Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2017 Contents Experts in Aged
22/06/2017 5:17:55 PM
attached. Interactions with families make this task more difficult, particularly
when the family is grieving. Staff regularly experience their own grief
response when residents die and have var ying abilities to cope with this.
Assess the risks
What is the likelihood that a staff member will be impacted by the
Violence at work is a reality for many aged care staff and a risk to mental
health. A physical attack from a resident was cited as the cause in nearly 33 per
cent of compensation claims and nearly 40 per cent of unreported injuries.
Unfortunately, some facilities have a culture of under-reporting and the
true extent of the violence against staff members and its impact upon their
mental health is still unknown. Reasons for not reporting the incidence of
• compassion, especially if the behaviour is caused by a disease like dementia
• an implied culture of acceptance towards violence that causes staff to
believe the aggressive behaviour is normal or that they won’t be supported
by management in a claim
• a fear of being blamed or having the situation diminished – for example,
where the attacker/resident was extremely fragile.
Implement controls to minimise the risks
While the risks may be inevitable, aged care managers can implement
control measures to reduce the incidence or minimise the impact.
First, implement training programs that teach staff how to identify
and avoid triggers or to de-escalate aggressive behaviour with both family
members and residents. It’s also important staff understand their rights to
personal safety as this helps create a culture where violence is not accepted.
The lack of knowledge of their rights can prevent many staff from reporting
attacks, resulting in feelings of vulnerability and helplessness - both of which
are barriers to good mental health.
Second, tackle poor resources, such as time and staff numbers, as this is
a common factor in the major risks to psychological health. Balance staff
wages against absenteeism, presenteesim and workers compensation claims
due to mental illness. Are you really saving money with a lean staff roster?
Third, develop supportive management practices that engender trust so
staff feel someone “has their back”. This might require additional training
for leaders on how to identify and respond to
employee mental health issues, and how to
provide performance feedback so staff do not feel
persecuted. Invest in training managers so they are
proficient at the “soft skills” too.
Fourth, implement healthy worker initiatives
that address the effects of stress. Exercise is the
quickest and easiest way to treat the stress response
as it undoes the physiological effects of stress.
Ever y dollar a business spends on physical activity
for example, gym membership, onsite yoga
classes, subsidised FitBits - leads to a $6 return
on investment due to improvements to employee
performance and reduction in time off work.
Fifth, enhance resilience through evidence-based
training. There are a variety of individual skills, such
as mindfulness, keeping perspective and tolerating
distress that can be taught though group training
that enhance an individual’s resilience to stress.
Finally, link employees in to your EAP
counselling or coaching ser vices. Employees may
not actively seek out psychological support for
stress however the recover y from a stress response
can be dramatically improved with counselling.
Nip these issues in the bud by addressing concerns
with employees before they become emergencies.
The great news is that when aged care
facilities address employee mental health
issues they see a sound return on investment.
PricewaterhouseCoopers found in 2014 that
Australian businesses gain up to $16 return for
ever y dollar spent on mental health at work.
The key is to be strategic and consider those
“upstream” hazards in order to address problems
before they become emergencies. n
Melissa Harries, a registered psychologist,
is principal with Mindset Psychology.
australianageingagenda.com.au | 35
Links Archive AAA Jan-Feb 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page