Hm. Now What?

JUST INCASE PSWs of Ontario didn’t hear the news, I’ll share it with you: Deb Matthews, the Minister of Health has raised the wages of all public home care workers from $12.50 to $16 an hour over 2 years. Uhm, wow?

As with every politician, they have no problem delivering great news but seem to conveniently forget to explain HOW this will be done. I’m curious. A LOT curious as this is a HUGE increase in such little time.

Secondly, I work in long term care. This increase doesn’t apply to me. Personally, I don’t care for a wage increase. What I want to see is MORE FULL TIME PSWs in LTC facilities which would decrease the over all workload. Make sense? Then you wouldn’t NEED to increase our pay as the work load would finally be equal to what we earn. But government isn’t always that smart.

What I did enjoy was the over all praise that the Minister of Health & Finance had to say about PSWs as a whole. For too long we have been ignored and not given the proper respect we deserve. It was nice to hear words of kindness from people who, generally speaking, have no idea what we do. Thank you for taking the time to get to know us and paying attention to our profession. As a whole, PSWs work extremely hard to take care of loved ones whether it be in the community or facility based. We’re on the front line – which makes it sound so militant like but I don’t know how else to put it – and we always will be.

For more details, go here: http://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2014/04/improving-home-and-community-care-for-ontario-seniors.html

The First Annual OPSWA Conference!

 

I arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto at around 7am. The conference wasn’t to start until 9am but I wanted to be early. I had spoken to Miranda previously in the week and I was anxious to meet her in person prior to the conference starting as I knew that once everything got underway she would be very busy.
On Saturday, April 26th the first ever OPSWA – Ontario Personal Support Worker Association – Conference took place with over 50 PSWs in attendance. Vendors such as the OLTCA – Ontario Long Term Care Association – and Preferred Healthcare Services were in attendance as well, there to discuss EVERYTHING PSW.
I was home. I have never felt more welcome and at home with a group of strangers before in my life. Even though I had never met any of these people before, I felt as though I got them. We understood each other. Every single one of us is a PSW who works in long term care or home care and we understand without having to explain ourselves all the difficulties and tribulations that we face on a daily basis in the work place. This was a conference of learning and coming together as a whole to respect the personal support worker as a necessary member of the healthcare world.

I’m the newbie to OPSWA. I am very happy to be a part of this wonderful organization as their social media and blogger guru. Hello, I get to Facebook, Twitter and blog about PSWs and get recognition and pay for it? Count me in! OPSWA would not be in existence without Miranda Ferrier, a wonderful and dedicated individual who founded the organization. This organization has been a necessity in getting PSWs on the map in Ontario, in getting us the recognition we deserve for all that we do in healthcare. A big shout out as well to Jennifer Giroux, OPSWA’s CEO and Jessica Maga, OPSWA’s PR. All wonderful women that I couldn’t have been happier to have met and I cannot wait to work together with you all at OPSWA!

So, now that I’ve hyped you all up into wanting to go to next year’s conference, how about I tell you what went on this year? You’ve been warned, your excitement level may hit an ultimate high.

First on the docket was Tilak Dutta of the Toronto Rehab Institute. PSWs in attendance received some in depth knowledge about proper lifting techniques so that both us AND the residents we help are safe and transferred properly. What really impressed me was a mechanism used to help with transferring a resident into a sling for a mechanical lift. As a PSW, I’m sure we can all relate to the difficulties of having to turn a resident over several times in order to get the sling on correctly. This can take up time and be uncomfortable for the resident. This device safely inserts balloon-like tubes underneath a person while laying in bed with the use of air to inflate it once on the other side. Picture someone laying on a water noodle – but softer. This can be done with out having to rotate your resident side to side which saves copious amounts of time and lessens the probability of a potential accident. I enjoyed this seminar very much.

At around 10am Sgt. John Keating of the Durham Regional Police took to the stage to address Senior Abuse in LTC. I cringed a lot when listening to some of the stories he told us as I CANNOT fathom doing anything like this to my residents. However, it is very important that PSWs hear this because IT HAPPENS and the more knowledge we have, the more power we have to put an end to it. Sgt. Keating presented his points in a manner that kept us interested and wanting more. He was funny, interactive and most importantly passionate about his cause. PSWs NEED support just like our residents do and it was absolutely fantastic to hear speakers who were just as passionate as we are about what we do. Thank you, Sgt. Keating.

After our break – because let’s face it, even though we’re enthused and excited, we’re also antsy for washroom breaks and coffee! – we were very privileged to hear information from our key note panel, featuring Sue VanderBent – CEO of the Ontario Home Care Association, Candace Chartier – CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association & Gilbert Sharpe – Partner, Fasken Martineau. All three panellists introduced themselves and what it is they did in their positions. They also took questions from the audience regarding the future of PSWs in healthcare and their responses were very encouraging.

My favourite part of the conference – and I’m not making a pathetic attempt to kiss butt, I swear – was when Miranda Ferrier, the President and Founder of OPSWA took to the stage to talk about Professionalism in the Workforce. PSWs are NOT just diaper changers and feeders. That is an insult to our profession. We are so much more than that, and to get that point across it is absolutely imperative that we behave professionally in the work place when it comes to not only our residents, but our co-workers, employers and anyone else we come across. When going for interviews – do NOT dress in booty shorts. When Miranda mentioned that she had seen someone do this, my jaw dropped. Seriously? You are an important character in the world of healthcare – ACT LIKE IT! Miranda got these points across very well. The crowd was excited, engaged and if truth be told – maybe a little scared. I think everyone took a long look at themselves and their careers. Myself included. We could all benefit from a little reminder, right?

Louise Lachowskyj of Right At Home Canada and a very respected RN in the field spoke to us about Humour In Palliative Care. Did you have to re-read that? Yes, there is humour in palliative care and in all aspects of the healthcare field. Remember, we are working with people – people who have personalities, feelings and even a sense of humour. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, your greatest asset is getting to know your clients and residents. This will not only help with care, but getting to know them as a person will help them feel good about themselves as well, no matter the situation they are in. Just because someone is dying doesn’t mean they won’t find a joke funny. It doesn’t mean they won’t laugh at you if you make a fool of yourself. Louise did a fabulous job of pointing all of this out to us with stories from her own experiences. Her enthusiasm really had us paying attention and I think we all learned a lot from her.

Art Mathews of Preferred Health & Rod Piukkala, VP of Backcheck also spoke to the crowd. Their presentations informed us of various courses PSWs can take to further their careers and the importance of getting a police background check, something almost all employers require from their PSWs.

If all that wasn’t exciting enough – are you convinced yet? You should be! – we also had a very special surprise visitor join us. Deb Matthews, the Health Minister of Ontario came and had some extremely lovely words to say about OPSWA and all PSWs. Her words were uplifting, encouraging and full of genuine kindness and thanks for all that we do. To have the Minister of Health on our side is SO HUGE I can’t think of words to further describe it. Tomorrow – Tuesday, April 29th – she will be making a huge announcement which I am happy to say I will be in attendance for with OPSWA. Can we all say excitement overload?

So. Are you convinced yet? Will you fellow PSWs be in attendance for next year’s conference? I know I will be. This weekend was not only extremely informative but so much fun I think I’m still recovering from it all. I should also mention that after the conference, OPSWA held it’s PSW Appreciation Night at the Monarch Pub located at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel in Toronto. Yes, there was wine involved and yes, there was dancing. That’s all I’m going to say – if you want to know more come out next year! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

For more information, visit http://www.opswa.com

 

Curse Words & Opportunities

The human incapability for acceptance is one of our greatest faults as a species. There HAS to be a reason and we HAVE to figure out what it is. To an extent I agree with this and even encourage it. Learning is something we can never get enough of. However, there are some things that we will NEVER figure out and you know what, that’s OKAY.

“Fuck you!” “Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!” “AHHHHHH!” “Oh, hello. I am good, thank you!” “AHHHH!” “Fuck off!” “You’re beautiful”.

No, this isn’t Turrettes Syndrome at it’s best.  Or worst. This is an old man who is extremely upset. He is changing in the worst way and he doesn’t understand why. His memory is close to non-existent. We don’t know why he yells. We don’t know why he takes off his clothes at inappropriate times. This man doesn’t understand that he is incapable of weight bearing, so when we find him on the floor beside his bed, I roll my eyes when I hear my co-worker ask “WHY are you on the floor?” “Why does this keep happening?”
To be fair, I didn’t look into whether or not these were rhetorical questions. I’d feel better knowing if they were, but I’ve seen this reaction too many times to believe it were so.
He can’t answer us in the rational way that WE, as young and healthy adults, are accustomed to hearing.

The falls are happening more often than I’d like to admit. Drugs seem to be the popular answer to everything but I disagree. He is falling because he isn’t being watched like a hawk 24/7. He can’t be watched like a hawk 24/7 because there aren’t the staff around to do it.

How many times do I have to say that LTC homes are understaffed before anyone listens?

On another note, this weekend is the OPSWA – Ontario Personal Support Worker Association – Conference in Toronto. I found out about this in February and I have been on edge with excitement ever since. I cannot wait to be immersed in conversation with others in the field. I am anxious for the opportunities that await. Please check out this wonderful group at http://www.opswa.com

Full details to come after the conference!

Tidbits.

20 minutes into my shift this past Thursday my resident was found lying naked on his bedroom floor and unresponsive. He was sent to the hospital and returned later that same day. He seems to be himself again but we’re still monitoring him. It’s especially difficult as he is HIS OWN POA (power of attorney) so trying to convince him otherwise is like pulling teeth. With no give.

For some reason, some residents do not like to keep their incontinence products on. That was the polite way of saying diaper. In a way I can understand. What adult wants to wear this & admit to themselves that they can no longer control their out out? The answer you’re looking for is  NO ONE. However, this resident I speak of has dementia to some degree so when he takes them off – almost constantly – he does so because he insists that I – or another PSW – told him to. That or Jesus. Jesus shows up at a lot of convenient times. Do I have time to constantly keep an eye out for one resident to make sure they aren’t urinating in the dining room? No. Do I make the time? Yes.

She wanted to know how to catch the bus to go to Montreal to see her mother. The fact that all of this is taking place in Toronto is irrelevant, to her, we are in QB. I told her the buses weren’t running today. 10 minutes later I told her the elevators were broken. 10 minutes later someone else told her her mother was dead. This didn’t have much of the effect that we thought it would. 10 minutes later she still wanted to call her mother. The phones were broken.

When someone asks me why they are still alive, the only reason I can think of is that it simply isn’t their time yet. I don’t know why you are still here. There is a divine plan – as I like to believe – and when it is time, you will go. The elderly person’s relationship to death fascinates me. I guess it’s because at a mere 28 years old, the concept is slightly foreign to me, not mention terrifying. But you’e no close friends left and you’re days are spent on constant bed rest, what exactly is it you’re living for? I believe there is always a reason, even if we don’t realize it right away.

There were 2 dozen pigeons by my resident’s foot the other day. I didn’t see any, and the mentioned resident is blind. But to her, in her mind, they were there and they were terrifying. So I did what any other PSW would do: I got her out of the way of danger and promised her that those birds would be gone by the time she returned to her room after lunch. This comforted her, until, ofcourse, she saw a big dog in the lunch room.

I am happy to be home on a Saturday night, telling you all this from the comfort of my couch while wearing pajamas. This is a normal day at work for a PSW. Everyone’s “normalcy” is different.

The Journey To Becoming a PSW

The Journey To Becoming a PSW

As you may know, I have been writing articles for http://www.pswhq.com & have recently taken part in a podcast interview with the site’s creator, Avtar Sidhu. We talk about the life of a PSW and what the job entails. Take a listen if you are so inclined & please check out the rest of the site!

For The Long Haul.

Well, they’re still there. The MOHLTC I mean. It doesn’t concern me much anymore. I go to work and I do my job as I am supposed to do in a professional and caring manner. Today at breakfast I ran into some static with a co-worker who insisted that we weren’t serving “according to the rules” and “what if the ministry comes up”? What if they do? Am I supposed to change the routine that this team is used to just because a couple of suits with laptops might have something to say about it? Absolutely not. We know these residents. We know their behaviour and we know exactly how breakfast time works: 30 minutes with one server for 2 unit – so 1 server for roughly 60 people – to feed and clear plates. Really? And we were short staffed – AGAIN – during the am care time. I am not afraid of a suit. We do this job as it is supposed to be done and if that means bending the rules a bit than so be it. And they aren’t big rules.
Every day we switch it up as to what table gets served first. Well, today being Tuesday we should have started at a certain table. Said table wasn’t half way through their oatmeal so I am supposed to wait around before getting to other people who may already be done? No. That’s silly and a waste of time. 30 minutes. THAT’S IT. It’s bad enough that we expect these poor souls to  inhale their food but to make them wait for it just because one table isn’t done yet? No. And if ministry has an issue with that, I have no problem talking to them about it.
I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a lot of shifts for this month so the chances of me ranting in here are pretty great.
I’m sorry I’ve been slacking. I’ve been writing a lot for http://www.pswhq.com which is just a fantastic site.
I’m still here. Promise.