12 More Days!

Good Morning!
I don’t know about you, but I was thrilled to wake up this morning and see SUNSHINE! Yesterday we had wee snowflakes falling down here in Stratford. Pardon me? Unacceptable! I’ll be paying close attention the weather now. Not because I am desperate to always wear sandals – which I am – but mainly because in just 12 days time team apswlife will be walking to raise awareness for Alzhiemer’s Disease! May 28th is the magical day for the Stratford walk and I am so so pumped!

To date, our team has raised $685, that’s $185 more than I had hoped to raise! Not only that, but our team is #2 in raising the most funds in Perth County! Thank you! I am so so grateful to everyone who has been able to support us – whether it be financially, emotionally, morally or in good friendship. Thank you.

In other news, work has been going very well. I have really taken to my new role as a personal support worker in home care. I still remember not too long ago how I was dreading it and wishing I could do anything but. Now I’m content. I adore my clientèle. I love not ever having to work the midnight shift again. Hell, I love not having to work past 10pm!

My mind has been all over the place lately with blog post ideas, so as soon as I can sort those out I’ll be right back here typing away. Now I must go fetch some coffee.

Hope you all have a great day!

(To donate to team apswlife, please click here.)


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.

First Aid 101

I recall taking a First Aid & CPR course only twice prior to the one I took on June 22nd & 23rd of this year. The first was in grade 7 and seeing as that was well over 15 years ago (Wow, I feel old!) I couldn’t tell you what I learned or who it was taught by. Thankfully I never had to use any of the skills they attempted to teach me. The second time was when I was in school taking my PSW course – 5 some odd years ago. Between that time and now I only had to do the heimlich maneuver once. That was more than enough for me. I also realized that between that time and now my certification had expired. In Fact, it expired after 3 years.


SO, I decided to be the responsible PSW that I am and sign myself up for First Aid & CPR through St. Johns Ambulance. A 2 day course which I took part in with 20 or so other individuals, all of us clearly there for the same reason: WORK.
If not for work, I doubt any of us would be there. It’s 2 days – sometimes without pay – and depending on your instructor you may find yourself dozing off and not learning anything. That aside, it’s also A LOT of information to digest in 2 full 8 hour days!

The first thing we we learned before anything else was safety and personal protection regarding ourselves, the  first aiders. A lot of people when in public hope NEVER to have to use the skills they have, stemming mainly from fear and any repercussions that could occur after. First and foremost we are to introduce ourselves & ask the individual in distress if they want our help. Silly, right? Some people decline. Protecting us from any backlash is the Good Samaritan Act (Anyone else thinking of SEINFELD?!) which states: a person who voluntarily and without reasonable expectation of compensation or reward provides the services described in that subsection is not liable for damages that result from the person’s negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services, unless it is established that the damages were caused by the gross negligence of the person (Wikipedia).

Other than basic CPR, which after continually giving 2 breaths & 30 chest compressions intermittently until our instructor stopped us, we learned a variety of other skills that could potentially come in handy. Now the likely hood of having to give first aid for Poison Ivy where I work in LTC is rare, it’s still  a good skill to have. I have a cottage. I’ve been known to frolic in the bushes.

Not only are these skills that you can apply in your work environment, but in your personal life as well.
Hopefully, we’ll never need to.

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.

OPSWA’s 2nd Annual Conference

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I first got involved with The Ontario Personal Support Worker Association. And you know what? I haven’t looked back. I’ve been questioned by several people as to WHY I put so much time into something that isn’t getting the attention – well, near the amount of attention –  I think it deserves. I’ll tell you why. I am a PSW. A Personal Support Worker. I believe in the care that I provide. I believe that our seniors – and anyone else requiring the need of a PSW – should get the VERY BEST that this profession has to offer. OPSWA is the ONLY entity willing to stand up, protect, govern & imply accountability to those working in this extremely important field of work. Our government isn’t even willing to do that.

Doesn’t that insult you? We take care of the provinces MOST vulnerable and our government sees no need to make us accountable for our actions. Sees no need to properly regulate the schooling that we take. Now think of this as if YOU yourself needed the help from a PSW. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that someone was keeping severe tabs on the person taking care of you? I would. And this is why I work with & belong as a proud member with OPSWA. Because when I’m old – and when my parents are old – I don’t want to worry. Because as it stands right now? I worry. BIG TIME. So I’m taking a stand and CHOOSING to be accountable to the people I serve. And I urge you to do the same. I honestly question those that don’t see the many benefits this association has to offer.

April 25th of this year is OPSWA’s Second Annual PSW Conference and needless to say I am thrilled beyond bits to be attending. There’s something about being in a room with your peers, people who truly understand the hardships that we as PSWs endure on a daily basis, that makes me feel so wonderful inside.

This years conference will be taking place at the Cambridge Hotel & Conference Center from 8am-4pm. Not only do you get free food – don’t lie, that’s important to you – but you get a a chance to bump & grind with the industry’s top employers. There will be several venues there who are more than looking forward to meeting YOU – the awesome PSW that I know you are. Speakers include Hospice Wellington on the importance of palliative care, Toronto Rehab Facility, renowned disability advocate Joannie Cowie, MYSELF (apswlife) & many more.

Come talk with us. We understand the scare factor when using a hoyer lift. Or when someone’s bowels explode on your shoes.

You know how to find me. Twitter @apswlife & snucci@opswa.com

The Montessori Way

I am excited. Ha, well, I’m almost ALWAYS excited when I write in here because I LOVE spreading the word of great opportunities in apswlife!
In March I am taking a 6 hour Montessori Approach To Dementia Course in Toronto curtosy of PEAK College. These guys are something else. After meeting with with them several times I have some serious excitement jitters. Their approach to dealing with Dementia is unlike anything I have seen before and as a PSW I am super super hyped to have the opportunity to take this course.
Wanna join me? Seriously. Do you? IF I were you I would. For $150 you get an amazing experience & opportunity. AND if you’re an OPSWA PSW – you get another $25 off!

Here’s the deal:

Course Date: March 1st Time: 2pm-7pm Where: PEAK College, Sheppard Ave. Toronto

Montessori Implementation Workshop Outline
All About Dementia
– Understanding the different types of dementia and their characteristics.
– The effects of dementia
– Risk factors
-Executive Functioning. What it is and understanding its important relevance when caring
for a person with dementia.
– About Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body dementia and Frontal Temporal

A Challenging Job
– Address the challenges in the PSWs daily job while working with residents that have dementia.
– Looking at long term care and its current approach to dementia
– Paint a better looking picture for PSWs caring for resident’s with dementia

– Discuss the behaviors including aggression that resident’s display
-Explore the reasons for the behaviors
– Become enlightened by the reasons for the behaviors

Long Term Memory System
– Learn how the memory system works in the human brain
-Understand the differences in the brain’s memory system
– Montessori Approach and the connection to the brain’s memory system

Why Montessori?
– Learn how the original methods where developed and why
– The impacts Montessori had had in our world and how it relates to all attending the workshop
– Montessori Benefits
– Humans and the need for a sense of accomplishment and contribution
– Finding the person behind the dementia
– Theory of the Montessori Approach when caring for a person with dementia
– The resident and the 8 Montessori keys
– Explore various activities in all areas of life.
– Understand how Montessori activities engage a person and the importance of these simple
– See the inspiring Montessori successes in LTC, Retirement Homes and Hospitals
– Using your personal talents in your job
– Improve the quality of resident care using Montessori

The Prepared Environment
– Understand the need for a prepared environment for all human beings. Even more so for a
person with dementia.
– Complete step by step instructions on how to prepare the environment for resident with
dementia in any setting.
– Step by step on how to approach a resident with dementia and the appropriate conduct for such
How to Become a Facilitator
– Understand the role of a facilitator
– Making your job a lot easier using Montessori
– Facilitating your residents when there are no programs.
– Avoiding behaviors before they happen
– Deescalating behaviors in residents
– A look at roles and routines – easy access
– Engaging multiple residents at one time
– Adult talk, adult activity
– The use of tactile objects to engage a person with dementia and the brilliance behind it.

Physical Resident Care Using Montessori
– A step by step instruction on the various types of care needs for residents with dementia
including bathing, toileting, feeding, dressing and oral hygiene
-The use of visual cues
– Proper respect and conduct when physically caring for a resident with dementia
– Care cards – a successful way to address and engage a resident in physical care
– Recognizable cues for residents. What works and what doesn’t
– Encouraging independence. Learn all the tricks
– The dining room experience

If you’re interested in signing up for this amazing course, email me snucci@opswa.com

I’ll be there & I CANNOT wait to to do this.
Tell your friends.