Safety First

I laughed to myself as I typed in the title for this post; A post I try to do once a year at this time of year in regards to heat safety. I laughed because I am burnt to a crisp after spending 2 days in the sun with out the proper protection. And the funny thing is is that this happens to me EVERY YEAR. And every year I say, nope, NOT next year. It’s embarrassing. But you know what’s NOT funny or embarrassing? Skin cancer. A very real threat that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I tell you I am PAYING in spades today for my stupidity. Not only do I look like a tomato with raccoon eyes, but I feel like absolute crap.

I like to talk about this not just for OUR safety, but for those we as PSWS take care of. The biggest problem I have in working with seniors in the summer is getting them to drink water. Or any liquid for that matter. Even if you’re not thirsty, I can’t write for words HOW important this is. I’ve seen people faint; become delusional, lethargy and a whole slew of other ailments that could be prevented with one simple trick.

So far this season I haven’t had too many concerns with those that I visit. But EVERY TIME I am there I make a point of emphasizing water, water and MORE water. My clients have told me that drinking a lot is a concern due to incontinence issues. I’d rather a slightly wet pant than a trip to emergency, and once they get that thought through their head they usually comply.

Do any of you have trouble with this as well? If so I’d LOVE to hear your feedback and any tips & tricks you may have.

And remember. Wear sunscreen.

Walk For Alzheimer’s 2016

A week ago today at this time we were tired, sweating buckets, eating water melon & drinking water like it was going to run out. But we were happy. All 140 or so of us who showed up at 10 am ready to walk 5km in 30 degree weather all for a wonderful cause to raise awareness & funds to combat a devastating disease: Alzheimer’s.

My alarm went off at 7:45 am thinking I had enough time to get up, WAKE up and get hyped for the day. Little did I know that my beautiful friend was already here waiting to get pumped with me. Another friend showed up half an hour later & together we pumped ourselves up, tied our laces & put on sunscreen ready to kick Alzheimer’s in the ass.

Well, unfortunately the disease still prevails, with an estimated 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s since 2007. By 2031, if nothing changes, those numbers are predicted to hit 1.4 million.*

Scary, huh? As a PSW I can’t imagine what my work load will be like. But more importantly, as a HUMAN, I’m worried someone I know will be dealt the horrible blow of a dementia related diagnoses.

I am super super proud to say that our team apswlife raised  $685 for The Alzheimer Society of Perth County, with all proceeds going toward education & research for a cure. Over all Stratford raised over $20,000 & I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you to those who could support financially. Thank you to those who could support emotionally & spread the word. A huge, HUGE thank you to my beautiful friends Gloria & Barb who made the trek out here just to walk with me. I can’t ask for better friends.

Can’t wait for next year!

*For more information, please visit alzheimer.ca

Update On Life. Sort Of.

Wooooah! It’s been awhile, eh’? Sorry, but I WORK.
No, I’m not yelling at you, it’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault really, but some days are more frustrating than others. I’m sure you can relate.
So you can imagine that when ever I come across a reading or hear anyone say something along the lines of “well, it’s not like you’re a nurse or anything, you’re ONLY a PSW” it just creams my corn.
Only? You’re right. Why don’t you show me how it’s done. My morning consisted of working with a woman with a brain tumour therefore dealing with several seizures. My client after her had severe Cerebral Palsy. #3 is a woman who I’m convinced hates me because she ALWAYS refuses care and yells at me in her native tongue and tries to hit me – and SUCCEEDED the other day might I add. And lastly – at least for the morning – is a gentleman I very much enjoy visiting and working with except when he’s on the verge of a Diabetic coma & you’re like -_-
So yeah. I’m ONLY a PSW.
Take a look at my buddy PSWHQ’s page here & take a read on the job description of a PSW.

Phew. HAD to get that out.

Secondly, it’s LESS than a month until my team aptly titled apswlife walks for The Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness and funds to fight Alzheimers! I’m very excited about this & so so thrilled with all the support we’ve been getting to date. Still, if you’d like to support our team, take a looksy over here to donate! Just search for our team, apswlife.

And thirdly, I’m off this weekend so insert happy dance here! 🙂

Re-neg.

I take it back. I take it all back. Everything negative I could have possibly bitched about – and let’s face it, I don’t see that changing – that takes place while working in LTC. I re-neg 100%.

I have had to take on a second job due to lack of income from working on a casual basis. After exhausting all options available to me – without going out of town, that may be next – I have bitten the bullet and applied for a PSW position working in the community. For anyone that knows me, I swore on a stack of bibles that I would NEVER work in home care again. However, 5+ years have passed & a PSW has to do what a PSW has to do.

To start off on the positive – the work is THERE. Home care is where it’s at, folks. We’re living in an age where people now have the options to receive care in their home. We’re not just talking light house duties & tea with old ladies. We’re talking full on sling-lifts, total care being done right in their residence. Now, not ALL people are privileged to this, but for those with money it is completely possible. I’ve worked with mainly seniors, requiring mild care and mainly assistance with bathing, but I’ve also done work with children and younger adults.
You’re pretty much guaranteed work. Days, evenings or on my Fridays – BOTH. Sorry, that’s not really a positive comment. I’m trying.

However, it’s not my jive. I’ve been at it for almost 3 weeks and I’m surprised I haven’t pulled out ALL my hair yet.

I don’t like bouncing from client to client – because that’s what you do. Sometimes I’m scheduled for a 45 minute shift & other times it’s 3h. Sometimes I’m scheduled for a client that requires minimum care, so after I’m done they want me to leave. Well, fair enough, I wouldn’t want someone loitering in my home just to kill time before their next visit. So I loiter. Usually at Giant Tiger.
The work isn’t easy, which is a huge misconception. As previously mentioned I’ve worked with clients who require mechanical lifts. And from what I recall, those aren’t to be used A LONE, right? I’ve worked with children who have mental issues of varying degrees. And it’s not that I don’t feel for these kids. I do. But that’s NOT what I was trained for. I work with SENIORS. So needless to say I sometimes feel like a fish out of a water there. Then we have the hoarders. These guys make the shows you see on TLC look CLEAN. It’s… well, there are no words. So aside from being disgusted, you want to get the job done but you also NEED to take care of yourself. This hasn’t happened to me yet, but should I ever feel unsafe in ANY WAY in a home of such magnitude of disgust, I’m leaving. And I hope you would to. There isn’t enough emphasise put into the care of the PSW. Oh, that’s a good blog idea!

Today I worked a AM shift in LTC in a dementia unit and I was so happy. It was tiresome. It was heavy duty. But It’s where I’m meant to be. And one of these days, you will see a blog update with immense happiness relishing in the fact that I got a full time or at least a part time position.

One day.

#FindingJoy

Last night the Alzheimer Society of Toronto (@AlzToronto) hosted a workshop at their office led by a social worker & entitled Finding Humour & Joy In Caregiving. And because I am a social media NUT – seriously – I decided to join in on their live Twitter chat using the hashtag #FindingJoy. Through out the hour they made some very good points which I would like to share & elaborate on. As a PSW, I’ve come across so many varying degrees on dementia that the list would take eons to type. Just like the individuals they affect, the disease is extremely unique and has personalities of it’s own. I’ve found that getting to know your client & the basic facts of dementia and what it is can go a long way in helping one to cope with caring.

To look at the lighter side of caregiving, we should treat the experience as a gift, a chance to improve life for our family

I don’t look at being a PSW as anything LESS than a gift. I feel so privileged to help these people & their families, in turn learning and improving on my skills as a caregiver.

To keep positive, stay realistic about your abilities as a caregiver & seek support to help with your tasks.

Guys. We’re not magic makers. We can’t snap our fingers to make something happen. We are one person. Sometimes a group of persons and there is only SO MUCH we can do at one time. It isn’t worth it to stress yourself out. The person you are caring for won’t benefit nor will you. One step at a time.

To make caregiving easier, try to understand the meaning behind the behaviour of someone with dementia to see what they need.

At this point in the game, most dementia patients aren’t capable of telling you with logical conversation how they’re feeling. They’re not yelling to purposely piss you off. If someone with dementia spits out their food, they’re not doing it with malicious intent (yes, I’ve actually heard people speak like this). Maybe they aren’t hungry anymore. Maybe they don’t LIKE it. Pay attention to their behaviours to learn what they mean.

Humor can reduce the embarrassment of mistakes and awkward moments for a person with dementia.

This was one of my favourite Tweets. Someone with dementia – especially those who are still somewhat cognitively aware of what is going on – tend to feel embarrassed of their memory loss or bladder control. Don’t emphasize this. They know what it is. They don’t need YOU to point it out. If they mention it to you, act like it’s no big deal. Perhaps suggest that this has happened to you so that they can have something to relate to. Sounds silly, but it works. As a 29 year old I can’t tell you how many bladder problems I’ve been able to “relate” to.

Follow me on Twitter @apswlife
To learn more about workshops and other programs offered by the Alzheimer Society Of Toronto, follow them on Twitter @AlzToronto

A New Leaf

Friday, August 7th 2015 was the most difficult work day so far during my career as a PSW. On this day I had to say goodbye to all my wonderful residents & co-workers that I had the privilege to work with during the last 4.5 years.

This PSW is moving to Stratford in 3 days to start a new chapter in her life. I will be living with the love of my life & starting a new PSW position in LTC. I’m nervous, excited & extremely emotional regarding everything.

It still doesn’t feel as if I quit my job. That this is REALLY happening. The last 4.5 years have felt like home to me. Everyday was an adventure but I always had faith that I would make it through because of the most wonderful co-workers a PSW could ever ask for. I can only hope for such beautiful people in my next job. These ladies are some of the best. Always having each other’s back & making work fun no matter how tough the day was.

My residents felt like family. Even the ones that called me names & threatened to kill me. I’ll miss them terribly. Knowing that the next time I visit some of them will no longer be with us. Rest in peace beautiful angels.

Packing. Labelling. Repeat. This has pretty much been going on the last couple of weeks and I cannot wait to finally be there.

Wish me luck.

Ailments of a PSW

Dementia.

Alzheimer’s diseaseEarly onset dementiaMild Cognitive ImpairmentVascular dementiaMixed dementiaFrontotemporal dementiaLewy body dementiaCreutzfeldt-Jakob diseaseDown syndrome (www.Alzheimer.ca)

Pneumonia
Parkinson’s Disease
C. Diff (Clostridium Difficile)
The Flu
Bi-Polar Disorder
Depression
Schizophrenia
Stroke
Immobility
Incontinence Problems
Deafness
Blindness
Cancers
Palliative Care
Aphasia & Disphagia
Cardiovascular Disease

And of course, your general assholes.

Yep. PSWS definitely don’t need to be regulated.
That was sarcasm.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at @apswlife #regulationforPSWS

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!

The Future Of The Personal Support Worker

Do we have a future? I think we do. Our profession is constantly taking on more responsibilities delegated to us by RPNs & RNs. The population is aging & will always continue to age and with that inevitably comes illness. Frankly, the job description of a personal support worker isn’t a nice one: we change incontinence garments worn by our clients; we help those who can’t feed themselves by feeding them (sometimes resulting in said meal being spit back to us) and we deal with verbal & sometimes physical abuse from those with (and sometimes without) dementia, just to name a few. So suffice to say people aren’t exactly lining up out the door for our jobs.

Wait. Or are they? Believe it or not they are. PSW programs are becoming more popular and with that the influx of trained workers is constantly increasing. The problem is this: NO ONE is hiring at the rate of PSWs graduating. PSWS are NEEDED but the jobs for us aren’t necessarily there waiting. We’re often hired on a casual or part-time basis to start. As has been painfully stated before, the ratio of PSW to resident is severely disproportionate.

So where do we stand? What’s coming for us?

Come to our conference on April 25th for the details. OPSWA’s President & Founder Miranda Ferrier will be talking about the future of PSWs.

April 25th, Cambridge Hotel & Conference Center
$75 for the entire day including lunch!

For details, please go to opswa.com or check out my previous update here.

ALSO, don’t forget to tune into W5 this Saturday on CTV to see Miranda and OPSWA talk about abuse in LTC.

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!