than 12 months, are
healthier than longer term employees,
partly because they are younger."
Overall though, the aged services sector
has an older workforce. While this is not
new information, the 2012 survey shows
the workforce is older and ageing. As a
result employers will need to consider how
to keep their workforce fitter for longer.
"Healthiness is about keeping the workforce
going, and coping with the physical
demands of care, so you need to cater for
the older workforce," A/Prof King says.
Many workers reported stress as a health
issue in the latest survey, and this may be
around particular times such as when a
client dies. A/Prof King says workers seem
to nominate stress more than employers.
Joint and muscle problems from lifting,
carrying and repetitive use, along with
strains, sprains, cuts and open wounds are
the most common ailments reported. "The
cause of most injuries is lifting, pushing,
pulling and bending," A/Prof King says.
These common injuries
and their causes and the
need to keep an older
workforce fitter for longer,
haven't escaped ACH
Group, which is another
organisation taking staff
health and wellbeing
seriously. Jane Mussared,
ACH Group's General
Manager, Innovation and
Development, said ACH
made it a priority in the
recent strategic plan and
is developing initiatives to
support the goal.
"We want our
workforce, paid and
volunteer, to sustain their careers for as
long as they want to, and to be as healthy
as they can be, to enjoy their lives in
and out of work," Ms Mussared said. The
provider has 1700 staff and over 500
volunteers across its South Australian and
"Following recognition that sprains
and strains are our highest injury risk
area, we researched, trialled and rolled
out information to all care staff about
exercises which will assist them to warm
up prior to manual tasks," she says.
Other current initiatives include a
grants program for local work health
and safety groups to develop programs
to support health and wellbeing in their
locations. To date, says Ms Mussared,
initiatives have included
weight loss, healthy
eating and quit smoking
programs, exercise classes,
Pilates, Wii programs,
yoga, tai chi and massage.
ACH Group also
offers early intervention
counselling for all staff
and volunteers, free flu
information sessions, and
links to national health
nominated being as
healthy as they can be, as
one of the six things that
make up a good life. It is
important that this opportunity is equally
available to our workforce," she says.
Tim Henwood, research fellow at the
joint University of Queensland/Blue
Care Research & Practice Development
Centre, agrees there is value in workplace
health initiatives. "We look at a variety of
aspects of healthy ageing for clients and
carers," Dr Henwood says. Blue Care has
agreements with Fitness First, walking
groups and the partnership with the
research centre, he says.
However, he stresses the initiatives
should be about more than weight loss.
"A lot of people use exercise to target fat
stores but the greatest factors we find
are risks of disease," says Dr Henwood.
Cardiovascular disease and an increased
risk of Alzheimer's disease are flow on
effects of sedentary behaviours, he says.
If you think an active job means you
are more likely to be fit and healthy, you
might be disappointed to hear about Dr
Henwood's recent collaborative research.
With colleague Dr Anthony Tuckett, the UQ
study investigated the health differences
between nurses meeting daily physical
activity recommendations in or away from
the workplace using the e-Cohort survey of
Australian and New Zealand nurses.
"We found people who were more
physically active as part of their lifestyle,
had better health outcomes than people
physically active in their job. Even though
there was physical activity, we found it
didn't have the same health benefits and
level of disease prevention in comparison
to people with an active lifestyle," Dr
Nowadays, Tarpey is a strong advocate of
living an active life. She says there is no
doubt her life is better for getting fit. While
her transformation is a work in progress, it
has already made her job easier, lessened
the risk of injury and so much more, she
says. "Initially I thought it was about losing
weight. Yes, that has happened. But I have
gained so much more strength and control
over my life." n
Silver Chain care
aide Rebecca Tarpey
under the direction of
corporate health and
tor Greg Crichton
www.australianageingagenda.com.au | 37
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