Guide to rid aged care of ageism

An advocacy campaign aimed at tackling ageism against older Australians has released a guide to removing biased behaviours in aged care.

An advocacy campaign aimed at tackling ageism against older Australians has released a guide to removing biased behaviours from aged care.

Developed by EveryAGE Counts in collaboration with the Brisbane North primary health network, the guide – called Every Word (& gesture) Counts – is aimed at anyone who works in aged care: nurses and healthcare workers; support and allied healthcare workers; managers and administration staff; volunteers, family, friends and carers.

Through its research, EveryAGE Counts asked older people – and others – in what areas does ageism need to be addressed.

Joel Pringle

“And aged care was one of the top four – there was aged care, healthcare, the workplace, and family and community relationships,” Joel Pringle, EveryAGE Counts advocacy campaigner tells Australian Ageing Agenda. “For that reason, workers in aged care have been identified as people who can make a big difference to ageism.”

A typical example of how ageism presents itself in aged care settings is through the language used by staff, said Mr Pringle. “Talking down to older people, as if they’re children – ‘dearie’, that kind of language. We don’t treat them as the full adults as we would in other aspects of life.”

And we can do this with the best of intentions, added Mr Pringle. “But the best of intentions don’t necessarily protect us from expressing ageism towards people.”

Released in October, the four-page guide features pointers on some of the overfamiliar terms people may use unknowingly but should avoid. Such as:

  • dear
  • darling
  • sweetie
  • sweetheart
  • honey.

The guide also encourages aged care workers not to:

  • speak to clients in a sing-song voice
  • assume you know what’s better for the client
  • stand to have discussions if the client is sitting down.

But instead:

  • speak to clients as adults
  • listen attentively and respect the client’s right to make choices and decisions
  • maintain respectful body language
  • always ask if it’s okay before beginning tasks.

If we can change ageism in aged care, there will be benefits for everyone, write the guide’s authors. “Aged care clients will feel confident to speak up, have greater control over their lives and feel more empowered to live their best life.

“Those who work with clients will see the whole person first, not the tasks that need to be done. They will have more meaningful and rewarding relationships with clients. They will feel empowered and proud of their work.”

Training workshops

Meanwhile, Mr Pringle will be presenting at the Australian Association of Gerontology conference in Adelaide on Thursday about the work of the EveryAGE Counts campaign, including its advocates training workshops.

Advocates training is based on the idea that ageism is expressed because of biases we all hold towards older people and older life, said Mr Pringle. “The best way to challenge bias is to have someone we already know and trust challenging that bias – not the government, not a poster on the wall but somebody that we already know and trust.”

By the end of the workshop, Mr Pringle said it’s hoped the participants will have the skills and the confidence “to change social attitudes.”

While the workshops are open to all supporters of the EveryAGE Counts campaign, Mr Pringle told AAA aged care workers would especially benefit from attending the training.

“The advocates training is a great resource for aged care staff because they are at the forefront of working with older people and that can have a big impact on community attitudes about ageing and ageism.”

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of the AAG

The AAG Conference is taking place at the Adelaide Conference Centre 22-25 November

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Tags: ageism, EveryAGE Counts, Joel pringle,

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