Caregivers feel overwhelmed

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    SOUTHLAND caregivers and rest-home nurses feel they have their hands tied.

    With an increasing lack of staffing in rest-homes, professionals are feeling stressed and emotionally distraught coping with the demand – with patients suffering the most.

    An Invercargill caregiver, who asked to not be identified, has been working in rest-homes for the past decade but believes the industry was facing the worst shortage ever.

    “All I can say is that it is so hard to try to get everything done. In the long run, it’s the resident who suffers the most and they should be our main concern.”

    Because the situation was so constrained, workers needed to optimise their time and prioritise care, she said.

    Sometimes a resident did not get showered or the caregiver could not give the attention she would like to give the patient, due to the staff shortage.

    “We are not allowed to say to them that we are short staffed but what else do we tell them?

    “Why are they not getting a shower? How do we explain that to them when we are not allowed to say it – but I do say it to them because they need to understand what is really happening.”

    Even though it was out of her control, sometimes she felt she was neglecting her patients, she said.

    What hit her most was one day when a patient held her hand and asked her to stay with him because he thought he was dying.

    “I just held his hand and he kept saying, ‘please, don’t leave me on my own, please, don’t leave’. So I stayed there – I couldn’t leave, even though I was not supposed to be there. It is a special job.

    “You feel sick, you feel like you are letting the resident down.”

    Another colleague, who could not be identified due to her contract, agreed.

    “A lot of the time you want to provide that extra time and that care, but you can’t. You do feel emotionally distraught because it is part of why you do the job.

    “The passion you have for the job is to care for people, sit and talk to them – just be there as a support person… it is emotionally draining and because of that is very tiring [for the workers].”

    Sometimes, she and another worker needed to take care of 40 residents at a time when the suitable number would be about half, she said.

    With situations like these becoming more common each day, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) had set up a petition requesting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand House of Representatives to support mandatory minimum safe staffing regulations for aged residential care facilities.

    NZNO organiser Colette Wright said staffing guidelines were optional, very much out of date and did not provide for the increasingly complex health needs of older New Zealanders.

    “The effect of the meagre minimum staffing requirements… means our members face understaffing on a daily basis.

    “Understaffing means workers do not have time to provide the best possible care and must often make difficult decisions about how to ration the care they can provide.”

    As a result, care staff were doing many unpaid extra hours which was taking its toll.

    A public meeting, with members of parliament and stakeholders, would be held at 2.30pm at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill tomorrow.

    It was hoped the meeting would help push the petition and highlight issues the community was facing.

    “We need more nurses and caregivers on every shift to provide safe care. This is imperative if we are to give our elderly the care they deserve in their later years,” Ms Wright said.

    • The petition can be found on www.together.org.nz/safestaffingnow.
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