Choosing childcare and choosing aged care is almost the same. Last week my Nana changed from a nursing home she was in for 8 years to a new large nursing home run by the same aged care group closer to home. And what mum is going through is just like beginning childcare. When my mum was looking for aged care all those years ago after caring for her parents at home while running a small business. She chose a small nursing home 35 minutes from home to accommodate the needs of my grandfather who was legally blind and my grandmother with dementia. It was hard to find a place that was up to mum’s standards. As an ex-nurse their was a strict criteria. The first home they moved to was a brand new facility. It accommodated couples, the building was set in lovely grounds. There was a oddly a VIP section for those that paid a bit more for wine that was served with dinner. But the recruitment in the new centre seemed rushed and staff competence levels were questionable. Staff missed medicines which accentuated the dementia behaviours of wondering, confusion, and crankiness and after 3 weeks of my mum sleeping over at the home to ensure they were receiving their appropriate medicines she pulled the pin and moved them back home to start the process again.
When she was looking for care, she was looking for my grandparents needs to be accommodated, to be cared for, respected, treated with dignity and dare we say loved. She wanted them to have quality care by professionals with attention to detail, activities for my grandparents to engage their bodies and minds and opportunities to socialise. Sound familiar mums looking for childcare? It’s the same deal! Placing your kids or your parents in care is emotional. You want they to receive high quality care and for people to get to know their clients. Kids and parents both receive a short tour of facilities before they enter and have to rely on word of mouth to get a feel for what is happening behind closed doors. There are long waiting lists in both aged care and childcare and you never know when your card will be drawn.
There is also ALOT of guilt with aged care and childcare. Am I being the best parent? The best child? Am I letting them down? Is this the best choice for them? Will they get looked after the way I look after them?
But it getting in the door is half the trouble. Often when you end up inside there are issues with care, routine, conflict with other residents/kids. So much of the success of a centre whether it be aged care or childcare relies on the Director running a tight ship, recruiting the best staff, building a team and setting the bar high in terms of care and education. But both sectors suffer from credibility issues. As a society we don’t value carers or educators as much as we should. We don’t value it in terms of pay and we don’t value it in terms of recognition.Only people using their services understand how crucial their role is to the wellbeing of their kids or parents.
So as the Federal budget will outline it’s childcare package in the next week I think there are a few things we need to ensure:
– Qualifications are not watered down – The introduction of nanny pilot without qualification requirements feels like the beginning of a two tiered system of childcare where qualifications are a commodity and there will be those that can just about afford to pay for a nanny with a blue card and first aid and experience and those that have the money to pay extra for experience and qualifications.
– Consistency of Care remains paramount – Consistency of care is a big issue in aged care and childcare. It is crucial to a centres success and reputation in delivering a great program. Retention of staff plays a big role in maintaining certain levels of care. The consistency of carers ensure they build trust, develop an understanding of the children or elderly they are caring for and have an insight into their personality so they know if their behaviours are out of character, the tricks to engage them in activities and on the bad days, the ways to calm them down.
– Childcare ratios are maintained – These ratios are important and need to be the standard. As parents these standards are part of the quality equation we expect.
-Evaluation and Quality Reviews are constant – Both aged care and childcare need investment in the review process. Centres need to not only be monitored to make sure they are hitting the national standards but also gives parents choosing care the opportunity to see how they are performing. Processes like this can also highlight best practice to share with other services and celebrate the success of high quality services.
So while there are so major differences in the client base and the residential options between aged care and childcare they share many similarities in terms of the process parents and children are required to undertake to get in, the issues when they are in care and the levels of care expected. These are our most vulnerable Australian’s; the young and the old. They deserve to be respected, treated with dignity, engaged, cared for and loved. I think childcare has an edge on aged care with it’s national quality standards, education qualification expectations and ratios but both sectors suffer from system and bureaucracy issues where there is a big money involved and big players. We don’t want big groups like the former ABC building strength, buying up all the centres and sweating their assets. This is about CARE. Bureaucracy can play a big part in the support mechanisms to ensure regulations, processes and practices are implemented to a high standard. One thing I wouldn’t reduce in either sector are regulations and qualifications. Quality Care Counts!