Support, confidence, coping skills and burnout in residential aged care staff

Yin Siu Low, Prof Sunil Bhar, and Dr Won Sun Chen

Department of Psychological Sciences, School of Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

The number of people aged 65 or above living in Australia has increased from 4.6% in 1922 to 16.2% in 2021. [1] Compared to younger working aged adults, older adults have greater health related comorbidities, frailty and increased levels of cognitive impairment. [2, 3] Older adults are at increased risk of living in residential aged care facilities when their needs cannot be easily supported in the community. By 2050, 3.5 million older Australians will require residential aged care services and almost one million aged care workers will be required to support these services. [4] We are therefore very reliant on such workers to support the increased numbers of older adults who will require residential aged care.

Residential aged care staff, however, are at risk themselves of increased stress. They have heavy workloads, insufficient resources, are at risk of violence from residents and encounter conflicts with residents’ families [5, 6], all of which may lead to such workers experiencing occupational burnout.

Researchers at Swinburne University are developing programs to prevent residential care staff burnout. They recently surveyed 133 staff around Australia to identify contributors to burnout amongst residential staff and found that lack of support, self-confidence and coping skills were associated with burnout. [7] These associations were significant even when controlling for demographics, work patterns and organisational climate. More specifically, higher levels of social support predicted lower emotional exhaustion and lower depersonalisation levels. Further, higher levels of confidence predicted lower emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, as well as higher personal accomplishment levels. Finally, higher levels of adaptive coping predicted lower emotional exhaustion levels.

This study suggests burnout prevention strategies are needed to assist residential aged care staff to gain support from supervisors and colleagues, to develop staff adaptive coping skills and to enhance staff confidence. You can read more about the work by Swinburne University researchers at:

*The views and opinions expressed in Knowledge Blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ARIIA, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Older Australians [Internet]. Canberra: AIHW; 2021 [cited 2023 Apr 3]. Available from:  
  1. Amare AT, Caughey GE, Whitehead C, Lang CE, Bray SC, Corlis M, Visvanathan R, Wesselingh S, Inacio MC. The prevalence, trends and determinants of mental health disorders in older Australians living in permanent residential aged care: Implications for policy and quality of aged care services. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2020;54(12):1200–11.  
  1. Dyer SM, Gnanamanickam ES, Liu E, Whitehead C, Crotty M. Diagnosis of dementia in residential aged care settings in Australia: An opportunity for improvements in quality of care? Australas J Ageing. 2018;37(4):E155–8.  
  1. Productivity Commission. Caring for older Australians: Final inquiry report. Report number 53 [Internet]. Canberra, ACT: Productivity Commission; 2011 [cited 2023 Apr 3]. Available from:
  1. Evers W, Tomic W, Brouwers A. Aggressive behaviour and burnout among staff of homes for the elderly. Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2002;11:2–9.  
  1. Yeatts DE, Seckin G, Shen Y, Thompson M, Auden D, Cready CM. Burnout among direct-care workers in nursing homes: Influences of organisational, workplace, interpersonal and personal characteristics. J Clin Nurs. 2018;27:3652–3665. 
  1. Low YS, Bhar S, Chen WS. Exploring the relationship between co-worker and supervisor support, self- confidence, coping skills and burnout in residential aged care staff. BMC Nurs. 2022 Jun 1;21(1):135.  

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The Knowledge and Implementation Hub has gathered evidence of approaches and best practice relating to staff burnout along with learning and practical resources to support aged care.