Christmas is about reuniting and sharing time with friends and family. As we gear up for the holiday season, we are reminded that the Christmas period can be a lonely and isolating time for residents and participants residing in aged care and disability support environments, for a variety of reasons.
Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, has raised concerns that up to 40 percent of aged care residents receive no visitors over the holiday period. Not a single friend or family member dropping in to share a meal, give a gift, or simply wish them a happy Christmas. We just cannot imagine how lonely and isolating this must be, especially when you consider that these residents may have lived their whole lives engaging in Christmas traditions with family and friends!
So with that, we must acknowledge the amazing lengths that many carers go to, to ensure that residents and disability participants feel involved and loved during the festive period. Oftentimes, carers are a resident or participant’s pseudo-family, and they celebrate Christmas together. Some staff go all out, ensuring everyone gets dressed up, share a big meal together, and even give gifts to complete the experience.
Unfortunately, gift-giving in the aged care and disability sectors is not as straightforward as it is in other areas of our lives, and we are often asked to outline requirements in our training sessions. There are really two main things you need to know about gift-giving in these sectors:
- Give gifts to everyone, or no one.
Say you have a favourite resident or two, and you decide to give gifts only to them, maybe due to financial constraints. You connect with them the best, and figure there is no harm in purchasing something small. This is not always the case, for two reasons.
Residents or participants that do not receive gifts from carers when others do, may feel left out, saddened, or singled-out. As a result, they may exhibit additional behaviours that you and/or other care staff need to manage during an already stressful time of year. Always be aware of the fact that giving gifts to some may be perceived as favouritism, and may be upsetting for those not involved.
On that note, special gifts or favours towards some and not others may be perceived as grooming or crossing professional boundaries, particularly if this is repeated. Under the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework, grooming is actually considered sexual misconduct and may attract significant consequences, such as termination of employment.
- When receiving gifts, record appropriately.
Your organisation should have a Gifts Register, a document wherein all gifts given to any staff member are recorded. The purpose of the Gifts Register is to maintain transparency and compliancy with your organisations Code of Conduct, ensuring all staff are conducting themselves appropriately and are not being bribed for special or preferential treatment.
Gifts of all size and value should be recorded in the Gifts Register. And if you receive a gift or a card from someone you support, consider sharing it with all staff or leaving it at work so that everyone can benefit. It is far better to be transparent than be subject of an investigation involving gifts.