Heat Wave.

Come January you will not hear me complain about the cold. I may have a few choice words regarding the snow & it’s nasty ambition to destroy my commute, but otherwise I’m quiet. Come July… or in this case, today, May 28th, I’m a bitch. I’ll be honest. The heat and me do NOT get a long. At least, not while I’m in the city breathing in smog & working in what to me feels like a sauna. And it’s this time of year – whether you’re a beach babe or not – that you, as a working PSW need to be careful.

Now, I can’t speak for EVERY work place, but I can tell you that mine is unbearably hot at times. In my personal opinion, it’s because they’re cheap (let’s face it, in most cases this is true) so they won’t turn on the AC until June or July. To cope, I drink copious amounts of water. A lot of my co workers make fun of me because A) I LOVE ice water, even in winter & B) I drink so much that they worry they’ll have to give me an incontinence product to wear. But in all seriousness, keeping hydrated is a MUST while you’re working, especially in the summer. NOT pop (hello dehydrating sugar fluid) but water. Even flavoured water, with lemons, limes, cucumbers, mint, etc. Push yourself to drink it and you’ll find yourself not quite as bitchy.

Take your breaks. Sweltering summer weather is not the time to be a hero and work straight through the 8 hour shift. Co ordinate with co workers so that you all have time to leave the floor and catch a breather. Remember that thing… what’s it called, oh, TEAM WORK, that I’m always on about? Now’s another good time to use it.

And obviously, make sure that your residents are as comfortable as they can be.

For more information on how NOT to die in the summer heat, check out St. John’s Ambulance page on Heat Exhaustion & Sun Stroke Prevention

PSW Forum 2015

On Thursday May 14th, The Alzheimer Society of Toronto held their 10th Annual PSW Forum. It was a full day of wonderful learning opportunities & a chance to bond with fellow PSWs.

I loved it.

The forum was sponsored by Trish & Dan Andreae whose parents suffered from dementia. Their kind words meant a lot to all 200 PSWS in the room, and they really hit home when Dan said “PSWs are the backbone of the healthcare system”, something I’ve been saying for quite a while now. It’s nice to hear it from other’s, especially those who don’t work in the field. It’s nice to feel appreciated. Cathy Barrick, The Alzheimer’s Society CEO also nailed it when she said that “PSWS have the hardest job EVER”. Yeah, I’m beginning to think we do.

There were several very good presentations, but there were a few that stuck out to me that I found to be most exceptional & an invaluable learning experience.

I sat in on a mini-seminar entitled Introduction to Palliative Care presented by Dianna Drascic, MScN, ACNP. “With over 25 years of experience as a palliative care clinician, educator & researcher Dianna has worked in almost all venues of palliative healthcare delivery, from the street to the ICU”.
Her approach and direction with this topic was very useful. Instead of focusing on actually taking care of a palliative care client – which of course can be a course all in itself – Dianna focused on the caregiver, and what palliative care and dying means to us. Is there a right time to talk about dying? How are we going to die? Where are we going to die? The benefits of talking about dying:
This was just the beginning & suffice to say a lot of us were extremely uncomfortable. I loved how she focused on the normalcy of being uncomfortable. Of the inevitable fact that at some point or another we’re all going to die. I’m not the only one who imagines the ideal death: asleep in a warm bed. The reality is that a good portion of us won’t experience this, but instead will suffer illness which is WHY talking about death & the very real probability of undergoing palliative care is essential. I fully intend to look into more seminars regarding palliative care & I encourage to you to do the same. Knowledge is power, even when unpleasant.

Bethany Kopel is a Coordinator for the Centre for Behaviour Health Sciences (CBHS) & is a board certified behaviour analyst (BCBA). Her presentation on challenging behaviour & ways to deal with it was fabulous. With enthusiasm she engaged the audience when explaining how we the PSW can affect positive behaviour change every day with our clients as well as how to observe and properly track responsive behaviours in an objective way by utilizing the proper skills and strategies. I’m hoping she’ll be interested in speaking at OPSWA’s 3rd Annual Conference next year (note to self – get in contact with Bethany!)

It was a long day. An exhausting day. But well worth it.

The Alzheimer Society of Toronto offers seminars both online and in person through out the year on several courses relating to dementia and the PSW. I intend to update my Education page with links to the types of programs they offer. Keep an eye out for amazing opportunities!

Feeling The Burn

You know that hissing sound a fire makes when you douse it with water? All that smoke in the air, the crackling from the burning logs slowly becoming quieter until all that’s left is somber burning embers. Relaxing, right?

Sort of like when you come home from a shift in LTC. After 8 hours it feels nice to come home to quietness, cats & a shower (at least, that’s MY life right now).  And I’m not even talking about a HARD day at work because… well, let’s face it. What day ISN’T difficult to some degree in long term care? I’m talking about those regular, every day shifts and the crap PSWS have to endure on a daily basis. Yes, CRAP. To the point where all you want to do is pour a bucket of water on that flame.

Double shifts.
No breaks (or short breaks, if at all).
The absurdity that is staff to resident ratio, where 1 to 15 is the “norm”.
Pop-up problems: Falls, Outbreaks, Diarrhea
Short staffed (I’ve worked with 2 PSWS for 28 residents during a morning shift instead of the regular 3).
Too many showers scheduled per shift.
More responsibilities delegated to us by RPNs.
General stress of the job itself.
Management making a pathetic attempt to make you feel guilty for legitimately calling in sick.
Working while the MOLTC (Ministry of Long Term Care) breathes down your back.

Am I missing anything? That’s the short laundry list of issues that make PSWs want to pull their hair out after their shift is done. YES, there is stress with every job & I get that. But these are issues that for the most part can be avoided with a) common sense & b) MORE PSWS on the floor.

As I’ve said & will keep saying, NO ONE gets into this job for the money. Having endured EVERYTHING on that list more times than I care to mention, the paycheck I get every 2 weeks doesn’t make up for that at all. I do this because I LOVE it & want to make a difference in the life of a senior AND a PSW. We need more people to understand what we go through. We need more management on the floor with us so that when we tell them that 20 peri clothes a shift isn’t a enough, they MIGHT see where we’re coming from.


Use it in your Twitter world. Drop me a line if there’s anything I’m missing on this list. I’d like to do posts in more detailing pertaining to each point I made.

Until next time.