The Decision.

I either just did something really dumb or really smart. Either way, I’m confident with the path I have chosen and can already feel the stress and tension lift off my shoulders.

I quit my job.

Guess which one. I’ll give you a hint. Remember a while back when I went on a rant about homecare and about how much I loathed it? Yeah, NOT that one.

I gave in my 2 weeks notice for my casual position at the long term care facility. I’ll tell you why, because there might be a lot of you out there in a similar boat.

I love LTC. And until now I thought that was where I was supposed to be. And who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be back there again. But for now it isn’t worth it. I have FULL TIME hours while working in homecare. Why am I working another job ON TOP of that? Why am I exhausting myself with 16 hour days when I don’t need to be? It finally got to me and something had to be done. So I made the decision to let go of the job that wasn’t getting me further. I had been told when I was hired last July that getting a part-time or even full-time line would come easy and that I should have one by September. It’s almost February and I’m tired.
Despite my moaning I’ve come to enjoy homecare. I can more or less chose my hours and the work load isn’t as heavy as in LTC. I worked in LTC for almost 6 years. I think it was time for a change. I don’t want to worry about 2 jobs and balancing them both. It isn’t worth my sanity & it isn’t worth the extra $300 or so I’d be bringing in every 2 weeks. There are A LOT of things in life far more important than money and work. I intend to enjoy it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this job is that life goes by pretty damn fast.

No body on their death bed has ever said “I wish I worked MORE”.

Stratford Life

Well this is long over due! Every time I told myself “…update your BLOG!” something else always came up. Usually sleep or something related to that activity. Hey. Moving is a big deal! Some of us – not naming names – don’t take it as easily as others. I haven’t any regrets & I am very happy to be here. To be honest, leaving “the big city” wasn’t at all difficult. I don’t miss anything about it other than the close proximity to my friends & family. Yeah, OK fine, AND sushi.

The hardest part about moving wasn’t the actual move. Believe it or not, it was leaving my job. I had to say goodbye to wonderful co-workers & residents. Doing so wasn’t easy as I had no idea what I would find 1.5h away.

I got lucky.

I have been employed on a casual basis at what is turning out to be a wonderful long-term care facility. The units are smaller which means the group of residents per unit PER PSW is also low – yay! I’ve been fortunate to so far work with some lovely gals which have been showing me the ropes over these last couple of weeks.
It’s A LOT to get used to, and just as I was when I was first employed in Toronto, I’m still feeling a tad off. I was in the city for 5 years. I’ve gone back to the bottom of the pile, the newbie. Re-learning and getting to know a whole other world of routines and schedules. I know that once I get used to the ropes things will fall in to place. The good news being is that even though I am casual, the chances of full-time employment is very very good. At least that’s what people keep telling me.

I’ve also been on several other interviews. Stratford is a MECCA for PSWS. There are seniors and facilities of every kind to support said population on almost every corner. Seriously, its unreal. I hope I won’t have to work 2 part-time jobs for long, but c’est la vie.

This is my second weekend working in a row. And it’s a long weekend AND the weather is far too hot for my liking.

Did I mention that my boyfriend & I don’t have air conditioning?

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.

Oops.

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.

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

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.

#regulationforPSWS

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.

REGULATE US – NOW.

Yep, I put all CAPS for that title. I hope it grabbed your attention. It was meant to.

If you missed W5’s brilliant expose on abusive care in LTC homes, you missed something major. I hate to say this, but nothing in that 1 hour documentary surprised me – from the cases of horrendous abuse to the silly little union twit trying to cover the abusers ass. I’ve been around the block a few times, and thankfully I’ve personally never seen such appalling behaviour in my work place. You can bet if I did that PSW would no longer be working there. Unions don’t scare me & small minded people who pick on the weak to get off don’t scare me either. They disgust me. I would report it and do all that I could to make sure that that person never worked in LTC again.

Wait. Wouldn’t it be obvious? If someone abuses their client on the job, that’s call for automatic dismissal is it not? NOPE!

If you missed it, please go here to watch it. I hope it disgusts you.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t any GOOD PSWS out there, because there are. There are tons. But unfortunately we get the brunt of the crap. We need to stand up as one, and DEMAND to be regulated. We are an integral part of the healthcare team. Look at this as a war. You have your politicians who call it – so in this case we have our DOCs (Director’s of Care). Then we have the people that actually FIGHT. And in our case that’s us – RNs, RPNs & PSWS. FRONT LINE WORKERS. And of these 3 designates, ONE is NOT regulated. MEANING that ANYONE can call themselves a PSW.

Obviously this won’t clean up the mess entirely, but it’s a damn good, strong start.

If you believe in this as strongly as I do, please sign our petition demanding the Ontario Long Term Care Association & Health Minister take action. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s prove it.

Six Feet Under.

Waiting for death is an awfully tiresome experience. Not knowing when they’re going to go. Not knowing if this breath will be their last – despite  the use of an oxygen tank. They’re no longer responsive to your voice. Your touch. It’s like you’re holding the hands of an empty shell whose soul has already departed. But you can’t properly grieve because their body is – for all intents and purposes – alive. Not living, but existing. In a never-ending time capsule that won’t open.

I watch this every day. 2 beautiful souls who were once so vibrant with life lie motionless in a single bed. I no longer get hit on. I no longer see their smiles when I walk into work. Their jokes aren’t being told to anyone.

It’s hard. Being a PSW and dealing with all the things that come with this position doesn’t mean that I’m completely devoid of emotion. It is excruciating to watch someone die a slow a death. As awful as it sounds, I find myself wishing for death to hurry up and take them. Their quality of life is nonexistent.

The hardest part for me is watching their family members. Not only seeing them cry, but watching them slowly lose every ounce of sanity they have left trying to keep it together. Frustration and anger take over, asking over and over why they can’t do anything to help.

One of them is going to go this week. The waiting game, even while at home and in my pajamas plagues me. Dealing with death once it happens is far easier than dealing with its disturbing game of trickery.

WSAD & Happy Anniversary to ME!

2 years ago today I decided to start apswlife and 2 years on I am extremely happy and grateful that I have the opportunity to share these stories with you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for the kind words. It means more than words can describe that I can discuss my life as a PSW in the working world. To get out there the trials and tribulations that people in this career face. I will continue to do this for as long as my fingers can type. And when that stops, I will recite words to someone who will then type for me. Yes, this blog isn’t going ANYWHERE.

Moving on.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I want to talk about this for 2 reasons. 1) I know all too well the feelings of wanting to die and 2) I want to talk about Depression and the Elderly.

Unfortunately, there are far too many individuals who do not know the true meaning of depression. Thankfully, one reason is because they’ve never gone through it. Secondly, there is a HUGE stigma around it and it’s other ugly cousins in the large family of mental illness. Well, as you may or may not know I am not one to keep quiet. Depression is more than a sadness. It’s more than crying. It’s more than an Emo 16 year old sitting up in his bedroom listening to Cradle of Filth at full volume. Depression is the ongoing feeling of numbness. Of constantly feeling & believing that there is no end in sight. Waking up after a night’s sleep is a nightmare. Feeling alone in a room full of family and friends is one of the most awful feelings in the world. And you know what? Seniors get it to.

Depression has many route causes. Sometimes it is a chemical imbalance. Other times it is the result of a sudden change in life or a loss.  Often times, seniors in long term care get misdiagnosed with other ailments because they have the same symptoms as depression. If someone with dementia starts lashing out verbally and physically, would you consider this to be a symptom of depression? It could be. If this person is generally a gentle, quiet soul and they randomly start acting out, that could be a sign. People with dementia do not know how to show their feelings in an appropriate manner. Men specifically tend to show their emotion with anger as talking about it was never an option in their day and age.

It is important to look at the over all picture before properly diagnosing someone. In some cases, medicinal use may not even be needed. Getting individuals more involved in activities and with other residences have huge happy factors.

It is our job as a PSW to pay attention to the OVER ALL picture of our resident and to report any sort of change in behaviour to the appropriate person. Most importantly, don’t forget to take time to talk to your residents. If they’re sad, and are able and willing to talk, stay and listen.

I’d also like to say a little farewell to a resident who passed away recently. Their passing wasn’t a complete shock to me but none the less, when I heard of their death my heart sank like a stone in water. I’ll miss your dry sense of humour and how you always made fun of my hair and nail polish choices. I love you always MK.

Why Breaking The Rules Isn’t Always A Good Idea

Good Morning PSWs,  fellow bloggers & faithful readers.

I know, these updates are coming further & further a part. Life is hectic! Work is hectic! But in a wonderful way. I have been picking up short shifts on my unit – 5pm-9pm – which helps out the full timers during the evening. How long did it take for this to finally happen? If you ask me, TOO. FRIGGEN. LONG. It upsets me that in order to see some action something has to happen before hand. PROACTIVENESS not REACTIVENESS is what we need. The afternoon shift consists of 2 PSWs for 28 residents. Really? This is fair? THIS DOESN’T SOUND AT ALL REDICULOUS TO YOU?! Pardon my caps-lock rage.  So the needless to say the extra help is much-needed. And it’s an”easy” 4 hours for me.

The extra help is needed for a lot of reasons, but I am going to talk about one very important one right now: the use of mechanical lifts. Do you have any idea how many transfers a PSW can make a day? I’m going to say close to 10. In fact, that might be generous. And what’s even more difficult is that a PSW cannot and SHOULD NOT make these transfers alone. But you know what? A lot of us do. Why? Convenience. When you have 2 PSWs attempting to put residents to bed or to the toilet, sometimes you’re left waiting 20 minutes before your co-worker is able to help you.

I have a point, I promise.

NEVER. USE. A. MECHANICAL LIFT. ALONE.

Do you understand me? It is NOT your fault that your facility chooses to understaff. It is NOT your fault that your coworkers are also extremely busy. So you know what? If you’re late for breakfast because you had to wait for a help with transferring, so be it. I would rather you be late than fired. Or hurt. OR your resident gets hurt.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Being fired is the LEAST of your worries should something happen to your resident while using a lift a lone. Should said resident get hurt & die of said injuries you are going to jail. That’s right, pack up your cigarettes for currency because you are going to need it.

This is serious. Your job is serious. As a PSW we take care of and are responsible for an extremely vulnerable sector of society. If you can’t remember this or chose not to care, then perhaps you should start looking for a new career. Stat.