Helping Aged Care Managers Deal with Anxiety and Stress

The COVID-19 pandemic is completely unprecedented in Australia.

In this time of uncertainty everybody is feeling some measure of anxiety. This is a normal emotion that is heightened whenever we feel like we are losing control of our circumstances. This uncertainty creates anxiety and fear to varying degrees in all of us.

The overdose of media information helps raise our collective fears. Panic buying makes little sense, but it is a way that people feel like they can, in some small way, control what is going on around them.

While many businesses in the economy will slow down others will not. The provision of essential clinical care will remain a high priority for government, and for each of us in the community. In particular, the care of the elderly must continue without interruption. However, the emotional cost to staff will be significant as the pandemic adds more layers to an industry already under pressure to maintain high quality care.

Our discussions with front-line aged care personnel reveal the enormous stress they are feeling as they try to balance out a growing range of concerns. This will be of no surprise to anyone in the industry. These concerns are depicted in the diagram below:

The rising concerns of aged care managers in the Coronavirus pandemic

The rising concerns of aged care managers in the Coronavirus pandemic

These competing concerns are dangerous for the mental health of caring professionals. Most people working in helping professions do so because they want to make a difference. They enjoy helping people and gain a sense of personal fulfilment when doing so. Clinical professions run on empathy—caring about others. But over time people can become hardened and suffer compassion fatigue (secondary post-traumatic stress).

Aged care managers care for those around them, but even the best leaders can’t care equally for too many competing concerns at the same time. If we try, we can easily experience the sensation of being overwhelmed.

Some of the danger signs that aged care managers may be overwhelmed are:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feelings of numbness, fear, excessive worry or anxiety
  • Changes in energy levels, appetite, or productivity
  • Physical reactions: headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or skin rashes
  • Chronic health problems getting worse
  • Impatient, short-tempered or angry
  • Increased use of coping mechanisms: alcohol, tobacco, binge-watching TV, overeating, or drugs
  • Emotionally distant from family and coworkers

Aged care managers are at the frontline of the coronavirus challenge in Australia. They have teams to manage and if they are stressed, then their anxiety flows through to their staff as well as residents — who are being bombarded with media information that heightens their fears.

At the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic aged care managers need support to ensure they:

  • stay mentally sharp
  • lead calmly, positively and decisively
  • build emotional resilience in their teams
  • remain caring and compassionate
  • stay physically and psychologically healthy
  • pace themselves

Organisations are urged to support front-line managers early, rather than wait for possible diminishment of health and performance.

The Colloquium Group is uniquely placed to support aged care managers in these unprecedented times. While we are experienced in both professional supervision and executive coaching, we suggest using ‘pastoral coaching’ as the most effective means of support.

For seven years our team has developed and taught this unique approach in collaboration with religious non-profit welfare organisations, training over 100 chaplains and masters degree students across the country. Feedback indicates it is incredible helpful coaching approach resulting in:

  • Building personal resilience
  • Coping with compassion fatigue
  • Caring for emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing
  • Enabling effective stress management
  • Sharpening clinical practice
  • Enhancing leadership effectiveness.

Pastoral coaching is uniquely developed to fit the needs of non-profit managers in Australia as they deal with the complexity of relationships, regulations, clinical concerns and business effectiveness. It is critically important that they are able to debrief with external people who understand the balance of personal wellness and professional responsibility.

Contact Murray Bingham to discuss how your organisation can provided pastoral coaching for your aged care managers.