Considering a Career in Aged Care? 5 Key Attributes of a Dedicated Aged Care Worker

In this Q&A with Caitlin Watson, St Louis’ Community Client Services Manager, we discuss the key attributes of dedicated care workers. Caitlin has been in aged care for many years and at St Louis, is always on the lookout for dedicated care workers to join our team.

What are the 5 key personal attributes of a dedicated aged care worker?

“Compassion and Care - they need to have a caring attitude, with compassionate and empathy toward the person they are caring for. Also they need a balance between being sensitive and empathetic and also firm enough to handle the challenging behaviours that sometimes come along with this work.

For example, if a client has dementia or is in physical pain, they really need your help but may make it difficult for you to help them. It is important to not take this personally and get on with the work of caring for them.

Resilience and a can-do attitude – as well as being able to have as much fun on the job as you can. I once worked in a residential care facility where residents were eating meals in their bedrooms. We decided to help them get out and about and have their meals in the dining room. But we were met with initial resistance, so we had to change our approach. For example, we could not directly ask ”would you like to come to the dining room for lunch?” because they would just say no, instead we suggested, “come to the dining room and I will help you, it will be a good change of scenery”. We didn’t give in to the resistance but gently persisted with a can-do attitude.

Not everyone wanted to eat outside their rooms and we always respect personal choice, but most residents ended up preferring to eat in the dining room once we had made this transition.

A genuine enjoyment of being with people – they need to enjoy working with people. If you don’t then this is the wrong industry. You are going to be working with vulnerable people so you need to be able to be comfortable with this. You’ll be walking into people’s homes who need your help and keeping a positive attitude and approach while building rapport is essential. Experienced carers know how to adapt their language to work with the individual as well as family members.

A love of learning – a willingness to learn and continue your education and development of skills. When people are genuinely interested in this industry, they will keep themselves informed of trends, standards and changes going on. They will take a more holistic approach and become a greater contributor to their clients because they have a wider awareness. This inherent passion and genuine love of the industry and what its purpose is will come through. At St Louis we support our staff to continue their self-development and make sure they have what they need to stay up to date. But in the end it is always up to the individual as to how much of this they learn and take on.

Flexibility – things don’t always go to plan as we are working with people, it’s a bit unpredictable. You might go and see a client and they may not want you there, what do you do? Be flexible and resilient – our best plans don’t always go to plan. People are people and their plans change. Also, being in the community sector with consumer directed care means that our clients are driving their care plans which means we must be flexible and attentive to their needs.

For example, we might think that personal hygiene is more important to deliver for the client but they might want more social support. So we put the client’s priorities first and help them use their home care package in the best way to meet their needs and goals.”

Which of these skills can be further developed?

Are people born with these skills or can they develop them if they have a genuine interest in aged care?

“You have to want to be in a caring role to enjoy this industry with a commitment to keep developing your skills and expanding your knowledge.

I started as a personal carer, then I did enrolled nursing, and after this I continued my studies to become a registered nurse. I worked as a care manager and I am still studying and currently completing a graduate certificate of Applied Gerontology at Flinders University. I never stop learning and growing because I enjoy this industry.

I am always learning new skills but still using my current skill set. It’s important to have a love of learning in this day and age because this industry change so much – it’s all about people, and standards change to accommodate new ways of delivering care.

Keeping up to date with new information and updating your skills can be demanding and it depends on the sector you are working and your employment situation. It’s always a matter of balance.

Also, make sure that when you join a company you have done the research about them. Does the organisation’s values fit in with your core beliefs? If they don’t then you will feel conflicted and not enjoy working there.”

What do you recommend to care-workers to make sure they are looking after their own wellbeing as well?

  • “To follow polices and procedures as they are there to protect everyone, the client, the company and the care worker. They are there for good reason.
  • Manual handling – practise safe manual handling techniques. Your Cert III training will inform you but we also train people to make sure they continue to practice this.
  • Have work life balance – it’s important for all care workers to take time off
  • Seek help when you need it – go to the care coordinators or other staff to ask for help. It’s good to put your up hand say “I’m not sure and I need some help”.
  • Regular debrief – caring for people can be a confronting job, with grief and loss and the pressures of people’s problems. Talk to someone in the organisation that understands your role and what it takes to deliver good quality care no matter what might be happening for the client. Humans are humans and conflict and issues can arise even with the best intentions, so a good chat will help to lift the load.

Call St Louis to discuss a career in aged care

St Louis has been delivering care services to South Australia’s older population for over 70 years. We know this industry and what it takes to continue delivering exceptional care day in day out, no matter what is happening in the industry, the climate or the economy! We have many experienced aged care workers who have had long, satisfying and rewarding careers. Call St Louis Aged Care on 8332 0950 for a confidential conversation.

Want to learn more?

Aged Care Worker Qualities