By Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO at Health Assured (www.healthassured.org)
Working in a care home is both physically and psychologically demanding. It can be a stressful environment with a focus on looking after others, which means workers in care homes often neglect their own health.
Additional stress and pressure placed on care homes during the Covid pandemic saw residents unable to have any visitors for almost two years, some homes experiencing serious outbreaks and high death rates, and a significant increase in poor mental health amongst care home workers.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to look after your employees. There are not always clear signs that your employees may be struggling to manage stress, distress, or anxiety rather than just having a bad day. However knowing what some of the common signs and symptoms of stress are, can help you to identify if someone may need more support.
These can include:
• Difficulty concentrating
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
• Low energy
• Being pessimistic
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, however, if you notice any of the above signs or other significant behavioural changes in any of your employees, you must do something to find out the cause. Then you can put measures in place to help them manage any issues before they become debilitating.
Supporting care worker’s mental health
Encourage self-care: Many care workers are so focused on helping others that they forget to look after themselves. As an employer, you should encourage your employees to prioritise their own health and wellbeing. Self-care can improve mental health, so ensure that your employees can take time to relax and do the things they enjoy.
Employee support groups: Research shows that 3-in-4 care workers say that working during the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted their mental health. This statistic highlights the likeliness many workers in your organisation have or are struggling with common mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Your staff must know that they are not alone in their struggles. One way to do this is by running support groups, giving people the opportunity to be open and discuss any issues. By providing a judgement-free space, you’re allowing your employees to voice their concerns, which can help support their health and wellbeing.
Practice mindfulness: you should encourage your staff to practice mindfulness techniques. These include breathing exercises, meditation, or journaling. These techniques can help minimise stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed. You can also encourage your employees to practice mindfulness in a group setting, which brings a range of additional benefits including fellowship – creating a more cohesive team unit.
Open wellness culture: To help support your staff, you must create a work environment that encourages open and honest communication. It’s essential that your employees feel comfortable at work. As such, you should establish an environment where your employees feel confident discussing their mental health. You should also provide constant reassurance – letting your employees know they can get the support they need whenever they need it.
Encourage treatment: Encouraging treatment can be a difficult subject to approach, as you do not want to alienate or aggravate someone who is struggling. Many people with mental illness do not realise they are experiencing issues. Therefore, broaching the subject and encouraging treatment requires emotional sensitivity. By using non-stigmatizing language, you can reaffirm your support. This will let your employees know, that when the time comes, you will help them through the process.
As a care home owner, you must do your best to support staff in any way you can. You will be rewarded with a healthier and happier workforce, creating a more positive work environment and culture – something every employee can benefit from, especially during challenging times.