What Makes a Great Aged Care Worker?

Great communication | Great experience | Great personal qualities

Posted 11th April 2024 | 5 minute read

Written by Jesse Gramenz 

an aged care worker serving lunch at bronte

 

There's many, many skills and attributes that make a great aged care worker. But if we had to break it down, we would say there are three main areas that really stand out: how they communicate, their experience and their personal characteristics. 

So, in detail, what do this mean? And what makes a great aged care worker? Let's find out.

1. They're great communicators (especially with older people)

Whether it's with families, colleagues and of course aged care residents, effective communication in aged care matters perhaps above anything else.

Here's some things that great aged care workers do to communicate well:

  • Finding times to chat when a resident isn't tired 
  • Using gestures with your hands and body to help residents who might have a hard time hearing or comprehending what you're saying
  • Putting away electronic devices to eliminate distractions to signal to the resident that they are the primary focus.
  • Sitting or standing at the resident’s level to avoid appearing rushed or like they're about to leave.
  • Maintaining eye contact when speaking with the resident, showing that they are fully engaged in the conversation
  • Using the resident’s name during conversation. This is a great practice for any conversation too!


“Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” - Dale Carnegie


  • Taking a deep breath before spending time with residents to clear your mind of other distractions.
  • Using active listening techniques, such as nodding and repeating back what the resident says, to demonstrate understanding and presence.


aged care worker holding the hand of an aged care resident

Being a great communicator isn't just about being able to speak English well! You can use body language and sometimes even physical touch too! 📷 St Vincent's Care Haberfield


  • Offering a smile or a gentle touch if appropriate, which shows they're paying attention and offers a bit of extra warmth in conversations
  • Slowing down their speech and movements, which can help set a calmer atmosphere
  • Scheduling tasks so that time with each resident feels less rushed, allowing for more meaningful time when you're together


Read on:


2. Great aged care workers lean on their skills and experience

Like all good professionals working in health and aged care, the best aged care support workers are properly trained and have the right experience behind them.

There is no substitute for experience and training which is why without it, you might find it a lot harder to get started in your aged care career.

The most common certification you can get to be an effective aged care worker is a Certificate II in Individual support

Through this kind of certification, you'll learn specific skills through your subjects that will help in real-life care situations. Take a look at some examples below:


Specific Aged Care Worker SkillsCertificate III in Individual Support Subjects/Topics
Effective Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
Explaining care procedures, active listening, showing empathy through body language
- Communicating and working in health or community services
- Delivering and monitoring client support services
Administration of Medication
Understanding medication regimes, correct dosages and monitoring side effects)

- Assisting with nursing care in an aged care setting
Management of Challenging Behaviors
Responding to and de-escalating aggressive or agitated behaviours
- Supporting clients with dementia
Personal Care Routines
Assisting with grooming, bathing and dressing
- Supporting people with personal care needs
- Following safe work practices for direct client care

Mobility and Physical Support
Safe use of hoists, supporting physical therapy exercises
- Facilitating the empowerment of older people
- Meeting personal support needs
Observation and Reporting
Monitoring changes in a resident's condition and reporting to nursing staff
- Recognising healthy body systems
- Providing individual supporrt
Nutritional Support
Preparing and serving meals according to residents' dietary requirements, assisting residents at mealtimes
- Meeting personal support needs
- Providing food safety
Emergency Response
CPR, first aid, responding to falls, reporting risks and hazards
- Working safely
End-of-Life Care
Providing comfort, understanding the stages of grief
- Delivering care services using a palliative approach
Cultural Competency
Respecting diverse backgrounds and traditions of culture and religion
- Working with diverse people
- Supporting relationships with families and carers
Effective Time Management
Prioritizing tasks, managing schedules
- Coordinating work in a service environment
Professional Boundaries and Ethical Conduct
Maintaining confidentiality, appropriate relationships at work
- Managing legal and ethical compliance
-Recognising and responding to suspected abuse
Continuous Professional Development
Engaging in ongoing training, adapting to new care methods
- Contributing to ongoing skills development using a strengths-based approach

Good aged care workers not only learn the skills from their training, but apply them too. Doing that consistently takes time, practice and a great circle of colleagues and mentors around you.


3. They have the right personal characteristics

When employers are looking for people to hire in aged care, they're looking for people that have the right characteristics. 

But what are they? And what does that really even mean?

Well, personal characteristics are just ways of describing the traits that make up and reflect who you are. Maybe you're outgoing and talk alot. Maybe you're an honest person. Or you're enthusiastic and love to get the job done. 

At St Vincent's, getting the right people with the right characteristics is key, because as we like to say:

"What's on your resume is important, but what's in your heart matters more."

You can be the best trained. The smartest. The most well-spoken. But if you don't care about the people you're supporting, or if you're not passionate about your role in their lives, you're not going to go well in aged care.


The main 3 characteristics of top caregivers

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It's really important in life, but particularly in aged care.

What does it mean to have empathy?

  • An empathetic person will listen more than they speak,
  • They are nonjudgmental,
  • They identify how other people are feeling by being present in the moment,
  • They tend to acknowledge other people's feelings before their own,
  • And they ask meaningful questions.


aged care worker with resident in garden at st vincent's carseldine

Being an empathetic person can be a lot of work. But master it, and you'll not only be a great aged care worker, but a great person too! 📷 St Vincent's Care Carseldine


2. Patience

Patience is the ability to keep calm and not get annoyed when things feel slow or delayed. A must have when working in aged care with older people.

Older people can be slower because of physical issues like joint stiffness, arthritis and weaker muscles. They can also be slower because of mental issues like dementia and our brains naturally slowing down as we age.

What does it mean to have patience?

  • A patient person often practices deliberate thoughtfulness, considering the consequences of actions before making decisions,
  • They are usually resilient, able to face setbacks or obstacles with a steady resolve without succumbing to despair or frustration,
  • When they engage in conversation, they do so in a measured and thoughtful manner, often pausing to think before they speak,
  • And tend to avoid interrupting others and are more inclined to engage in discussions where everyone has a chance to contribute.


3. Compassion

Compassion is a strong feeling of sympathy for people going through a hard time and a desire to help them.

In aged care, there's a lot of joy, but there's a lot of hardship and pain too. Whether it's the loss of mobility or the loss of moving out of their own home, or it's the loss of life for families, the ability to acknowledge the pain oand willingness to help is essential.

Because of that, aged care needs compassionate people!

 

What does it mean to have compassion?

  • Compassionate peopleoften look beyond themselves, focusing on the needs and well-being of others
  • They believe that they have a role in making the world a better place.
  • They often share personal experiences of vulnerability, which helps to build deep connections with other people
  • Similar to people who are empathetic, compassionate people listen with full attention, making the other person feel valued without jumping to conclusions or judging them


The bottom line for personal characteristics of aged care workers

There's no perfect combination of traits that make a great aged care worker. 

But what we know at St Vincent's is that if you love helping people and love to feel the rewards of that, you're probably on the right track for working in aged care.


Parting Thoughts

A great aged care worker stands out not just for the skills they possess, but for the way they communicate and the qualities they have as a person. 

By leaning into who you are as a person and your passion for helping others, you'll set yourself apart as an outstanding candidate for working in aged care.

Want to get started in your career with St Vincent's? Check out our careers page for more info.