Elder Care

- by Meg Dean

I care for my 95 year old mother with dementia in her home full time.

I don't think the government is getting to the root causes of the PSW shortages. They seem to believe it is entirely a matter of getting enough people trained and providing perhaps inadequate pay increases. I think that retention is a major problem.

Being a PSW (Personal Suport Worker) is a physically, mentally and emotionally taxing job. Physically you often are helping people with mobility issues who far outweigh you. In some cases there should be two people for help with lifting and the funding isn't there for that. I know from personal experience answering the same question or having the same conversation many times in a few hours tries your patience and sometimes your sanity.

PSWs figure out how to motivate someone who is lethargic, determine from behavioral cues when someone is in pain, want company or to be left alone, balance autonomy and care needs, and do a host of other problem solving. Emotionally they get attached to people who die. Or they get mistreated by people whose senior years are not happy years.

If you are doing home care as a PSW, split shifts and inadequate or no travel compensation are quite often part of the job. Benefits can be inadequate also. 4% in lieu of paid holidays is pretty normal for many, yet they are pushed to physical, mental, and emotional limits.

There is also very little advancement in this field of service. You are mostly limited to being a front line worker for your entire working life.

So, yes, pay raises are nice but I think we need to stop thinking of this as a lightly skilled job that anyone with a little bit of training can do. We also need to realize that there is a natural time arc for this type of work, so a push to train a lot of people once is not going to supply the profession for the next 40 years.






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