If you love taking care of people and enjoy spending time with the elderly, then a career as an aged care worker could be ideal for you. Aged care workers provide various types of support to people as they age. This could mean helping an elderly person with personal hygiene tasks, or it could mean providing transportation to someone who can no longer drive. It can also simply mean providing companionship to someone whose reduced mobility prevents them from going out for social activities as much as they’d like.
There are many entry-level jobs in the field, making it an easy career to enter, and it’s a growing industry with an excellent job outlook.
What is Aged Care?
In Australia, the Department of Health provides numerous services and initiatives for aged care. In the 2019-2020 budget year, the Government spent over $21.5 billion on aged care. Much of this funding helps pay for aged care workers, who are key to delivering essential services to seniors. This funding is continuing to increase as the population ages, which means there are plenty of job opportunities for both new and experienced aged care workers.
All Government-funded aged care services are overseen by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which sets quality standards for organisations that provide aged care. A key tenant of the quality standards is the Charter of Aged Care Rights, which outlines the rights of all participants in aged care.
There are several Government programs that provide funding for aged care services. Originally, these programs delegated funding to approved providers, who then used it to offer services. However, in 2017, the funding structure of home care was reorganised to offer consumer-directed care. Now, home care funding is delegated directly to aged care participants, who can then choose what provider they want to use for their care. And in July 2024, residential care funding will transition to a similar structure of consumer-directed care.
Although providers, not workers, are the ones who manage these funds, it’s important for aged care workers to be aware of the consumer-directed care structure. The goal of this structure is to give participants choice and control about how they get the services they need. As an aged care worker, the quality of service you provide to the individuals you serve is a key factor that determines whether their satisfaction with the provider you work for. By providing high-quality service and meeting the needs of clients, aged care workers play an essential role in supporting both the health of their clients and the success of their employer.
The funding programs for aged care are organised by the type and setting of services provided. There are three main settings for aged care: home care and residential care. Home care is funded by two programs: the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, which provides entry-level support for people who are mostly independent; and Home Care Packages, which provide higher-level support for people who need more extensive care to be able to stay in their homes. The Aged Care Funding Instrument provides subsidies to residential homes based on the number of residents and their level of care needs.
Aged Care Worker Job Description
As an aged care worker, your primary job will be providing direct services to seniors. You could work in people’s homes, in residential care facilities, or in the community. To succeed in this role, you need to be responsible, compassionate, a good communicator, and able to adapt to changing situations. It’s also valuable to have skills such as first aid knowledge, hygiene knowledge, home maintenance skills, and general health knowledge.
If you decide to work in home care, you’ll go to the homes of your clients to provide support services. Home care aged care workers travel to people’s homes, so their place of work is variable. They also have a high level of independence, since an individual worker may be the only staff at a client’s house at a given time.
If you decide to be a residential aged care worker, then instead of traveling to people’s homes, you’ll work in a residential home. You’ll go to the same place of work every day, and you’ll work with a team of staff, so you’ll have more support from other workers but less independence.
As an aged care worker, your job could involve providing many different types of services, such as personal care, overnight care, or companionship. You’ll help your clients with activities of daily living, such as showering, grooming, and dressing. You might help with cooking, cleaning, and even meal planning. You could provide transportation to stores and community activities, or you could help clients with mobility challenges to move around their home or the residential facility. You might also provide activities to enhance your client’s social and emotional development, such as reading or playing games. You may also provide basic clinical care such as catheter care or medication administration under the supervision of a registered nurse.
A typical job description could includes the following tasks:
- Build and maintain strong and effective relationships with clients and their families
- Provide individualised, client-centered care for clients in their homes
- Support clients with domestic household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation
- Assist clients with transportation for shopping, appointments, and recreational outings
- Assist clients with personal care tasks such as grooming, dressing, and hygiene
- Adhere to health and safety guidelines to keep yourself and clients safe
What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an Aged Care Worker?
Aged care worker is an entry-level job, so you don’t need to get any certifications before you can be hired for this role. However, since you provide direct client care, you are considered a “key personnel” under the Aged Care Act of 1997, which means you need to meet certain standards to work for an approved provider.
To work for a Government-approved aged care provider in a key personnel role, you cannot be a disqualified individual. This means that you have to meet three criteria:
- You cannot be currently in bankruptcy, or a person who is “insolvent under administration.” If you need to declare bankruptcy, you will be a disqualified individual until your bankruptcy can be discharged after three years.
- You cannot have a criminal record that includes any indictable offence. An indictable offense is a serious criminal offence that gives you the right to a trial by jury. The maximum penalty for indictable offences is at least two years. A less serious summary offence does not make you a disqualified person. You must be able to pass a National Police Check, which searches for indictable offence convictions in all states and territories.
- You cannot be of unsound mind. This means you have a mental condition that would prevent you from understanding and controlling your actions.
If you meet these minimum qualifications, you can be hired as an aged care worker. However, you can also acquire certificates that will improve your skills and increase your chances of employment in this industry. The entry-level training for an aged care worker is the Certificate III in Individual Support. This program includes 7 core units and 6 elective units. If you choose elective units from the categories of ageing and aged care, you will achieve a specialised Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing). This is the foundational training certification for an aged care worker.
If you are interested in growing your career and moving into a supervisory role in aged care, you can get further training with a Certificate IV in Ageing Support. This enables you to provide higher-level care and to supervise a team of carers.
Aged Care Worker Salary in Australia
The starting rate for a new aged care worker in Australia is $21.96 per hour, or $834.60 per week. This is just above the (recently raised) minimum wage of $20.33 per hour. The average pay for both new and experienced aged care workers is $1265 per week, which is lower than the average for all jobs of $1460 per week.
Aged Care Worker Job Outlook
The job outlook for aged care workers is excellent. From 2014 to 2019, 45,800 jobs were added in this industry (a growth of almost 35%). Australia’s population is ageing, so the need for aged care workers is expected to continue to grow.
In the wake of the global pandemic, now is a great time to enter the healthcare field. Aged care workers are in high demand. And because there are so many opportunities for entry-level workers, the aged care industry is an excellent way to get started in the aged care industry and begin a career with significant potential for growth.
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