Protecting the mental health of aged care workers: Tips for aged care managers

Aged care research body, the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) has created a timely tip sheet for managers and supervisors in aged care to assist them with staff management during the current period.

NARI has drawn on overseas research in the absence of local data to help better prepare managers, and in turn, staff to deal with the onset of stress and anxiety being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An excerpt from the tip sheet is below.  The full sheet can be found here, with contact details for support services.

Looking After Others: Tips for People in Leadership/Management Roles

  • Make a mental health check part of handover – allow opportunities for staff to debrief about their shift, especially if it has involved non-routine work.

Pay special attention to high-risk groups, such as:

-Less experienced workers

-Those who have undertaken additional roles and/or worked well outside their normal role responsibilities and training

-Staff who have worked excessive overtime due to staffing shortages

-People who have been unwell with COVID-19/had to self-isolate or had close family members with COVID-19

  • Express thanks and appreciation to your team
  • Often positive reinforcement and acknowledgement can make a difference to staff morale
  • Provide opportunities for staff to ask questions and for clarification about their COVID-19 strategy in an open and democratic way. There should be space to express concerns if staff think infection control is compromised or they are unable to do their work to a good standard, and these concerns should be taken seriously and acted on if possible.  Normalise open discussion amongst staff about the psychological effects of caring during a highly infectious pandemic.
  • Inform staff that taking leave to cope with the pandemic is allowable and understandable.
  • If a staff member is taking leave – check if this is due to mental health issues, fear of coming to work, and/or fear of catching COVID-19. Highlight that this is fine to do so, but that support is available.
  • Look out for signs that people feel a large burden of responsibility/ expressions of guilt or rumination about what they should have done or not done differently.
  • Remind staff that the virus is highly contagious and there is no fault or blame to those contracting it and/or inadvertently infecting others.
  • If possible, implement mental health initiatives such as ongoing monitoring or checking in policy for staff members, peer-to-peer support, and providing training sessions and psychoeducation. These could focus on factors contributing to anxiety, compassion fatigue, stress, and burnout, and teach strategies to enhance resilience and wellbeing in aged care staff, colleagues, and families.
  • Provide opportunities for developing a meaningful and constructive narrative around their care work during a pandemic – this could be a structured forum in which staff can discuss emotional and social as well as the practical aspects of work.
  • Find ways to encourage some ‘fun’ and humour (even if ‘dark’ humour to enable reducing internalized stresses).
  • Be an ambassador for workplace reform. Create space and time for enhancing resilience, and for reflective practice.
  • Develop recommendations and resources like posters highlighting the importance of mental wellbeing as a communication tool and as reminders throughout facilities. The concept of psychological PPE might be helpful.
  • Ensure you continue to provide support when returning to the new normal when the pandemic starts to recede

For further information on NARI and COVID-19 resources:


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