Failing Workers and Patients


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    "Ministering hope – that’s what we do."

    PSW Story By Sylvia Uko

    The support worker’s ultimate goal is to improve the person’s quality of life by showing kindness, being sensitive and understanding. Tending to the person’s physical needs relieves loneliness, provides independence and promotes the person’s self respect.

    Promoting self respect and dignity is where I make a difference as a Personal Support Worker. Many of my clients comment and appreciate my interaction with them, nevertheless, there are rejections too.

    I was assigned to a person with stroke five years ago as my first client. She was depressed when I met her. Helpless and confused, she left all the the household work to her husband who was the caregiver. He helped with toileting many times a day, meal preparation and so on. The husband’s health was, of course, failing.

    I am proud to say that a few mouth after I started visiting her, the client changed from helplessness to helpfulness. Talking and encouraging her to do those things that she once dreaded doing went a long way. She tried to express herself without crying. She was eventually able to lift herself from the toilet, push her wheelchair, make herself breakfast, and even load and unload the dishwasher. Her husband really appreciated my effort, and his health was somehow improved too.

    As a PSW, I feel that my relationship with clients is all about being compassionate and making a difference in people’s lives.

    By Colleen Smith (Washago, Ontario)

    I have been a PSW for almost two years and from the very start I realised that this was something I was born to do; I was meant for this and it was meant for me.

    When I was younger I used to watch my grandfather get ready for the weekly visit from his care worker. He would race around the house tidying up and washing dishes so that after he had been bathed and dressed they would have more time to chat and play cards together. He looked forward to it so much that my grandmother was actually jealous of her ! But “Lady Di” (as my grandmother had nicknamed her) made my grandfather laugh and was actually one of the few people who could beat him at cribbage.  I remember thinking as I watched her interact with him that this would be something I would like to do one day - to make a difference in someone's life and make them smile.

    However, life carved out a different route for me in my earlier years and my career path lead me to becoming a crane operator at a steel factory in Hamilton (about as far removed from a PSW as you could possibly get).  So, when my family and I made the decision to leave the big city behind us and move to Washago, I knew I would have to look for a different job and it really wasn’t hard to figure out what I was going to do.  Although the thought of going back to school at the ripe old age of 41 and having to write exams again was quite daunting (almost petrifying in fact!) I knew without a doubt that it would all be worth it.

    I was right. Every day I meet someone who teaches me something different – be it about life, themselves or myself. Even the old cliches of “life is too short” and “live life to its fullest” are driven home to me every single day . I see people who are old, frail and think the world has forgotten about them and all they need is a little kindness.   Sometimes all it takes is a nice cup of tea, or taking the time to sit and listen to them tell their stories of when they were younger. I’ve learned that patience and a smile are two of the most wonderful gifts we can offer to anyone – not just the elderly.

    I became a  PSW hoping I could make a difference in people’s lives … What I wasn’t expecting was the knock-on effect of this.  How THEY have made a difference in MY life. I’m proud to be a PSW and proud to make a difference.

    My VON Story By Rose Jagdat (PSW, VON Peel)

    Once upon a time there was a woman looking for a job in the medical field. She was already trained as a Nurse/Midwife/ Medex, but could not register with the Nursing Council in Canada unless she went back to do some Canadian training. At this time (it was September 1998) the Peel District was introducing the Personal Support Worker’s Program, so she applied at Sheridan College. She did the program and started to work with the Victorian Order of Nurses. The pay cheque was small but the job was satisfying.

    I started working in the Mississauga community travelling by bus to and from each client. Sometimes I cried so hard on the road asking myself: Why? Because I had to walk so far to clients where no bus run along the area, but when I reached the client's home everything changed.

    Seeing how some people lived and needed so much help was, and is, overwhelming. Just giving some clients a shower, putting on their clothes, combing their hair, making sure they took their meals, meds and just talking to them was so appreciated. They wanted me to come again, again and again.

    On the flip side, some clients only wanted me to their housework like cleaning their bathroom, toilet; wash dishes; clean stove and cupboard; vacuum and doing laundry, and when I could not complete all the above they would say “the other person did it, why can't you do it?” The time span for each person was just an hour. Sometimes I was asked to do chores for other family member which was not the VON policy, and trying to tell the client that they do think you are rude.

    However, working with all the different ethnic groups, religions and different practices—despite it is difficult to understand at times—I have learned that most clients really love the VON workers. Sometimes when they refer to us they say we are angels sent from heaven to help them in so many ways. Some clients only need someone to talk with and they feel they have a family member; some get so attached to you that they never like anyone else going into their homes. I had many clients who only wanted me to visit them and when other workers visit they send them away telling them “not to worry- Rose will come the next day”

    By Gvido Rozitis (Red Cross PSW, St. Catharines)

    If there’s grace in the soul, it’s in the giving.

    It can happen suddenly – a stroke or heart attack. Or life can wane week by week – MS, MD, dementia– and life seems lost. The basics of living – dressing, moving, talking – become an arduous task that fills their days with frustration and doubt. The world can turn its back with ignorance and social isolation, and so the home care worker comes to guide and support and listen. So begins a mutual, step-by-step process of learning, regrowth and self-respect. Dark days of distress and despair turn into memorable moments of self-reliance and self-confidence. The home care worker provides understanding, sensitivity and friendship and the client begins to savour a life of pride and promise. The client longs for and deserves consideration and dignity. In that spirit, the home care worker provides a trust and kindness that is truly the heart’s blessing.

    In the beginning one hand holds the other. In time, they hold each other. One smile becomes two. And hope inspires hope – where accomplishments in everyday life may seem small in scope but infinite in spirit.

    Ministering hope – that’s what we do.


    By Trudy Dafoe (We Care Personal Support Worker, Sault Ste Marie)

    It's wonderful that there is now a PSW Day, but for me personally, every day is great doing the job I do as a Personal Support Worker. Its not a chore to get out of bed everyday when you love your job. My grandmas and grandpas make it all worth it. It's almost a sin that I get paid to take care of clients who make me feel as good as I do. I know I make a difference in each and everyone's life I go see, but I get so much more out of my job then I could ever put into it. I got into this line of work because I need to be needed, so it's simply perfect for me. The smiles I receive; I could ask for no more. I can't imagine doing anything else.


    By Ann Gilliard (Red Cross PSW, Brockville, Ontario)

    Sophie was a very thin, fragile little woman. She lived alone while waiting for a bed in Long Term Care. Her family lived outside town but came to town on weekends to buy her weekly supply of groceries. Her only contact with people was the care she was getting daily from the Red Cross workers, morning and evening. She also had dementia and was confused some of the time. Her limited ability to remember was always a problem. Some days it took many tries to get her to answer the apartment intercom and to push the right number on the phone to let me in. One day I was assigned to do her laundry. I left her apartment to go downstairs to put a load in the washer. When I came back up she forgot I was there and I had to knock many times to get her out of bed to let me back in. She forgot I was even in the building.

    One December, two days before Christmas, I was scheduled to see Sophie at suppertime to prepare her evening meal. The food in her fridge wasn’t very interesting because of her many food allergies. It was always a challenge to make the same limited food appealing to her. As she was eating I sat down at the table with her to keep her company. I said, “Sophie, are you going to see family on Christmas day?” She said, “No, I will be alone this year. My family has their own children to be with.” I said, “Sophie, what would be a treat for you?” I knew I had to be careful if I brought her anything to eat because of her many food allergies.

    Her eyes lit up and she said, “I love Laura Secord chocolate.” I said, “Can you eat that?” She said “yes”. So that evening I went to Laura Secord and I bought two little chocolates they were wrapped in red and green foil paper. I put them in a little white bag. The next day was Christmas Eve and I was scheduled to go there again. I gave her the little treat and she thanked me so much and put the little bag on the side table. I said “You can eat them now. You don’t have to wait till tomorrow.” “No,” she said, “I will wait.”

    The next day was Christmas. I was home with my family thinking of her all alone on Christmas day. I was hoping she was having her little treat. On December 26th I was scheduled to go there again. I showed up hoping she would remember to push the right number and let me in the building. She did and as I walked in the door she gave me a hug. Then she said, “Here, I have been waiting for you to come back and share my chocolate.” I said, “Oh, my gosh, you didn’t have to wait for two days for me to come back to eat it.” But she said, “No, I wanted to share it with you.” She opened the bag carefully and placed one on the table, unwrapped it and took a knife to cut it in half to share it with me. How did she remember me? This woman had forgotten I was there when I went for 5 minutes to the laundry room. But she waited for two days for me to come back to share a piece of chocolate with her. It was a precious moment for me. My tiny little gesture made a difference in her life as well as mine that Christmas. After that day I never saw Sophie again, since before my next scheduled visit I got the call she was moving that day to Long Term Care. But I will remember her always.

    That’s one of the reasons I do this job. I can make a difference in someone’s life and they make a beautiful difference in mine as well.

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