Caregiver’s week happens every year on the third week of March. It was started by members in NZNO working with older people, to celebrate the work of caregivers, their importance in the lives of families, and to the whole nursing team.
This year, caregivers’ work is in the news, as the Government negotiates with the unions and employers on a settlement for caregivers’ pay, after Kristine Bartlett’s equal pay win in court. We know that caregiver’s work is undervalued- but how well do the people making decisions really understand what carers do? MPs might get paid a lot more than our members, but if they had to do carer’s jobs, would they shape up? We decided to find out.
We invited all the parties with Wellington-based MPs to send an MP along to a real aged care facility, and spend a couple of hours ‘trading places’ with a caregiver. The Labour Party and the Greens agreed to give it a go. Unfortunately Kris Faafoi was unwell on the day, so Jan Logie was the extra pair of hands for lunch service at Cashmere home in Johnsonville.
The atmosphere at Cashmere home was lovely and calm. The residents in the lunchroom were happy, relaxed, and well attended by all the staff, despite their very different needs. After Jan was done serving, she sat for lunch with a table of chatty residents. Margaret was visiting her husband John, just like she has every day since his stroke. “He never came home from the hospital. He went straight into care…. I wouldn’t have been able to cope at home.” John and Margaret lived a very full life and are still interested in current affairs like caregiver pay and the union movement. The other night they went out, with the help of staff, to a classical concert. They chose Cashmere because of the positive feel, only possible because of the constant attention of the carers. Their care for John has allowed Margaret to not worry so much and keep her own independence.
After lunch, Jan helped clean up, and move resident Therese from the lunchroom to the lounge in her chair. Therese likes to be over by the window and the two brightly coloured pet birds. Jan struggled to steer the big armchair by herself, and nearly got caught on a doorframe! Luckily Therese didn’t mind, and NZNO delegate Dilani came to the rescue. Jan joked that it would be her exercise for the day! She spent the whole time she was helping talking and listening intently to residents, and apart from the one break at lunch, she was walking around non-stop.
Jan and Dilani sat down afterwards for a chat about how it all went.
Next edition- The caregivers go to parliament, and we find out what they think about MPs.
By NZNO Campaigns Adviser, Jenn Lawless.