Nurses turn to the booming home care sector
With Australia’s aging population, and many older Australians preferring to be cared for at home rather than enter residential aged care, there’s a high and growing demand for nurses in the home care sector.
Nursing jobs in Sydney are changing, with many nurses beginning to embrace the opportunity to work caring for Australians living in their own homes. This type of work is both flexible and rewarding, and often doesn’t have the high stress demands that can come with working in hospitals or other health care facilities.
Caring for older Australians
The largest group of people in Australia receiving home care nursing are our elderly. Financial factors and the preference to live at home longer, mean many older Australians are staying at home, and receiving regular home nursing care. Productivity Commission data shows more than 900,000 older Australians are receiving home care services. Home care costs the government about one-quarter of the total $15.8 billion annual aged care bill, while residential care is two-thirds.
In February, the Federal Government restructured aged care funding, allocating home care packages to individuals rather than aged care providers – this has given people a lot more flexibility in the services they choose to access, and it has also opened up the nursing sector, offering nurses jobs and a new career path.
Other factors too, such as the fact that Australia’s over-65 population has more than tripled since 1968, are more active into later life, and are living longer, mean that this particular type of nursing work is set to grow even more in the coming years, offering nursing jobs to ensure older patients are taking care of their health.
Social economists say that older Australians are tending to sell the family home and downsize into more manageable smaller apartments or townhouses, and are then seeking nursing services in their own homes as they get older and need help with care, rather than enter into residential facilities. Trends show that aged care residential facilities are becoming more of an end-of-life option.
Research shows that while not only is care ‘delivered at home’ cheaper for the Government, it’s better for older people – they can remain in their own familiar environment close to friends, neighbours and family, which is better in the long-term for their social and emotional well-being, avoiding the stress of moving into a facility where they have less space to call their own, less room for their belongings, and need to ‘start from scratch’ meeting new people.
A study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry – the first to examine the number and patterns of suicide in Australia’s nursing homes, and the largest such investigation in the world, showed that about 140 nursing-home residents took their own lives between 2000 and 2013.
Depression is a major contributor, with more than 50 per cent of residents in nursing homes suffering from depression compared with just 10-15 per cent of adults of the same age living in the community. Older males are at the greatest risk.
But older Australians are not the only ones who can benefit from home care nursing.
Caring for people with disabilities
People with high-care needs, perhaps those who have always had a disability or people who have had a life-changing accident and who remain living at home usually have a partner or family member as a primary carer. Nurses provide support health services as required.
Outpatient care and surgery recovery
There has also been a trend in recent years for hospitals to discharge patients earlier and send them home to recover after surgery. Advances in technology too, are changing home care, making it easier for both patients and nurses.
Home care nurses typically provide services such as: assessing the home environment and determine the needs of patients. They may work with one patient on a long-term, full-time basis, or they may visit multiple patients each day, undertaking responsibilities such as:
- Administering medications
- Cleaning and dressing wounds
- Monitoring patient health and needs
- Documenting symptoms and vital signs
- Instructing patients and their families on home care requirements
- Supervising home health aides
- Providing encouragement and support, keeping a firm watch on patient’s general physical health as well as their emotional health.
Registered and Enrolled nurses who choose to enter the field of home care, usually consider taking up extra study to specialise in fields such as: gerontology, occupational therapy, mental health, and oncology, although these are not mandatory.
In Australia, one area of nursing which has successfully delivered a home care model for many years is midwifery, with nurses offering specialised mum and baby care at home in the first few weeks after birth.
Many nurses entering the field of home care say they enjoy the flexibility and the opportunity to deliver care in an environment that is not as ‘structured’ as a typical health care practice or hospital. Many nurses also feel that delivering home care services can be a more rewarding nursing job which enables them to provide better outcomes for patients, as they have more control over the management and co-ordination of other services as well as other health professionals to provide more holistic care.
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