Listening to the concerns coming from round-table discussions across the province about the crisis in long-term care is sobering, and disturbing.
Our elderly – the people who raised us – worked their whole lives, many of them doing so to create a better society, are not getting the care and attention they need, and according to staff, families of residents and managers in LTC homes, it has reached a crisis.
With a government standard of six minutes, four or five PSWs are responsible for getting up to 60 residents washed, dressed, toileted and groomed in time for breakfast.
Due to the closure of beds in hospitals, an increasing number of these residents have complex continuing care issues or psychogeriatric conditions such as dementia.
How is one staff person supposed get someone with anger or aggression due to dementia or mental illness ready in six minutes without both people becoming upset and frustrated?
PSWs are leaving the profession in droves due to low wages, a lack of full-time positions available, heavy workloads with unrealistic expectations and abuse. The government is trying to address the shortage by paying for PSW training, which is a good step forward, but retaining those grads in LTC homes is the issue.
If a person can make close to the same wage in a fast food establishment, with less stress and more benefits, why would they choose the PSW profession?
Our elderly deserve to be cared for with dignity and respect, and those with more complex care needs should have a lower ratio of patients to PSW so they can get that care, which is safer and more humane for both staffer and resident.
Most PSWs go into the profession because they want to give the elderly the care they would give their own parent or grandparent, but someone running on fumes from overwork and stress can’t do that properly.
Hopefully the government, unions and industry can come to an agreement on how to create a job environment that is less toxic and more responsive to both staff and residents’ needs.
We will all be old one day, hopefully, but over-worked, stressed caregivers aren’t conducive to making our final days dignified and peaceful.